Ingarden, Roman (1893–1970)

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Roman Ingarden, the Polish phenomenologist, was born in Kraków. He studied philosophy under Kazimierz Twardowski at Lvov and under Edmund Husserl at Göttingen. At Göttingen he also studied mathematics under David Hilbert and psychology under G. E. Müller. Ingarden followed Husserl to Freiburg, where he received his PhD in 1918 with the dissertation "Intuition und Intellekt bei Henri Bergson." The same year Ingarden returned to Poland, where he taught mathematics in high schools. After his habilitation in 1921 he was named Privatdozent in philosophy at the University of Lvov. During the German occupation Ingarden was basically preoccupied with writing "Controversy over the Existence of the World"; universities in Poland were closed at that time. In 1945 he accepted the chair of philosophy at the Jagellonian University at Kraków. During the early 1950s the Polish government barred him from teaching philosophy because of his adherence to "idealism"; during this period he translated Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason into Polish. Ingarden regained his chair in 1956 and retired in 1963, but he continued to be philosophically active.

Ingarden was one of the ablest pupils of Husserl. He accepted Husserl's main analytical results and the phenomenological method, but he rejected Husserl's transcendental idealism, showing instead how phenomenology could lead to realism. Max Scheler, Jean Hering, and, in her earlier works, Hedwig Conrad Martius, also exerted some influence on Ingarden. Traces of Ingarden's ideas can be found in the work of Nicolai Hartmann, Herbert Spiegelberg, and Michel Dufrennes, as well as in that of such American aestheticians as René Wellek.

Ingarden's philosophy is a fusion of two traditions: the variety of German speculative metaphysics as represented by Franz Brentano and the restrained and painstaking Polish analytical philosophy. Ingarden wove grand philosophical designs, but he wove them with great care and clarity. He opposed what he regarded as the narrowness and one-sidedness of the analytical trend, and he was probably the first to argue (in 1934) that the logical positivist verification principle of meaning, since it is a metalanguage statement, is itself unverifiable; and since it is not analytic, it is therefore meaningless. Ingarden followed this criticism with many others, but he nevertheless acquired and used the skills and techniques of the analytical philosophers. His phenomenology is therefore marked by an intelligibility and clarity rare among metaphysicians and ontologists.


Ingarden's earliest work was in epistemology, which he conceived of as an independent discipline able to show the certainty of its own conclusions. The center of his investigations later shifted to ontology, which he regarded as a science of pure possibilities. Ontology determines and describes these possibilities in order to provide us with conceptual apparatuses by which we can express various existential situations.

Ingarden also conducted significant work in aesthetics. His fully elaborated and original theory of art is perhaps the best-known part of his philosophy. He arrived at this theory through the ontological investigations that were central to his thought, and the theory itself was a preparation for his realistic ontology. One of the possible ways of settling the controversy between idealism and realism is through examining the nature of objects that exist. There seems to be a necessary connection between a mode of being and its formal structure. Ingarden first attempted to investigate this problem through examining works of art, which, in contrast with spatiotemporal objects, are dependent for their existence on the conscious act of the creator but which nevertheless transcend this act and continue to exist in their material shape afterward. What makes them works of art is the intention of the creator to endow them with significance, and it requires another intentional act on the part of the receiver to decipher this significance expressed by physically perceptible signs. Thus, the work of art possesses many strata. In a literary work of art, for example, the following can be distinguished: (1) the visual or phonic stratum; (2) the stratum of the meanings of words and sentences; (3) the stratum of objects described; (4) the stratum of the appearances of these objects. All these strata are polyphonically orchestrated to compose one work of art. In a poem it is not the printed marks in the shape of letters, nor even the actual meanings of particular words, that matter; rather, it is the "poetic significance" achieved through these printed marks and through the meanings of particular words. The intentional act of the creator and another intentional act of the receiver are indispensable for the existence of the work of art. And because of this, works of art are called purely intentional objects.


