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Husserl’s Phenomenology of


The essays in this book make important contributions to issues that

are current both within and across analytic and phenomenological
philosophy. Importantly, the book also helps blur the (artificial)
distinction between Analytic and Continental philosophy. The essays are
written from a phenomenological perspective with analytic rigor, clarity,
and absence of unexplained jargon. They will be accessible to analytic
and phenomenological philosophers alike and also to sociologists,
psychologists, and other scholars working in these areas.
—Ronald McIntyre, California State
University, Northridge

This volume is a much welcome addition to the growing research on

Husserl’s theory of intersubjectivity. It gathers an impressive roaster of
internationally leading experts from both the analytic and continental
tradition within Husserl scholarship. Thus, it succeeds in bridging the
notorious continental/analytic divide and forcefully brings Husserl’s
intricate theory of sociality to bear on a range of topics and disciplines of
contemporary relevance.
—Thomas Szanto, University of Copenhagen

This collection examines the instrumental role of intersubjectivity in

Husserl’s philosophy and explores the potential for developing novel ways
of addressing and resolving contemporary philosophical issues on that
basis. This is the first time Iso Kern offers an extensive overview of this rich
field of inquiry for an English-speaking audience. Guided by his overview,
the remaining articles present new approaches to a range of topics
and problems that go to the heart of its core theme of intersubjectivity
and methodology. Specific topics covered include intersubjectivity and
empathy, intersubjectivity in meaning and communication, intersubjectivity
pertaining to collective forms of intentionality and extended forms of
embodiment, intersubjectivity as constitutive of normality, and, finally, the
central role of intersubjectivity in the sciences. The authors’ perspectives
are strongly influenced by Husserl’s own methodological concerns and
problem awareness and are formed with a view to applicability in current
debates—be it within general epistemology, analytic philosophy of
language, philosophy of mind, meta-ethics or philosophy of science. With
contributions written by leading Husserl scholars from across the Analytic
and Continental traditions, Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity
is a clear and accessible resource for scholars and advanced students
interested in Husserl’s phenomenology and the relevance of intersubjectivity
to philosophy, sociology, and psychology.

Frode Kjosavik is Professor of Philosophy at the Norwegian University

of Life Sciences. He was a group leader in Philosophy at the Centre for
Advanced Study at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters,
2015/16. Publications include articles on Kant, Husserl, the philosophy
of mathematics, and the philosophy of biology.

Christian Beyer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen.

He was Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation,
Associated Fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg (Göttingen) and Fellow
at the Centre for Advanced Study (Oslo). He authored Von Bolzano
zu Husserl (1996), Intentionalität und Referenz (2000), Subjektivität,
Intersubjektivität, Personalität (2006).

Christel Fricke is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oslo,

Norway. She was the founding director of the Centre for the Study of
Mind in Nature. She edited The Ethics of Forgiveness (Routledge, 2011);
Intersubjectivity and Objectivity in Adam Smith and Edmund Husserl
(with Dagfinn Føllesdal, Ontos Verlag, 2012).
Routledge Research in Phenomenology
Edited by
Søren Overgaard
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Komarine Romdenh-Romluc
University of Sheffield, UK
David Cerbone
West Virginia University, USA

Phenomenology of Thinking
Philosophical Investigations into the Character of
Cognitive Experiences
Edited by Thiemo Breyer and Christopher Gutland

Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty

Edited by Komarine Romdenh-Romluc

Pragmatic Perspectives in Phenomenology

Edited by Ondřej Švec and Jakub Čapek

Phenomenology of Plurality
Hannah Arendt on Political Intersubjectivity
Sophie Loidolt

Phenomenology, Naturalism and Science

A Hybrid and Heretical Proposal
Jack Reynolds

Imagination and Social Perspectives

Approaches from Phenomenology and Psychopathology
Edited by Michela Summa, Thomas Fuchs, and Luca Vanzago

Wittgenstein and Phenomenology

Edited by Oskari Kuusela, Mihai Ometiţă, and Timur Uçan

Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity

Historical Interpretations and Contemporary Applications
Edited by Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke

For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/

Husserl’s Phenomenology
of Intersubjectivity
Historical Interpretations and
Contemporary Applications

Edited by
Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer,
and Christel Fricke
First published 2019
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 1 Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity11


Intersubjectivity—Meaning and Methodology91

  2 Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution93


 3 Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema, Horizon, and


 4 On Husserl’s Genetic Method of Constitutive

Deconstruction and Its Application in Acts of Modified
Empathy into Children’s Minds142

Particular Others and Open Intersubjectivity163

  5 On Knowing the Other’s Emotions165

viii  Contents
  6 What Is Empathy?178

 7 Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ The Associative Depths of

