Existential Ontology of Roman Ingarden
When Roman Ingarden began his work on Controversy over the existence of the world, his magnum opus, everything was different from the time the process was finally over. The book, which he initially started writing for his great master Edmund Husserl[i], in the end turned out to be written for himself alone[ii]. From 1935 when his work had started until 1947 when two volumes of the book were published, the language of the book changed, the country in which it was written transformed, the master died, and the whole of Europe and the world underwent horrible turmoil from the Second World War. The intellectually inviting ambiance of Göttingen, Freiburg, and Kraków in which he – together with other phenomenologists from Husserl’s circle, could passionately investigate the most theoretically appealing issues of the day – was substituted for an atmosphere of fear and struggle for existential survival in which many of Ingarden’s colleagues perished. When in 1941, after two years of war (Poland was occupied and divided between the forces of Nazism and Bolshevism in 1939) he eventually continued his work on Controversy it was more than the philosophical passion that somehow prevailed over grim reality. It was, rather, Ingarden’s struggle for his own spiritual sustainment (23). Since 1947, the book has lived up to several Polish (1947/8, 1960/61, 1987) and one German edition (1964/65), but it waited only until 2013 for the first volume[iii] to be published in English as an unabridged edition[iv].
These initial existential remarks, both about the author and his work, are of significance here, because they reflect a “detached” character of the philosophical work in relation to time, as the work’s ill-fated destiny is not to be recognized by the time of its own, of being stripped out from its time from the philosophical audience and the state of debate of the pre-war philosophical scene. However, if one is to speak about the philosophical influences that it has achieved, then it has been thoroughly out of sight, both from phenomenological reception and from the strands of philosophy that deal with ontology in a rather different fashion. Although Controversy is Ingarden’s most ambitious and most far-reaching ontological work and despite the fact that his research in aesthetics is by his own admittance only to be incorporated under more fundamental ontological investigations that he developed in Controversy and elsewhere[v], he is still overwhelmingly perceived as the philosopher of art, and his contribution to ontology and metaphysics is not sufficiently recognized. But, the time factor cannot, however, diminish the inner qualities of Controversy that surpass any “here” and “now”. For it is, without any doubt, the philosophical masterpiece of its time, and its author is a metaphysician par excellence.
The process of reading Controversy will reveal to the reader one of the reasons – besides the ones already mentioned – why the book, in spite of all of its qualities, was lacking an influence. It represents not just a systematic critique of Husserl’s commitment to the idealist standpoint but also opposition to several highly influential philosophical schools and strands of thought of the XX century. This amounts foremost to the “neo-positivist” school which altogether rejects metaphysics as “senseless” and also to the group of authors and standpoints that sprang out from the phenomenological way of philosophizing, such as French existentialists and the philosophy of “fundamental ontology” of Martin Heidegger. It is evident that in Controversy Ingarden renounces not just antimetaphysical reductionism of positivism as a “crude, tacit metaphysics” (77, futn.152), but also existentialists metaphysics and its pathos for the human being’s “fate in the world” (87, f.192.). It seems as though he thinks that the latter somehow neglect the primary task of metaphysics, as it is conceived from the time of Aristotle and to which Ingarden is deeply committed.
Written in the isolation from philosophical community and stripped out from intellectual resources[vi] Controversy evolved during the wartimes as the most profound examination of the possible solutions to the mystery of the existence of the world, and equally important, as the most honestly approached and conscientiously rendered philosophical self-dialogue on the issue that haunted the author since his early philosophical career. Let us recall that in 1918 Ingarden wrote now famous “Idealism letter” to Husserl in which he openly questioned the merits of the master’s philosophical allegiances. At that time Ingarden noticed that Husserl was steadily renouncing the last vestiges of realist components in the process of development of his radically new method of phenomenological reduction[vii].
The famous Husserl’s thought (often expressed before students) that “If we cancel consciousness, then we cancel the world” (184) effectively comprises this philosophical position toward the existence of real-world which creates the starting point for Ingarden’s attack of transcendental idealism. If, after the reduction is completed there remains nothing of the “transcendence” of the object that cannot be derived from pure consciousness alone, and if itself of the thing-in-itself is espoused as nothing other than pure qualities of constitutive activity of transcendental I, and as a negation of some unknowable mystic element of the world – the world of itself – than the traditional dualism between object and subject is abolished, and the only ontologically existent entity – regarding the phenomenologizing subject can represent nothing more than this activity of constitution and the subject of constitution.
