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Husserl: Intersubjectivity and Lifeworld

Intersubjectivity can be described as a relationship between me and an other. The peculiarity of this relationship
lies in the fact that the other is not alien to me, but is “within me” in a way that his or her “otherness” can be
investigated beginning with the way in which that “otherness” is imminent in my ego. The other’s otherness is
present to me “in person,” in Husserl’s terms.
For philosophy the problem is this: how can I give an account of something if it is completely outside of and
transcends my own nature? A phenomenological theory of intersubjectivity, founded upon the recognition of the
imminence of “otherness” offers a solution to the problematic of the transcendence of objectivity. How can the
other be present in my lived-world? How can the world be an objective world though we are different living
subjects? How can we live in a society of shared values?
These questions can be answered through the use of the phenomenological method. Husserl framed these
questions as belonging to a “’sociological’ transcendental philosophy” (Husserl, 1968, p. 539) or a “transcendental
sociology” (Husserl, 1966, p. 220). Husserl’s phenomenological investigations of the lived-experience of a subject
a transcendental
intersubjective unit.
word transcendence, transcendental refers to the essential nature of the subject.
We can inquire into this nature beginning with world as it is imminent in a subject’s experience. For example if I
want to look into my lived experience of thinking about something, I can first take a specific lived experience of
mine in which I am thinking about my friend Anna; then I can analyze this lived experience phenomenologically in
order to explain its essential structure (philosophically). This kind of phenomenological method will be particularly
attentive to the presence of the other in my lived experience—in other words, to reflect carefully on the way in
which the other is present to me. In fact, when I think about Anna, my thinking can be affected by multiple
contexts—for example, the judgments of the others about Anna or myself, or the education I received, which
shapes my way of perceiving and thinking about others. My lived experience will be not only mine, meaning it is
never a purely solitary experience, it always implicitly participates in intersubjectivity because it will be the
outcome of an embodied, social and “en-worlded “experience. In that sense phenomenological method has an
access to the other’s “otherness” from inside; it digs into the lived-experience of the subject in order to describe
how the transcendent world appears to us.
The volumes of Husserliana which we can read to gain a detailed idea of Husserl’s views on this issue are:
the Fifth Cartesian Meditation (Husserl, 1982), which sends us to Volume 8 (First Philosophy, Second Part &
other important additions) and the Volumes from 13-15 of the Husserliana (Husserl, 1973a-c), which are
especially dedicated to intersubjectivity.
The sources Husserl borrowed to develop his theory of intersubjectivity are especially indebted to Brentano
(1973), Stein (1989) and Fink (1995). From Brentano he took the theory of intentionality to explain the subjectobject relationship and from Stein the notion of empathy to clarify the manner in which we perceive otherness.
In what follows, I will focus firstly on the notion of intentionality, secondly on the constitution of otherness and its
objectivity, thirdly on the idea of ego and its life-world.
Intentionality or Living the Outside World
Generally speaking, intentionality is a term that dates back to the scholasticism of St. Anselm. For Anselm (c.
