Journal of Philosophy


Husserl’s Lebenswelt and the problem of spatial cognition—in search of universals


Elżbieta Łukasiewicz

Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz


Abstract. Perception and conceptualization of space are some of the most basic elements of human cognition. It has been long assumed that human spatial thinking and frames of reference used to grasp and describe the location of an object in relation to other objects are of universal nature and so are projected in natural languages in basically the same manner; three principal dimensions in egocentric perceptual space were distinguished: up-down, front-back and left-right, reflecting our biological make-up. If differences in spatial terminology were observed, they were relegated to surface structure phenomena, but were not regarded as differences in perceptual and conceptual representations in the human mind. That belief in the universal perception of spatial relations among humans was of considerable importance for some philosophical theories, also for Husserl’s conception of the Lebenswelt a priori and his defence of the validity of scientific propositions and of absolute truth. It now appears that the extent of the diversity in spatial thinking has been drastically underestimated (Levinson 2003), but it does not follow that Husserl’s intuitions regarding the existence of universal constituents in incompatible Lebenswelt experiences were necessarily wrong. Back