It is customary to link phenomenology with existentialism, as if Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre were three links in the development of one trend and as if existentialism were an inevitable development of phenomenology. But the linking of phenomenology and existentialism in this manner blurs the fact that for Husserl phenomenology was primarily a cognitive philosophy, seeking to acquire knowledge, whereas for Sartre the main function of philosophy was consolatory, to explain the mystery of man and justify his tragic existence. Ingarden's philosophy was a continuation, development, and restatement of the cognitive core of Husserl's philosophy, and perhaps was closer to its cognitive spirit than any other development of Husserl's doctrine by his numerous pupils. Ingarden perhaps succeeded better than Husserl himself in making his phenomenological inquiries consistent and coherent. Husserl, as Ingarden observed, was entangled in a vicious circle of phenomenology: In order to conduct the phenomenological reductions that are to yield self-evident knowledge, Husserl had to assume that our consciousness is transcendental, whereas it is precisely through application of the phenomenological reductions that consciousness is revealed to be transcendental.

Ingarden attempted to break away from this circle by what he called eidetic analyses, the penetration of the nature of essences in an "objective" way, as opposed to the transcendental approach Husserl used in his later work. Ingarden's objective approach was to clear the ground for philosophy as an independent and self-sufficient discipline. He contended that any reconstruction of our knowledge must start from thorough analyses of the nature of the objects of our knowledge, both existing and possible. Ontology is basic to other philosophical endeavors because the manner of our cognizing is determined by the objects of cognition. It follows that there are as many types of immediate experience as there are types of objects and types of relationships occurring among objects.

Ingarden devoted his principal work, Spór o Istnienie Świata (The controversy over the existence of the world), to the analysis of these various objects and relationships. According to Ingarden, existence is not that which exists but that by means of which something exists. Not everything that can be distinguished in an object belongs to its attributes: Existence is not an attribute of an object. Ingarden attempted to account for the specific role of existence in whatever is, by distinguishing between modes of being (modus existentiae ) and existential moments (momentum existentiale ). The real existence (reality) of something, the possibility of something, and the ideal existence of something are examples of modes of being (modes of existence). Nonexistence, however, is not a mode but the absence of any being. An existing object can never be experienced by us without its mode of being. In every mode of being we can distinguish existential moments. The existential moments are the elemental units of the modes and thus are the key to understanding them. Many different existential moments can be distinguished intuitively in each mode of being of something. What we grasp in the object is not existence as such, which is a certain universal idea, but particular existential moments.

Ingarden divided moments of being into mutually exclusive pairs. There are four basic pairs. The first pair comprises existential autonomy and existential heteronomy. "Something is self-existent (is existentially autonomous) if it has its existential foundation in itself. It has such a foundation if it is immanently determined in itself" (Time and Modes of Being, p. 43). Otherwise it is existentially heteronomous. "An object is existentially original if, in its essence, it cannot be produced by any other object" (ibid., p. 52). If it can be so produced, it is existentially derivative. "An object is existentially separate if, for its existence, it does not in its essence require the existence of any other object with which it would have to coexist, because of its essence, within the compass of one and the same whole " (ibid., p. 82). If it does require such another object, it is "inseparate." The fourth pair of existential moments are existential self-dependence and existential contingency. Existential contingency involves separate objects that, in spite of being separate, require for their existence some other existentially separate object. An existentially self-dependent object, which is also an existentially separate object, does not require such another object.

Ingarden discussed at length both time and causality. In the analysis of time he distinguished further pairs of existential moments, including actuality and nonactuality, persistence and fragility, fissuration and nonfissuration. His original interpretation of the causal relation arose out of his analysis of the moments of existential originality and existential derivation. For Ingarden a causal relation occurs between C and E if: (1) C and E are diverse; (2) C actually conditions E but E does not condition C in the same way; (3) both C and E are events or processes (as far as their form is concerned); (4) the occurrence of E is simultaneous with that of C ; (5) both C and E are real actual).

Modes of being consist of noncontradictory combinations of existential moments. Ingarden distinguished four basic modes, or regions, of being: absolute being, temporal (or real) being, ideal (or extratemporal) being, and purely intentional being. Absolute being is characterized by the existential moments of autonomy, originality, separateness, and self-dependence. The other modes have many subtypes, each of which is characterized by a number of existential moments.

Each of Ingarden's analyses of pairs of existential moments is a small monograph on traditional ontological problems usually rooted in Aristotle and scholastic philosophy. On one level they may appear to be analyses of language, as one linguistic philosopher has pointed out, but they are of a scope not generally undertaken by linguistic philosophers, and Ingarden regarded linguistic analysis as an inadequate tool for the systematic analysis of philosophical problems. The analyses contained in this work were to pave the way for the eventual solution of the controversy between idealism and realism over the nature of the world and our relation to it. They follow in many instances the spirit of Aristotle's analysis of categories, but to be fully comprehended they presuppose familiarity with medieval discussion of pure possibilities.