1033-1109), intentionality denotes the difference between the objects that exist in human understanding, and
those that actually exist in the physical world. From an etymological point of view, intentionality comes from
Latin intendere, in English ‘to point to’ or ‘aim at’. Brentano (1838 –1917) took this term and adapted it for his
psychology to describe the relationship between mental phenomena and physical objects. In fact for Brentano

love or just perceive the same matter once it is given us. in love loved. reference to a content. 1989): iterated empathy. Psychology represents a science whose data come from experience and introspection – hence Brentano envisions psychology from an empirical standpoint. What is remarkable to notice here is the continuity and the break between Husserl and Brentano’s theories of intentionality. in desire desired and so on. In presentation.intentionality was considered the hallmark of psychological phenomena. direction toward an object (which is not to be understood here as meaning a thing). p. Husserl claims that the “intentional essence is made up of the two aspects of matter and quality” (1970. (1973. phenomenologically. Quality is the way in which a content is given to consciousness. by a presentation. of equivalent positing presentations. Though Brentano did not address the issue of intersubjective intentional experience. or immanent objectivity. although they do not do so in the same way. Within intersubjective intentionality the other is perceived in the form of empathy. 1970. to intend it means the melody must be present to me. Intersubjective intentionality is a kind of intentionality in which another person is made present to me within my lived experience thanks to a specific kind intentional essence that I am going to address next. For this reason Husserl calls intentional acts “objectifying acts. In phenomenological terms. Empathy and the Experience of the Otherness While intentionality describes the conscious relatedness of the subject and the world. in judgment something is affirmed or denied. Every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself. 101) The overall aim of Brentano’s book was to establish the philosophical foundations of psychology as a science. but they construed it differently. and what we might call. Husserl borrowed Brentano’s notion of intentionality and interpreted it from a subject-directed perspective. e. which point by way of differing matters to the same object” (Husserl. “Quality (…) has guided us since we formed the Idea of matter – while the same object remains differently present to consciousness. in hate hated. for Brentano intentionality indicates the central property of every mental phenomenon in reference to its content: conscious acts “intend” extra-mental objects. p. 251). Despite the similarities between Husserl and Brentano concerning the role played by the intentional essence as a key to explain the general structure of subjective lived experience. Brentano thought that if psychology was to be established as a science. Husserl partly moves away from the definition of intentionality provided by his master. In particular. instead. For Husserl intentionality is not the intentional in-existence of the object within the consciousness. In Brentano’s Psychology from Empirical Standpoint the author explains his viewpoint with the following words: Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object.” because they are able to objectify or present objects to the subject within consciousness (Husserl.. in consciousness.g. As mentioned. I want to focus on a key term in Stein’s doctoral thesis on empathy supervised by Husserl (Stein. Husserl defines it as a characteristic of the manner in which subjects intend objectivities. Both philosophers used this theory to explain the structure of mental phenomena and pure consciousness. 1970. his theory is also useful in explaining that class of lived experiences. One may think. how is it possible for me to ascribe the intentional acts of another person to myself—as if I were living the other’s intentional acts? . The intentional relationship was the main feature of any psychological experience and it clarifies how an object is intended by a psychological subject. The quality by which I can form in my mind the idea of otherness is that of feeling myself ‘in the shoes’ of the other (en-paschein – “to feel in”). In the next paragraph I will describe the process of empathizing. 52). Generally speaking. empathy helps us to understand – in everyday language – how I can put myself “in the shoes” of someone else. In the case of a melody. it describes the relationship of a subject to the objects of consciousness. 314). p. though not wholly unambiguously. and matter corresponds to the content of the act. for example. Indeed we might evaluate. While Brentano considers intentionality as a hallmark of psychological objects. there had to be a criterion that distinguishes its subject matter from the subject matter of physical (or natural) science. For Husserl every intentional act is objectifying because it makes an object present for consciousness. This term concept enables us to give an account of the sense of the other’s experience as somehow my own. something is presented.