Ingarden could not accept the metaphysical consequences of transcendental idealism, nor the consequences of other historically similar (idealistic) answers to the ontological puzzle of the existence of the world. But in order to give the full philosophical meaning of his realist intuitions, he had to change the whole perspective from which the dichotomy of idealism and realism was to be approached and the ontological status of the world determined. The manner in which he sets out to accomplish this task did not mean abandoning the general phenomenological way of analysis, nor even some components of his master’s approach – he had never renounced phenomenological reduction as such – but the shift from the epistemological dimension of analysis to the ontological, and consequently metaphysical one. The daring change of perspectives enabled Ingarden to present the essence of the core problem to the more fundamental, divergent and uncertain terrain than the one that could be obtained from the sole epistemological perspective. Here lies also Ingarden’s greatest contribution to the understanding of the reality of the real world that surpasses the borders of one specific school of thought. But this change of perspective would not be sufficient to make the difference – if it was not to repeat the traditional sins of metaphysics – were it not accompanied by additional elements that surpass limitations of every dogmatic vision of knowledge – distinctive qualities of methodological openness and theoretical breadth with which the author approaches the central problem of the book.
Volume I of Controversy comes with the translator’s note, preface, an addendum to the German edition, six chapters and an appendix of nine alphabetically arranged parts. This volume also incorporates parts of text from previous editions that Ingarden changed and revised for this final version. The most devoted reader can also find comments and explanations by translator Arthur Szylewicz rather useful and appropriate. But all these markings integrated within the body of the text that serve to incorporate older editions of Controversy are, in some measure, making the book harder to read and less fluent, which for the impatient reader can be an obstacle. But even more, one can ask, whether the first unabridged English edition should have come without these additions in order to be presented to the philosophical public in its best guise and most approachable manner.
In the short preface, the author tells us the history of his own work on the idealism/realism problematic that precedes Controversy and which had contributed to its structure and form. As we have seen, external circumstances have tremendously shaped the pace in which the whole process of writing evolved. In the conclusion of the preface, Ingarden expresses what he thought should be the final reach of Controversy. Since one of his tasks is to demonstrate the complexity of the central problem and the vast number of possible solutions to it, the “narrowing” of “the scope of possible solutions” (24) should be seen as its final reach. In this regard, both the first and the second volume of the book should have been seen as “prolegomena” (24) to some further investigation of the controversy of the existence of the world.
The first chapter with the title “Preliminary reflections” aims to articulate the main question of the book particularly with the connection to Husserl’s idealism. In that regard, Ingarden sketches the history of the concepts of “idealism” in ancient philosophy, particularly in Plato, and contrasts it with the modern understanding of the term “idea” and “idealism” (28). In the former sense idealism refers either to the domain of things that exist (e.g. ideas exist alongside physical objects) or with the mode of beings of objects that exist (e.g. ideas are more real than physical objects), while in the latter the term “idea” has to be associated with consciousness’ experiences of the subject. More importantly, these experiences are bestowed with special ontological status, and, even more, they are not just accepted alongside the real world, but the real world is intrinsically – as a “being” of lesser perfection – somehow derived from them. In that regard, what is certain and indubitable for modern philosophers from Descartes onwards is the existence of “pure consciousness” while the existence of the “real” world is to be questioned. These terminological clarifications are helping Ingarden to precisely formulate the main question of the book: “…what is at issue in the controversy between idealism and realism is the existence of the real world – and a specific mode of this existence at that – as well as the existential relations between the world and consciousness…” (28) And also: “…I concern myself strictly with the question pertaining to the existence of the real world, and indeed, in the final reckoning, with precisely that world which is given to us in direct experience in the form of countless things, processes and events, and which contains both purely material entities and psycho-physical individuals…” (31).
