Moment of Inversion

In tracing the concepts of institution and taken for granted in Husserl’s work, especially The Crisis of European Science and Transcendental Phenomenology, I was struck by the fact that Husserl seems to clearly describe a concept we might now label as the moment of inversion (Latour & Woolgar, 1986).

Although moment of inversion is not a phrase Husserl uses, the concept is clearly Husserlian.  Crisis speaks repeatedly of the “art of measurement” and its role in “externalization,” a process through which the sensible qualities of an object are externalized and substructed, i.e., put on the surface and made to cover up, while the original senses are pushed under or buried. The result is an inversion through which idealities, quantities and symbols become an index to realities, qualities and senses.  A world of formulas replaces the world of forms.

We can even suggest a preliminary definition of the moment of inversion as: “The surreptitious substitution of the mathematically substructed world of idealities for the only real world, the one that is actually given through perception, that is ever experienced and experienceable – our everyday lifeworld” (Husserl, 1970: 48-49).

Citation: Husserl, E. 1970. The crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology (D. Carr, Trans.). Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.