To put in act this process I engage in what Husserl calls analogical apprehension whereby the other. who is present (Paarung) to me as a fellow human being is mirrored in my experience. Intersubjectivity is no mere opening to a discrete other or a recognition of myself in isolation. (Husserl 1982 § 52. on the passive screen of the other: rather. I live an analogical apprehension that enables me to recognize myself as a human being partaking in a humanity that is shared with others.According to Husserl. in the midst of the dynamic flow of my conscious acts and other’s movements in everyday experience. self-contained unit. as Khosrokhavar (2001) has written. . Therefore the ego and the alter ego are always – and necessarily – given in a primal “pairing”. “The experienced animate organism (Leib) of another continues to prove itself as actually (wirklich) an animate organism. not an anticipation (Vorgriff) that could become a seizure of the self (Selbstgriff)” (Husserl 1972. “The analogy is not in full force and effect (voll). p. let us explain all these steps in more detail. rather is he constituted as ‘alter ego’ – the ego indicated as one moment by this expression being I myself in my owness” (Husserl 1982 § 44. as such. In this monadological intersubjectivity “the second ego [the other] is not simply there. solely in its changing but incessantly harmonious “behavior” (Gebaren). this mirroring is a simultaneous opening to similarity and difference in the midst of interrelatedness and commonality. Thus the mirroring we speak of is not the static re-presentation of my own solitary self. if I see a dog crossing the street and suddenly I hear the dog meowing. In the process of communarization I realize that I am a community of persons though I am just me along with my own lived-experience (Erlebnisse). 114 sq. In fact when I perceive another person. For example. Perhaps for this reason Husserl describes the relation using the term “pairing” (Paarung). rather. Husserl writes: “the other man is constitutionally the intrinsically first man” (Husserl 1982 § 55. In fact. the other appears as natural part of my being-in-the world: one could almost say. p. and strictly given to himself. which I will address below. When I perceive this organism analogous to me. borrowed from Brentano’s inner perception. but it blossoms as a natural experience alongside my self-presence. meaning that I can perceive the other because he is similar and dissimilar to me. 94). which means that my perception of the other is not posited “before” or “after” my selfpresence. p. 94). but rather as a part of a community where others are continually in touch with and affecting my lived-experience and shaping the way I am aware not only of others but of myself. In my own simple living and perceiving. a synthesis by which I can confirm or deny the always changing presentations I can have of the other. 87). the other is genetically constituted in the midst of my own. The other appears via a pairing (Paarung). describes the intersubjective constitution of otherness. This very first experience is called by Husserl “communarization (Vergemeinschaftung)” to indicate this originary mode of living in which no ego (not even myself) remains absolutely singular. In this analogical apprehension the other lives within my lived-experience as a ‘mirroring’ (Spiegelung) of my own self and yet not a mirroring proper. Via this kind of synthesis I can be sure that what I perceive in the world genuinely corresponds to what is there. Husserl speaks of a harmonious synthesis (Einstimmigkeitssynthese). an analogue of my own self and yet again not an analogue in the usual sense” (Husserl 1982 § 44. that is via its external presence as an animate organism (Leib) that is similar to mine. For this reason I undergo a process that Husserl calls communarization (Vergemeinschaftung) whereby the second ego—the ego of another person—appears to my first primordial ego as similar to mine. which is accompanied by a feeling of consistency. as a companion. the steps describing my contact with the lived-experience of the other are the following: I live the world. 124). this synthesis is the foundation of my ability to recognize whether or not there is consistency within my perceptions. so to speak. Moreover. duplicated or projected. and do so throughout the continuous change in behavior from phase to phase”. In fact. intersubjectivity is the ego’s opening to the world of others. it is an indication. there is an immediate disjuncture among my perceptions that conveys to me that I misperceived the identity of the animal! There is something in my synthesis that does not match my earlier apprehension—exemplifying the way in which perception is always engaged in self-correction. Now. for the most part.) Another key word to describe the intersubjective community is “harmonious synthesis” (Einstimmigkeitssynthese). within a natural attitude. In this attitude I do not experience myself as a solipsistic. p. Such harmonious behavior (as having a physical side that indicates something psychic appresentatively) must present (auftreten) itself fulfillingly in original experience. flowing experience within the natural attitude. I recognize the truthfulness of my perceptions of the other person thanks to their changes and possibilities. as the (transcendental) condition of any analogical apprehension and any later mirroring of the other. This concept. p.