In that endeavor, Ingarden aims to attack the “the deepest and the most serious attempt to settle the idealism/realism dispute…” (32) which for him is the transcendental idealism of his master. The main task here is, firstly, to reexamine the “the total context of the starting point” (44) of the dispute by questioning whether the sole partition relies on the presumption – which in the end is a metaphysical one – that by itself needs to be investigated. Namely, that of our picture of the real world acquired through “experience and its structure” (43). Ingarden’s point is that we can never be sure that every moment of the transcendence of the object can be completely seized by what is called pure immanence, or the activity of the transcendental I. The elusive ontological “residue” that is left outside the scope of phenomenological reduction, opens the door for the ontological dimension of investigations. In that way, traditional transcendental/epistemological treatment of the dispute has been abandoned.
Secondly, the standard resolution of the dispute presupposes just two possibilities: either world exists and is separate from the mind – and we know this fact on the basis of experience, or it does not exist and is derived from the pure consciousness. But this dichotomy is tremendously reductionist since it neglects the possibilities of the various kinds of modes of being of the real world in case it is acknowledged that it exists (44). And here the “ontological turn” is more than needed insofar as the epistemological perspective offers just two or possibly three solutions heavily dependent on certain (hidden) metaphysical standpoints in the case when many ontological solutions are in the vicinity. For the transcendence of an object is, prima facie, an ontological issue (45). Unlike the standard approach which starts and ends with the epistemological investigation, with only having some indirect ontological consequence, the new investigative path proposed in Controversy starts from ontology then continues with metaphysics and, in the final stage, ends with an epistemological verification of the results obtained in the due process.
In order to justify this new order of philosophical priorities, Ingarden, in the second chapter of the book, addresses two different and yet closely interconnected issues. He emphasizes the difference in nature of the philosophical and the investigations of so-called special sciences, and, secondly, he offers a very precise distinction between ontology and metaphysics that can justify his critique of the “epistemological orientation” of transcendental idealism. Concerning the former, all special sciences (he distinguishes “sciences of facts” and “apriory sciences” among them) share same basic characteristics. Namely, their solutions to theoretical problems are epistemically grounded, their functioning is not determined by the questioning of the core presuppositions that lie in their foundations, they are “special” because they always refer only to one domain of being, and the differences between essential and inessential properties of investigated entities is frequently overlooked (54). All this treatment has to show how distinctive the philosophical “style of analysis” is, and how it differs from that of special sciences (49).
By its spirit and its content, these analyses resemble usual phenomenological explanations of the matter. But in what follows Ingarden introduces a very original, significant, and it has to be said, plausible understanding of the nature of ontology that enables him to explain its priority over metaphysics and epistemology respectively.
He says: “The most general concept of ontology follows from its defining characteristic as a purely apriory analysis of the contents of ideas”(74). Conceived as such, ontology deals with “pure possibilities” and ”necessary interrelationships among ideal qualities, or among the elements of the ideas’ content” (62). These pure possibilities are to be distinguished from empirical possibilities which are related to an object existing in time and space. In that respect, Ingarden gives his own, and from a traditional Platonist point of view, sharply different account of the nature of the concept of the idea[viii]. These pure possibilities are not “determined by any matter-of-fact within real world” (66), they are time-independent, and they are not to be spoken of in terms of degree or measure. We can see, thus, how Ingarden presupposes a special sphere of objects and their interconnections that are the sole subject-matter of the ontological investigation. This sphere is predefined in such a manner that the investigator is bound up to the structure and content that already “exists” in it. But, one would perform a serious misapprehension if one would think that this implies some commitments to the matter of the fact of the real world[ix]. For the latter would be only the task of metaphysics, and ontology, as pure apriory analysis of possibilities can never ascertain the factual dimension of the matter. Ontology can only say what are the possibilities at our disposal for the contemplation on the subject matter. This is the core reason why ontology represents “foundational research” (74), and the first and necessary step in every path to metaphysics. This is also the reason why any epistemologically driven research into the controversy is always partial and biased – for it, by default, closes the door for the whole myriad of solutions that should be taken into account.
On the other hand, the task of metaphysics is to determine the factual conditions in the sphere of the existent. It has to specify what really exists, in what manner, and, above all, what is the true nature of existence. In contrast to ontology, metaphysics has to “clarify essentially necessary facts or factual interconnections among essences” (78), it does not deal with possibilities – although it presupposes them – it determines the real fact-of-the-matter of the world. Furthermore, and this is crucial for the metaphysical undertakings as such, it does not ask only for the existence of this or that entity of the world. It, of course, does that to, but it primarily asks for the existence of anything at all, of the “totality of and all existents whatsoever”[x]. And, after that, it asks what are the grounds, or ground, of that actually existing world – of that anything at all that exists (78). Ingarden, however, does not presuppose that the admittance of the importance of these vital tasks that metaphysics has to accomplish, signifies the possibility of their resolution, nor that human capabilities are sufficient for such an endeavor at all. Here, the mere fact of the importance transcends the possibility of success or failure. For Ingarden rightly clarifies that being impossible in some respect does not mean being senseless as such – the distinction that even today escapes the minds of many lovers of “desert landscapes”.
