The Space of Meaning, Phenomenology, and the Normative Turn

Document Type

Book Contribution

Publication Date



Is the proper object of phenomenology meaning or normativity? This essay argues that it is principally meaning. The phenomenological focus on the world as a space of meaning develops as an extension and modification of the neo-Kantian notion of validity (Geltung). It is argued that the recent normative turn in phenomenology obscures the topic of validity and meaning by recasting it in normative terms that emphasize the normative force of claims. The debate between the early phenomenologists and the neo-Kantians over the meaning of “validity” shows that Husserl and Heidegger reject this view. The normativity proper to phenomenological meaning consists in the validity of meaning-content, which is understood as already holding or as a priori. Developing on Heidegger’s account of involvement, interpretation, and the fore-structures of understanding, a distinction between ontic and ontological senses of the a priori is sketched.