the homogeneous community of ‘us’ (Wir-Gemeinschaft) . p. Therefore the objective world and mutual existence of the others can be attained by virtue of this harmonious confirmation of apperceptive constitution. Through employing the reduction. Husserl 1972. his concrete ego are there for me in the first place. The reduction designates the inquirer’s passage from a natural attitude. I intend the other within a specific horizon of functionings and peculiarities but these presentations have to be continuously confirmed or corrected in the flow of my new. or by virtue of the constitution of new unities throughout the changes involved in abnormalities” (Husserl 1982 § 55. Husserl explains reduction as a ‘primordial’ act of putting out of play any constitutive function of intentionality not as reported by another subjectivity but in reference to the “primordial sphere” of the inquirer’s ego. that is. 272). and so forth though this perceiving goes on exclusively within the sphere of my ownness” (Husserl 1982 § 55. Intersubjective Reduction and Lifeworld At the end of the fourth text in Husserliana XV Husserl writes “starting from intersubjectivity. at the same time (in eins damit). Quite rightly. it puts in bracket all that does not belong to its own intentional life to recover habitualities and sedimentations constituted as “abiding convictions” (bleibende Überzeugungen). In fact. 129) of the existence of the ego and the others “I. I perceive the otherness only when I appresent it to my ego. the ego. p. of monadical pluralization” (Husserliana VI. or put differently. as well as my horizon of others and. have the world starting from a performance (Leistung). apperception is in a continuous. this constitution is not a constitution of the world. those of my passive and active intentionality. 188). In § 44 of the Fifth Cartesian Meditation. to exemplify multiple modes of being-an-I simultaneously. Harmoniousness is also preserved by virtue of “a recasting of apperceptions through distinguishing between normality and abnormalities (as modifications thereof). a primordial ego (Husserliana VI. in which the subject reflects upon what he already lived and is living in order to discern the essence of a lived-experience (Erlebnisse). but an actualization which could be designated as “monadization of the ‘ego’ – as actualization of personal monadization. Finally the intersubjective ego is the ego given after . While the latter brings us back to the constitutive transcendental subjectivity. 69. that is when I intend it by an epistemological intentional act. According to Husserl’s phenomenological theory every ego seems to live many lives at once. “The identity-sense of ‘my’ primordial Nature and the presentiated other primordial Nature is necessarily produced by the appresentation and the unity that it. which determine the Self as a concrete egoic pole and the “transcendent objects” (given either actually or potentially). pp. in which […] constitute myself. therefore. perceiving that the other Ego and I are looking at the same world. transcendental and intersubjective life. and the pole of all the habitualities instituted or to be instituted by those processes” (Husserl 1982 § 44. the former (that implies the latter) should be understood as a “dismantling reduction” (Abbaureduktion) that aims at revealing the original sense of the inquirer’s ego as such—that is. consequently. pp. 115-6). p. we speak of perceiving someone else arid then of perceiving the Objective world. intersubjective experiences of it. 125 sq. p. “In my spiritual ownness. relative to me. The ego can be said to live at least three lives at the same time: an immanent. In the first one the ego lives according to the natural attitude thanks to which it acquires sense data. 98). In this way. to a phenomenological attitude. [It] centers in an apprehended Ego who is not I myself but. necessarily has with the presentation cofunctioning for it this appresentation by virtue of which an Other and. as appresentation. 123-4). 188 sq. The very first beginning of a phenomenological intersubjective analysis is given by reduction.“Everything [is] alien (as long as it remains within the apprehended horizon of concreteness that necessarily goes with it).) The mutual relations characterizing each member of the monadological community involve an “objectivating equalization” (Gleichstellung) (Husserliana 1982 § 56. 417). it is possible to establish the intersubjective reduction by placing between brackets the world in itself and thus achieving the reduction to the universe of the intersubjective that includes in itself all that is individually subjective” (1973c.. the ego that stands out to the inquirer by means of this reduction is an Ur-ich. in its irreducible immanence. I am nevertheless the identical Ego-pole of my manifold ‘pure’ subjective processes. to the intentional sphere – actual and potential – in which the inquirer’s ego is constituted in its “peculiar ownness” (eigen). a modificatum: another Ego” (Husserl 1982§ 52. in which the subject naively participates in the world. to witness the phenomenon of I-ness. This reduction is different from the classical phenomenological reduction. open-ended process of adjustment and correction.