All of this leads Ingarden to the following conclusion: “It is clear that core of the entire Controversy is a particular metaphysical problem which, however, can neither be properly formulated nor successfully attacked without appropriate ontological preparation” (86)
And the role of epistemology, or theory of knowledge as Ingarden calls it, is reduced to the specific analysis which is partially ontological and partially metaphysical (83). In any regard, it comes after ontological and metaphysical investigations.
The entirety of investigation undertaken in chapter II enables Ingarden to distinguish three fundamental questions: ontological, metaphysical and epistemological; and three sub-questions within an ontological one: existential-ontological, formal-ontological and material-ontological (87). Ingarden remarks that all-encompassing research of an entity “must be conducted in all three of these directions, both metaphysically and ontologically” (89). The volume I of Controversy treats only existential-ontological dimensions of the dispute. It does not deal with whether something exists, or whether it exists in the appropriate form; it has only to tease out which mode of being or existence is proper to something and its essence (88). The second volume deals with formal-ontological issues, and the third one, which was never completed as an integral part of Controversy[xi], was supposed to treat material-ontological issues of the dispute.
Volume I of Controversy begins, in fact, with the third chapter in which Ingarden exposes what he calls “basic existential concepts” and previous chapters are preliminaries to the type of ontological analysis presented in the first volume. Since, as we have seen, the basic question of the relationship between mind and the real world is formulated in rather a specific context and philosophical orientation, Ingarden now wants to see how we can approach the question of their nature and mutual relationship with a “clean” philosophical start. In order to do that, he has to explain in an ontological manner the notion of “being real” and only after that he can step into the analysis of the relationship of dependence or independence that exists or does not exist between these two poles.
In that respect Ingarden emphasizes that although the notion of being-real is a simple one, it does not mean it is absolutely unanalyzable too (96), for a simple entity as the “color orange” is not composed of some further elements, but is in fact unique, thus it is still possible to distinguish some moments in it, the moments through which it is similar to red and yellow (96). Likewise, in our everyday experiences we always encounter an object in the totality of its being, and Ingarden vigorously tries to show how we cannot “attach” the notion of existence to the being as something separate from the sum total of properties that it inherits, nor as some such property (here, Ingarden’s pays due credit to Kant), and he gives an example of the existing and perishing lamp that should evoke the whole mystery of non-existence in a typical phenomenological manner (101-102).
But usually, we are not familiar with just one mode of being, namely being-real. There are also other modes of being, such as being-possible, being-ideal and even some other possible modes (99). It is crucial here to acknowledge that we always encounter something (some entity, process, idea…) through a specific mode of being, but these modes of being are totalities of existential moments that Ingarden wants to have ontologically distinguished. An entity is not composed of those moments, for the nature of every mode is something simple, but only with the help of a philosophical abstraction we can discern some moments in them, like in the example with orange color (108). In that regard, these moments are (philosophically) older than the specific mode of being that we always meet in our direct and naïve encounters. And furthermore, every entity is bound up with a specific mode of being, it cannot undergo a change in the mode of being. That is to say, the same object cannot be ideal and then real since it would not be the same object anymore. The existing lamp that undergoes complete annihilation so that we can only have an idea of it as it was when it existed, is not the same lamp since it now “exists” in a different mode of being, namely that of an idea.
So, we can see how Ingarden introduces – apart from his own understanding of metaphysics and ontology presented in the second chapter – new contents for the old terms such as “existence”, “mode of being”, “idea”. We can see that the notion of “existence” is the most abstract and general idea (108), then follows the less abstract, but still not sufficiently concretized, concept of “the mode of being” that is present both in the naïve attitude and epistemological perspective of empiricist philosophy and transcendental idealism, and, in the end, the primitive and essential components of existential-ontology – existential moments – that are the subjects of existential-ontological investigations.
