Beyond Empathy: Phenomenological Approaches to Intersubjectivity

Journal of Consciousness Studies 8 (5-7):151-67 (2001)
Drawing on the work of Scheler, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl and Sartre, this article presents an overview of some of the diverse approaches to intersubjectivity that can be found in the phenomenological tradition. Starting with a brief description of Scheler’s criticism of the argument from analogy, the article continues by showing that the phenomenological analyses of intersubjectivity involve much more than a ‘solution’ to the ‘traditional’ problem of other minds. Intersubjectivity doesn’t merely concern concrete face-to-face encounters between individuals. It is also something that is at play in simple perception, in tool-use, in emotions, drives and different types of self-awareness. Ultimately, the phenomenologists would argue that a treatment of intersubjectivity requires a simultaneous analysis of the relationship between subjec- tivity and world. It is not possible simply to insert intersubjectivity somewhere within an already established ontology; rather, the three regions ‘self’, ‘others’, and ‘world’ belong together; they reciprocally illuminate one another, and can only be under- stood in their interconnection.
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