] Others also apprehend it in the same way. 1983. Husserl. Husserl gives the following example: “I see coal as heating material. p. 751-815. Psychologie von einem empirischen Standpunkt. (Original: Brentano. [. 234). That is. Sixth Cartesian Meditation. p. In this life the ego discovers itself not as a solipsistic unit or a monad but as an intersubjective unit. (Husserliana. third book: phenomenology and the foundations of the sciences. Edited by Margot Fleischer.the reduction. [. We cannot even conceive something that transcends us in a strict sense—because that “something. the second transcendental ego is only a limited aspect—one might almost say a profile—of the third. The Hague/Boston/Lancaster: Martinus Nijhoff. 1973 ( Original: Brentano. Our world is a “subjective-relative lifeworld”. Edited by R.. and McAlister (trs. 1900.) Brentano. intersubjective life. I recognize it and recognize it as useful and as used for heating. 1922. J.] I can use [a combustible object] as fuel. 165-183 Drummond. pp. Crowell. 2002. but at the same time the former grounds (fundiert) the latter. Drummond. Terrell. 231-255. Grundlegung und Aufbau der Ethik. 1913 & 1921. New York: Routledge. F. we would not be capable of intending it—in the simplest terms. p. 112-124. E.). (Husserl 1982 § 49. F. Meiner Felix Verlag). Kersten (ed.) 1973. The Idea of a Transcendental Theory of Method. IV. as appropriate for and as destined to produce warmth. 19181926. [Analyses of passive synthesis. Fink. 1970. 186f. 1976. 1901. Ethics. vol. Husserl Studies 22. J. 2006. the constitution of the world is an intersubjective constitution in which the world is always intrinsically a lifeworld shared by an intersubjective community. we would not be able to speak about it. 1918-1926]. .” (Husserl.” could not be grasped by consciousness in the first place. and it acquires an intersubjective use-value and in a social context is appreciated and is valuable as serving such and such a purpose. From lectures and research manuscripts. p. Aristotle on Consciousness. This is the only soil within which we simultaneously discover and shape our multi-tiered. Value. F. An Intentionality without Subject or Object?. Husserl 1989. E. Analysen zur passiven Synthesis. Husserl. E. it has value for me with respect to the fact that with it I can produce the heating of a room and thereby pleasant sensations of warmth for myself and others. Findlay. Moral Objectivity: Husserl’s Sentiment of the Understanding. Aus Vorlesungs. History and Metaphysics. S. F. 1976.” if it could not be shared with a real or potential “we. 134). 1994. Leipzig. It itself is a part of the explication of the intentional components (Bestände) implicit in the fact of the experiential world that exists for us. E. Thus. All that belongs to its lived-experience is mingled with and inextricable from the lived-experiences of others. Hughes Schneewind (ed. R. In fact the transcendental ego constitutes the world as a phenomenon thanks to its intentional activity. Theory and Nihilism. To explain the layers of this lifeworld (Lebenswelt). 1-27. Respect as a Moral Emotion: A Phenomenological Approach. Bruzina. V. London: Routledge London. 1918-26. Undergoing: Phenomenology. Logical investigations. 1874. intersubjective) world of community and science is co-constituted (Husserl. London: Routledge. 1966. 1995. as useful to man. Husserl: Critical Essays 5 Horizons: Lifeword. Edited by J. E. 1952. Rancurello. it has value for me as a possible source of heat.). The relation between the transcendental ego and other egos is also strengthened by the apperception of the world (Weltapperzeption). etc. Mind 111.. 108). In other words. 1952. and it is only after writing the Cartesian Meditation and most of all in the Crisis that Husserl elaborates a proper “Umweltanalyse” to explicate the idea of an objective world shared within the intersubjective life of a living community. The Foundation and Construction of Ethics. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy.. Our intended world is the “grounding soil” within which a more objective (or better. 1933-34. J. Psychology from the Empirical Standpoint. Man and World 27 (3). Caston. Brentano.und Forschungsmanuskripten. 222. Since the transcendental ego is fundamentally one with the intersubjective and immanent ego.. Husserl. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 2005. Husserl Studies 12. 1874.). N. In the first volume of Ideas Husserl had already introduced this concept under the heading of Umwelt to mean a surrounding natural world. transcendental intersubjective ego. 1995. Indiana University Press. 2 vols. References Bernet. F.

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