Ingarden distinguishes a group of four pairs of existential moments:
- autonomy – heteronomy
- originality – derivativeness
- self-sufficiency – non-self-sufficiency
- independence – dependence (109)
Something is autonomous if it “has its existential foundation within itself” and, “it has it within itself if it is something that is immanently determined within itself” (109) as the “redness” of a red color (whether as a pure ideal quality or the material property of some object) is something that is immanently determined within the essence of a red color. But the existence of something is not dependent on being autonomous since purely intentional entities of works of art exist too, but as heteronomous objects whose essence is being supported by an intentional act or “creative act of consciousness” (116).
Something is original if it is produced by itself, and the opposite derivative – if it has been produced by something other (118). Ingarden emphasizes that it is evident that originality goes necessarily along with autonomy, but that opposite does not necessarily hold. Something can be autonomous but derivative, as, for example, an ideal quality of redness that exists autonomously but is not produced by itself. And heteronomy as such excludes originality, since if something possesses no existential foundation within itself, it cannot, eo ipso, produce itself.
And here Ingarden undertakes the long and difficult task of explaining the notion of existential originality through the analysis of historical understandings of “being-per-se”, or the Absolute Being, and its relation to the notion of causation. The aim is to show how traditional (predominantly scholastic, and on it based modern, especially Spinoza’s concept of “causa sui”) understanding of the cause and effect is irreconcilable with the notion of original being. The main misconception lies in the assumption that cause and effect are some kind of entities or even separated “things” that exist in a different time, while original being is, per definitionem, timeless, and from that stems from the “absurdity” of comprehending an absolute being in relation to causality. Thus, a cause and an effect are not “things” nor do they persist in time separately from each other. But just because of that they are not one individual entity either. Rather, these notions are to be understood as concepts of the system equilibrium on one side, and the “perturbation” of the system on the other that can be properly called “cause” (136). And what is usually in the philosophical tradition understood as “cause” is just in fact “indirect” cause (129), while the cause properly determined is “direct” one (causa efficiens), as something that happens simultaneously with the effect, but is still not the same as effect alone. Thus, the difference between originality and derivation is purely existentially-ontological and as a such, it has nothing to do with the causation as a peculiar intraworldly relation (141). Moreover, originality is primarily an existential moment and is not directly related to the concept of a deity. Here, Ingarden is only interested in existential moments as such and their mutual relationships.
The notion of “existential self-sufficiency” means that something, in order to exist, does not require something else to be present alongside it in one whole. “Thus, for example, the element of “redness” is contained in a non-self-sufficient manner in the whole “red color,” since it must co-exist with the moment “coloration” that occurs in the same whole.” (147). But on the other hand, some red color that exists in an individual concrete object is also self-sufficient, since “it is at least likely that we cannot speak of an amalgamation between the “red color” and a red thing that is as intimate as the one that obtains between redness and coloration in the red color” (148). There are various kinds of self-sufficiency and non-self-sufficiency in regard to different parameters[xii], and also one “absolute” notion of self-sufficiently which is opposed to all of these (152). And all of them have to be taken into consideration in order to escape the “crude errors” since “a particular entity can fail to be non-self-sufficient in one sense, and yet be so in some other sense” (152).
On the other hand, something depends on something else if it needs something else to support its “subsistence” (153), although, at the same time, it can be self-sufficient. For example, a “son” ceases to be the son of a father who has just died. However, he is still someone, and in that respect a self-sufficient entity, but he is not “a son” anymore.
Those, “provisional”, so far only “smelted”, existential moments (157), whose number would significantly increase if the “existence of entities in time” (157) would be taken into account, can help to create pure ontological concepts of Absolute and Relative being and their variants. Thus, the lists in the sum of eight concepts of being (156-7) are proposed by Ingarden, while the concept of absolute being simultaneously incorporates all four “right-side” moments of existence: autonomy, originality, self-sufficiency, and independence. The omittance of one of these moments automatically reduces an absolute to a “relative” concept of being. Besides this, Ingarden lists also, eight pairs of mutually exclusive moments (155) that should automatically reduce the number of possible combinations of modes of being.
