Lukács’ and Husserl’s Critiques of Science

Mihály Vajda

[Excerpt, pp. 105-106: A linchpin of the theses of the two thinkers:]

Science can do no more than predict events to which we must adapt. In this sense, they are not a means to self-realization; they make us part of the "objective" world governed by the natural laws they have discovered: they make us objects of transcendence.

This failure of science to carry out the task of human knowledge, i.e., to give meaning to our existence, stems, according to both Husserl and Lukács, from the fact that science is unable to assume the standpoint of the totality. Science has been reduced to technique (techné), an art of manipulation that rules out meaningful and really human action in favor of limited calculation, since it does not approach human reality as a totality, but only as the sum of "particular facts" governed by "objective" laws. The loss of the totality means at the same time the abolition of historicity. "The unscientific nature of this seemingly so scientific method consists," says Lukács, "in its failure to see and take account of the historical character of the facts on which it is based."

Husserl formulates the same idea in positive terms. "This we seek to discern not from the outside, from facts, as if the temporal becoming in which we ourselves have evolved were merely an external causal series. Rather we seek to discern it from the inside. Only in this way can we, who not only have a spiritual heritage but have become what we are thoroughly and exclusively in a historical-spiritual manner, have a task which is truly our own. We obtain it . . . only through a critical understanding of the total unity of history — our history." What science lacks is precisely this critical understanding of the total unity of our history.

SOURCE: Vajda, Mihály. "Lukács' and Husserl's Critiques of Science," Telos, no. 38, Winter 1978-79, pp. 104-118. (Click on link for full text PDF file.)

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