Transcendental objectivity

I’ve decided to reinvigorate my (so far lame) attempts at keeping a blog to keep in touch and crystallize ideas I’m tackling in my endless undergrad. Just to clarify before we get too far; Transcendental objectivity isn’t something I think we can really talk about, it would probably best be expressed as a limit or integral approaching infinity (anyone wanna propose a describing function?).

I’ve wriggled my way into my first philosophy course (ever) on the topics of Existentialism and Phenomenology. Feeling completely lost on how to tackle a philosophy paper I’ve gone for the age old tactic of compare and contrast, and tackled Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations as item number one. I’ve only done my initial read-through of the dense little treatise, so please be forgiving.

Transcendental subjectivity is something Husserl goes on at length about in his exposition of phenomenology. In trying to understand it I’ve broken it down initially into the two obvious and very fundamental parts; transcendence and subjectivity. From what I can garner of subjectivity in this context it does not mean a complete non-objective stance, more recognizing the inherent intentionality of any act of observing performed by an ego (cogito, monad?). Husserl makes some mention of intentional psychology as the first to rise above simple positivism in science, and what comes to mind from my limited (intro) psychology, is generally the concept of reactivity, that the observer alters the observed by the act of observing.

Transcendence is a word and concept we are all familiar with, but as with anything considered philosophically, cannot be taken at simple face value. From what I can garner this concept of going beyond relates to the idea of horizons of perception as defined in the a priori structures of consciousness proposed by Kant and criticized by Nietzsche and others. My reading of Husserl is that he is along the same lines as Nietzsche – my paper will compare the two – in rejecting the necessity of any pre-existing forms to define the experienced world.

The title of this post, Transcendental Objectivity was meant partially to pique (irk?) Eric into reading this (did it work?), and hopefully providing a useful criticism, but also to tackle an idea by contrasting it with an opposing one.

In talking about Heidegger (in youth a devote follower of Husserl’s philosophy) yesterday in class, and particularly his concepts of Dasein (broadly ego or self), world, time, death and being towards it, I came to personal – and as of yet unsupported – conclusion that ‘authentic existence’ for Heidegger is obtained by continually grappling with the idea of our own death. Philosophically I don’t know if we can really understand the idea of a world where we as an individual does not exist.

So briefly before I run out of energy and just yammer on, transcendental objectivity would be a definition of our entire self, the complete answer to Heidegger’s question “What is the meaning of Being?” Because our Being is a continual process, even thinking about what we are can alter or possibly add to it. Transcendental subjectivity is the best we can do in approaching this answer. Potentially, if we could go on thinking just one moment after we had died, we could understand in that moment the entirety of our being and achieve transcendental objectivity (Waking Life, anyone?). Obviously this lays opens many questions regarding the moment of death, theories of mind and a plethora of others I’m most certainly missing. I’d love for any comment or contribution on the parts of others, perhaps it’s even a topic for the absurdium?


2 responses to “Transcendental objectivity

  1. I appreciate your attempt to pique/irk me, but unfortunately I’m not really in a position to offer much useful (or otherwise) criticism in this area. These areas, Existentialism and Phenomenology, are perspective philosophies I have been trying to wrap my mind around for some time. Very ambitious of you to take them on as a first philosophy course!

    In my own studies we have examined the notion of reactivity, or reflexivity, quite a bit. It’s an issue of practical importance for historians of psychology (where the work we do has the effect of actually changing the subject of this work itself) and role of labels (such as psychiatric diagnosis) on the “invention” of categories, or modes, of being (see social constructionism:

    Philosophically, I am coming to recognize my own affinity for American pragmatism (, thus, I seem to have some personal obstacles with the appeal of abstract continental philosophies. I need these sorts of ideas grounded in some sort of practical framework to be able to make any sort of judgment about them. Sounds like you’re getting along much better than I could with this stuff. Keep it up.

  2. As an addendum I’d like to propose a more crystallized definition of transcendental objectivity seen as a function of calculus. Sorry for the lack of mathematical symbols, it’s quicker (and probably clearer) for me to express it in words.

    Let transcendence as a function of knowing be equal to transcendental subjectivity.
    Now take the integral of this function negative infinity to infinity, and let this equal transcendental objectivity. If the first equation is a first order equation then its derivative would simply be knowledge. Thus I propose here that the genuine understanding of knowledge of any kind is transcendental subjectivity, and the theoretical understanding of transcendental subjectivity (symbolized in our analogy by all points bounded by transcendental subjectivity which in turn represents the bounding of all knowledge) is transcendental objectivity.

    To complete my bastardization and over-simplification of a great thinkers life work let me say that transcendental objectivity is the entirety of all forms of knowing be they existent in reality or conceivable in any alternate forms of reality. ‘Ti ti en einai’ anyone?

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