Ingarden closes the third chapter with an “outlook” of the relevant questions for the dispute. Here, he once again emphasizes that the solutions of the controversy are not to be searched in the mode of, what can be called, an encountered being of the real world. For the usual epistemological perspective presupposes that “we already know in what mode the world encountered by us exists. Yet on the contrary – this is precisely the first chief question in the metaphysical reflection on the world” (163). The pure existential moments should help us to evade such a path to the solution. Rather, the solutions would have to be searched for in the modes of moments of existence, since we do not know whether, in fact, the real world exists, and even more, in what mode of being it exists. What we only know so far is that we, or our phenomenologizing I, exist, but here too the nature of this “being” is only to be approached through the analysis of the various possible combinations of existential moments.
Finally, in the fourth chapter, Ingarden undertakes an exhaustive analysis of possible solutions to the controversy. The analysis starts from the six assumptions where the indubitability of the existence of consciousness is taken for granted as well as the regular and unproblematic flow of pure experiences of phenomenologizing I presupposed. The sixth premise is a modular one, with the consequence that every following variant has been composed of different existential moments associated with the nature of consciousness. In that way, an investigation of eight groups of problem solutions is being enabled, with the consequence of taking into account an enormous number of possible solutions (at least 64). Basically, Ingarden analyses eight hypothetical philosophical positions[xiii] in relation to this group of eight different assumptions. He compares whether or not such positions are compatible with the set assumptions. The aim is to narrow the “ontological choice” as much as possible in order to prepare the terrain for other types of investigations in Volume II.
The positions that are being elaborated are absolute realism, absolute creationism, dualist unity realism, dependence realism, realist unity creationism, idealist dependence creationism, and their group variations respectively. In the walk of the analysis, many positions are being rejected due to the mutually exclusive existential moments. For example, some positions claim that the real world is original but this is in conflict with the set premise that it is derived from consciousness or not-self-sufficient and dependent (on it). It is worth mentioning that Ingarden’s treatment of the position labeled “idealist dependence creationism”, which is in fact, Husserl’s position, reveals two general accusations sent to the master’s address. Namely, Ingarden accuses Husserl of “metaphysical commitments” (186) where we had to be dealing with only – in Ingarden’s terms – ontological ones. Also, he accuses the master of employing not sufficiently clarified concept of a mode of being of the real world (188). Ingarden also analyses the negative solutions (the real world does not exist at all) as well as “doubled solutions” of Kant and Bergson (219-223). These double solutions are consisting of a specific pair of above-listed positions that can cohabitate side by side without interconnections – as is the case of Kant’s world of things-in-themselves (which mirrors the position of absolute idealism), and the phenomenal world (that represents idealist dependence creationism) (220-1).
The final results of the analysis are summarized in two groups of admissible solutions. Groupe of variants of realism (real world not being derived from consciousness), and a group of variants of creationism (real world being derived from consciousness). The second group is divided further into the group of realist creationism (real world derived but autonomous) and the group of idealist solutions (real world derived and heteronomous).
Ingarden summarizes the results in this way:
“It turns out that there are incomparably more variants of “Realism” than of Creationisms belonging to the realist subclass, and only two solutions are “idealist” (225).
This means that the existential-ontological analysis – and that means investigation of logical relationships between pure existential moments – admits vast majority of realist solutions (for example, absolute realism is admissible in all 8 group of solutions) and even in the group of creationism where the real world has been in fact derived from consciousness, there are several solutions in which the real world exists autonomously. Husserlian idealist dependence creationism is one of those admissible idealist solutions.
However, Ingarden is aware that this kind of analysis is to be taken only provisionally, since many factors are not being taken into account. If at the end, only one solution is proven to be ontologically valid, it would also need to be metaphysically verified. Furthermore, if there would be more than one final ontological solution, than, as Ingarden says: “the world’s existence or non-existence would not be ontologically transparent” (226). Both scenarios are uncertain and it is not ruled out that none of the solutions will be admitted in the end because it might be revealed that all of them are “contradictory” (226).
