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Lifeworld (German: Lebenswelt) may be conceived as a universe of what is self-evident or given, a world that subjects may experience together. For Edmund Husserl, the lifeworld is the fundament for all epistemological enquiries. The concept has its origin in biology and cultural Protestantism.

The lifeworld concept is used in philosophy and in some social sciences, particularly sociology and anthropology. The concept emphasizes a state of affairs in which the world is experienced, the world is lived (German erlebt). The lifeworld is a pre-epistemological stepping stone for phenomenological analysis in the Husserlian tradition.

Edmund Husserl introduced the concept of the lifeworld in his The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1936):

In whatever way we may be conscious of the world as universal horizon, as coherent universe of existing objects, we, each "I-the-man" and all of us together, belong to the world as living with one another in the world; and the world is our world, valid for our consciousness as existing precisely through this 'living together.' We, as living in wakeful world-consciousness, are constantly active on the basis of our passive having of the world... Obviously this is true not only for me, the individual ego; rather we, in living together, have the world pre-given in this together, belong, the world as world for all, pre-given with this ontic meaning... The we-subjectivity... [is] constantly functioning.

This collective inter-subjective pool of perceiving, Husserl explains, is both universally present and, for humanity's purposes, capable of arriving at 'objective truth,' or at least as close to objectivity as possible. The 'lifeworld' is a grand theatre of objects variously arranged in space and time relative to perceiving subjects, is already-always there, and is the "ground" for all shared human experience. Husserl's formulation of the lifeworld was also influenced by Wilhelm Dilthey's "life-nexus" (German Lebenszusammenhang) and Martin Heidegger's Being-in-the-world (German In-der-Welt-Sein). The concept was further developed by students of Husserl such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jan Patočka, and Alfred Schütz. The lifeworld can be thought of as the horizon of all our experiences, in the sense that it is that background on which all things appear as themselves and meaningful. The lifeworld cannot, however, be understood in a purely static manner; it isn't an unchangeable background, but rather a dynamic horizon in which we live, and which "lives with us" in the sense that nothing can appear in our lifeworld except as lived.

  • Eden, T. (2004). Lebenswelt. in Ebner, K., & Kadi, U. (2004). Wörterbuch der phänomenologischen Begriffe. Hamburg: Meiner.
  • Treitel, C. (2000). The culture of knowledge in the metropolis of science, spiritualism and liberalism in fin-de-siècle Berlin. in * Goschler, C. (ed.). Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit in Berlin, 1870-1930 (pp. 127–155). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner.
  • Steinbock, A. J. (1995). Home and Beyond, Generative Phenomenology After Husserl. Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.
  • Grathoff, R. (1989). Milieu und Lebenswelt. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp
  • Witzany, G. (2007). From Biosphere to Semiosphere to Social Lifeworlds. Biology as an Understanding Social Science. Biosemiotic Research Trends, New York: Nova Science Publishers.
  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary


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