See also Aesthetics, History of; Aesthetics, Problems of; Aristotle; Brentano, Franz; Existence; Hartmann, Nicolai; Hilbert, David; Husserl, Edmund; Idealism; Kant, Immanuel; Ontology; Scheler, Max; Time; Twardowski, Kazimierz.


works by ingarden

Gesammelte Werke, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1992 ff.


"Über die Gefahr einer Petitio Principii in der Erkenntnistheorie." Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 4 (1921): 545568.

"Intuition und Intellect bei Henri Bergson." Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 5 (1922): 286461.

"Essentiale Fragen. Ein Beitrag zum Problem des Wesens." Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung 7 (1925): 125304.


Spór o Istnienie Świata (The controversy over the existence of the world). 2 vols. Kraków: Polish Academy of Sciences, 19471948. Vol. I partially translated by Helen R. Michejda as Time and Modes of Being. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1964. A German version appeared as Der Streit um der Existenz der Welt. 3 vols. Tübingen, 19641966. The third volume is not published in Polish.


Das literarische Kunstwerk. Eine Untersuchung aus dem Granzgebiet der Ontologie, Logik und Literaturwissenschaft. Halle: Niemeyer, 1931.

O Poznawaniu Dzieta Literackiego (On comprehending the work of literature). Lvov: Ossolineum, 1937.

Studia z Estetyki (Studies in aesthetics). 2 vols. Warsaw: Polish Scientific, 19571958.

"Prace Filozoficzne Romana Ingardena." In Szkice Filozoficzne Romanowi Ingardenowi w Darze. Warsaw: Polish Scientific, 1964. Lists 150 works by Ingarden written between 1915 and 1963.

translations of works by ingarden

The Literary Work of Art: An Investigation on the Borderlines of Ontology, Logic and Theory of Literature. With an Appendix on the Functions of Language in the Theatre. Translated and with an introduction by George G. Grabowicz. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art. Translated by Ruth Ann Crowley and Kenneth R. Olson. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

On the Motives which Led Husserl to Transcendental Idealism. Translated from Polish by Arnòr Hannibalsson. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1975.

Man and Value. Translated from Polish and German by Arthur Szylewicz. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1983.

The Work of Music and the Problem of Its Identity. London: Macmillan, 1986.

The Ontology of the Work of Art: The Musical Work, the Picture, the Architectural Work, the Film. Translated by Raymond Meyer with John T. Goldthwait. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1989.

works on ingarden

Ameriks, Karl. "Husserl's Realism." The Philosophical Review 86 (1977): 498519.

Bostar, Leo. "Reading Ingarden Read Husserl: Metaphysics, Ontology, and Phenomenological Method." Husserl Studies 10 (1994): 211236.

Dziemidok, Bohdan, and Peter McCormick, eds. On the Aesthetics of Roman Ingarden: Interpretations and Assessments. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989.

Gierulanka, D., and A. Polatowski. "Kirunki Badan Filozoficznych Romana Ingardena." In Szkice Filozoficzne Romanowi Ingardenowi w Darze. Warsaw: Polish Scientific, 1964.

Küng, Guido. "Roman Ingarden (18931970): Ontological Phenomenology." In The Phenomenological Movement. Edited by Herbert Spiegelberg. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982, pp. 223233.

Rudnick, Hans H., ed. "Ingardeniana II: New Studies in the Philosophy of Roman Ingarden, with a New International Ingarden Bibliography." Analecta Husserliana 30 (1990).

Smith, Barry. "Roman Ingarden: Ontological Foundations for Literary Theory." In Language, Literature and Meaning. Edited by John Odmark. Amsterdam: Benjamins Press, 1979, pp. 373390.

Stepien, A. "O Filozofii Romana Ingardena." Ruch Filozoficzny 22 (19631964): 153159.

Tymieniecka, A. T. "Le dessin de la philosophic de Roman Ingarden." Revue de métaphysique et de morale 60 (1955): 3257.

Tymieniecka, A. T. Essence et existence: Étude à propos de la philosophie de Roman Ingarden et Nicolai Hartmann. Paris, 1957.

Tymieniecka, A. T., et al. For Roman Ingarden. Nine Essays in Phenomenology. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1959.

Henryk Skolimowski (1967)

Bibliography updated by Thomas Nenon (2005)