Up to this treatment, Ingarden has only analyzed existential moments and their logical relations without any introduction of the dimension of time. As we have seen this has brought to the fore eight different concepts of being. The introduction of time in the investigations of the sixth part of Controversy opens the space for an exposure of other existential moments which makes the whole existential analysis more complex and even daunting. For as the path of the phenomenological treatment of time that here Ingarden undertakes seems from the outset more delicate and slippery than pure logical treatment of the relationships between some predefined logical elements. This is all the more so because the time of Ingarden’s concern is not a common time of everyday life, nor the “subjective” and formal time of a Kantian hue (228); the time he analyses is a concrete and absolute time (281) that is inseparable from objects, and only this analysis can “capture the full modes of being” (281) required for the potential solution of the controversy. The strategy is that, if the idea of the existence of the real world is to be generally allowed – and we have seen why existential-ontological analysis must allow it – then the analysis of the mode(s) of being of real world cannot be carried out without the analysis of time, since one of the ideas of real-world presupposes temporality of the world. And secondly, if this temporality is to be analyzed it cannot be accomplished without taking into an account the beings that we encounter as temporal, the beings that are time-determined, for as only with and through them we can in the first place approach the phenomenon of time. In that way, Ingarden attempts to find the ontological essence of the being-real as such – which amounts also to the reality of consciousness – and we will see that this ingredient is intrinsically related to time.
The temporal world, Ingarden claims, comes equipped with three temporally determined sorts of individual entities – events, processes and persisting objects (229) and analysis should detect the key existential moments of the mode of being of these entities. If the phenomenological analysis of concrete time would reveal some existential characteristics within them that bespeak of their selfsufficiency and even autonomy than it will be possible to further narrow the possible solutions of the controversy by rejecting the philosophical positions that are inconsistent with such a conceived nature of temporal objects.
Although all these entities are constitutive for the phenomenon of time itself – because time cannot exist without objects being-in-time or being temporal objects – there is, in a way, the gradation of their “reputation” in relation to the question of existential-ontological supervenience. In order to explain this, Ingarden has to show how temporal objects are distinguishable from each other essentially (that is, by its form), that none of them can be reduced to the other. For example, it is customary to understand events as just “shorter processes”, but this is thoroughly misleading since events in the “pregnant sense” (251) of the word are instantaneous and processes – from the smallest one to the largest – are lasting through time. The mode of being of events “consists precisely in that ’coming-into-being’ and ‘passing away’ – and indeed both in the same instant” which means that “the event does not exceed the bounds spanning a single concrete Now” (231). On the other hand, processes are more complex entities consisting of the shifts of phases that can be distinguished only in abstraction, and that constitutes a “phase-whole” mode of their being, and on the other side, “process-objects”, or “the mode of being of the temporal object constituted in the passage and growth of that phase-whole” (250). Objects persisting in time are also “outlasting” individual moments, or instants such are events. But in comparison to processes, they do that in a completely different manner. They are remaining “identically the same” during the certain period of time in which these events occur (252). In fact, and this is crucial, objects persisting in time are bearers of the processes, they are supervening over processes. “Without persistent objects, there would be, in accordance with their essence, no processes whatsoever, whereas the processes, when they transpire at all, modify the persistent object only in their qualitative endowment” (253). That means that, by their form, persisting objects are incapable of change, since “enduring in time and surviving the lapse of time is not yet in itself any change” (255). They only change due to their “material endowment” (255). In that regard, in comparison to persistent objects, processes are existentially dependent and even non-selfsufficient (254).
This analysis of temporal objects reveals an additional, and for the grasping of the essence of being-real of temporal entities crucial existential, moment. That is the moment of activeness as efficaciousness, as a way in which “what is real fulfills its existence by shaping and filling out some present – but in doing so also immediately forfeits that existence” (241) And here, too, we have a sort of gradation in terms of existential potency (280) of temporal entities. Every process is exerting some activity by fulfilling certain moments in time with the concrete content that marks this activity efficaciousness. In other words, every process makes a difference, an ontological (and metaphysical) difference in the body of time. But only persisting objects, and especially living beings, can intensify the activity in order to stay the same within the contexts of changing processes and states, by actively resisting the passing of time, and by building an active and self-reflective (in the case of consciousness beings) stance toward time dynamics. This enables a living being to possess “partial persistence independence” (272) with regard to time. The persisting moment of living being consists in its “survival mode” as a direct consequence of its activeness, that is, its capability to remain the same over time. This is especially noticeable against the background of what Ingarden calls the “fissure-like” existence of beings, inanimate and living ones, respectively. A living being is active toward its fissure-like existence whereas an inanimate world is just passively associated with the lapse of time and its permanent fissures, it does not live out its fissures actively, it does not “catch the time” of its own being. A living being is actively resisting the passing of every single “now”, it actively connects past and future with the present in order to sustain itself, that is, its essence as an enduring object.
And furthermore, it is just the fragility of living beings, the possibility of their partial or complete annihilation by external forces and factors, that makes them selfsufficient and autonomous entities. For as only something that is selfsufficient can, in fact, be annihilated in the real sense of the word. Some rock is not selfsufficient in this respect since it does not actively contribute to its own subsistence. The rock cannot be “fragile” although it can certainly be smashed since it is not in its nature, in the first place, to be autonomous. On the other hand, both the fragile and fissure like properties of temporal beings, as the marks of their imperfections, indicates that they could be only subsumed to the category of derivative, and not original entities (288).
These considerations of the relation of being-real and time through the analysis of temporal objects enable Ingarden, in the sixth and concluding chapter of the book, to further narrow the choice of possible solutions to the controversy. At the same time, this shows to be an opportunity to question and in fact rebut his master’s position as untenable for mere existential-ontological reasons. Only now, Ingarden can conclude, that if time has essential characteristics of the being-real then the existential mode of temporal beings, and especially their autonomy to the time, exclude both the Husserlian position (of idealist dependence creationism) and other similar solutions that presuppose existential heteronomy of the real world: “If, however, time were to belong to the essence of being-real, then the number of these solutions would have to diminish. For the being-in-time of an existent force to pass through the activeness-sphere an existent’s activeness presupposes its autonomy. Hence, if the real world, or what exists in it, were really determined by time, then it would have to exist autonomously” (281) Ingarden concludes that in the end, 11 solutions are admissible, and from them only variants of realism and realist creationism – idealism is ruled out grosso modo. However, this does not mean that the world cannot be created or in some other aspects related to consciousness. It only means that it is ruled out that for its sustainment it need be dependent on an external factor such as consciousness because the real world is, by the realist creationism presupposition, autonomous to pure consciousness.
The introduction of time in the existential-ontological analysis reveals another possible set of existential moments (activity, fissuration, fragility…) that can help create new concepts of beings that are “richer” in content (290). Ingarden thus distinguishes absolute supratemporal being (insystematic two variants), supratemporal-ideal-being, temporally-determined (real) being, and purely intentional being (being possible). The concept of temporally determined being has been conceived in three different dimensions, related to the nature of time (present, past, and future). But these are only preliminary steps in further, formal-ontological, material-ontological and consequently metaphysical investigations of the nature of the real world, and its relationship (if there are any) to the consciousness. Ingarden, thus, cautiously remarks that “at the moment we know nothing positive of either the form or the material essence of the real world that would be significant for its mode of being” (297). Unless we succeed in “grasping the temporality of an existent, and of the world in particular, in an indubitable manner” (300) the final resolution of the controversy cannot be resolved.
[i] “I had in fact just begun to write the new book for him, this being the reason for writing it in German” (22, f.11).
[ii] “I wrote only for myself…” (23).
[iii] The volume II was published in 2016, by the same publisher and editor.
[iv] An abridged edition was published in 1964 under title Time and Modes of Being (translated by H. R. Michejda), Springield Ill: Charels Thomas.
[v] In the preface to Controvesy Ingarden documents the rich history of his work in ontology.
[vi] He was unable to use his library at that time (23).
[vii] This was, for Ingarden, first noticeable in “unstable” guise (p. 33 f. 35) of Ideas I (1913) and then fully acknowledged in the matured form of Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929) and Cartesian Meditations (1929).
[viii] Due to the space limitation we can here just note that the structure of idea is explained by its “bilateral” nature of “stock of qualities” and content, and within the content, there are also differences between “variables” and “constants” (68-73).
[ix] This “reduction” seem to be prevailing characteristics of contemporary Neo-Aristotelianism.
[x] The famous “first question of metaphysics” that a thinker such as Heidegger escape to give an answer to, and Robert Nozick boldly answered in rather unorthodox and appealing manner in his Philosophical Explanations.
[xi] And was published as separate book Über die kausale Struktur der realen Welt, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1974.
[xii] Ingarden lists five groups of variants (148-152).
[xiii] That only in some aspects resemble historically developed philosophical positions.