Open Intersubjectivity193

Communication and Community211

  8 Intersubjectivity, Phenomenology, and Quine’s

Philosophy of Language213

 9 From Empathy to Sympathy. On the Importance of Love

in the Experience of the Other235

10 Intersubjectivity and Embodiment249


11 Husserl on the Common Mind263


Normality and Objectivity—The Life-World, the
Sciences, and Beyond281

12 Constructivism in Epistemology—On the Constitution

of Standards of Normality283

13 On the Origins of Scientific Objectivity302


14 Husserl on Intersubjectivity and the Status of Scientific

Contents ix
15 Models, Science, and Intersubjectivity339


Many of the articles in this volume were initially presented as papers at

an international conference on Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjec-
tivity that took place on June 7 and 8, 2016, in Rosendal, Norway. The
conference was organized by Christel Fricke and Frode Kjosavik. It was
funded by the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) at the
University of Oslo, where Fricke was a Research Director. We would
like to thank CSMN for their generous financial and administrative sup-
port. The conference was organized in cooperation with the Centre for
Advanced Study (CAS) at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Let-
ters, where Frode Kjosavik was a Group Leader for a research team of
philosophers that included a number of Husserl scholars. All of these
participated at the Rosendal conference. Among them was Christian
Beyer, who kindly accepted the invitation to co-edit this volume. We are
grateful for the financial and administrative support from CAS for this
book project. We would like to thank Hayden Kee for all the work he
has put into checking the English translations of German passages in the
opening chapter. Special thanks go to Andrew Weckenmann at Routledge
for his encouragement and constructive suggestions.
Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and
Christel Fricke

Over the last few decades, there has been a growing interest in the phe-
nomenology of intersubjectivity and its significance in a contemporary
context. While Husserl’s strong orientation toward intersubjectivity
remains deeply influential, many philosophers look to post-Husserlian
phenomenology for instructive ways of handling specific topics pertain-
ing to intersubjectivity. This collection of articles, by contrast, has a firm
focus on the originator of the phenomenological movement and his own
philosophical treatment of intersubjective phenomena. It targets anyone
who is seeking systematic approaches to the fundamental issues of how a
subject can relate to other subjects and how there can be constitution of
an objective reality.
Husserl’s own writings would seem to be a particular good entry point
for such major concerns. After all, as the founder of phenomenology he
had to think long and hard about the implications of a methodological
turn toward subjects’ perspectives—be they perspectives on one’s own
mind, on other minds, on living bodies, on various natural or social phe-
nomena, or on appearances and ways of appearing in general. Of major
concern throughout his reflections is the intersubjective objectivity of a
common reality, and a major factor to be considered is the normative
pull that comes from co-constitution by co-subjects. Nearly all problems
in Husserl’s phenomenology have an intersubjective dimension—rooted
as they are in the individual subject’s ways of interacting with other indi-
vidual subjects and in the interplay between subjectivity and objectivity.
We believe there is much to gain from the strong methodological aware-
ness that guided Husserl’s attempts to come to terms with these issues.
His persistent struggles with the relationship between subjectivity, inter-
subjectivity and objectivity led to repeated rethinking of the problems—a
rethinking that is still continued. Rich resources in Husserl’s philosophi-
cal writings have yet to be fully explored.
The first objective of the present volume is to examine the instrumental
role that intersubjectivity plays in the context of Husserl’s philosophy
and to explicate and assess the very conception of intersubjectivity that is
integral to Husserl’s approach. Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology
2  Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke
starts out with the perspective of the individual, i.e., the “primordial
sphere” of one’s own consciousness. However, it does so in order to work
out the features and structures of consciousness that enable and entitle us
to “constitute” objectivity, i.e., to establish objectivity as correlated with
subjectivity (cf. Chapter 2 in this volume on the notion of constitution). It
is clear that “the crucial further step” in order to attain this is “to demonstrate—
in terms of empathy—that, just as my own primordial conscious expe-
riences and their respective objective sense-contents and positings are
motivated, foreign conscious experiences are motivated as well, albeit
not as experiences that are ‘originally’ motivated for my own sphere of
consciousness.” (Hua VIII, 435; our translation) Thus, on Husserl’s view,
the recourse to intersubjective experience is the key to the full analysis of
the constitution of objective reality.
The second objective of this volume is to present research that is apt
to contribute to the development of a “method” of intersubjectivity in a
broad sense—informed by Husserl’s own approach—as a way to solve
problems or resolve issues that have been raised in contemporary philo-
sophical debates, be it within epistemology, analytic philosophy of lan-
guage, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, or meta-ethics.
The underlying idea is that Husserl’s phenomenology in general and his
phenomenology of intersubjectivity in particular provide conceptual and
methodological tools for addressing areas and themes within philosophy
itself. These include subdisciplines, like epistemology—covering both
commonsensical and scientific knowledge, as well as topics such as the
very constitution of objectivity, the self and the other, empathy and social
experiences, and, in particular, the very function and significance of inter-
subjectivity as such. Additionally, Husserl’s thought offers tools for han-
dling issues at the intersection of philosophy and neighboring disciplines,
such as psychology and sociology. Accordingly, we have tried to exploit
the potential for progress in this rich thematic field through utilizing the
shifting angles and nuanced developments to be found in Husserl’s own
With this twofold aim, our volume presents new interpretive material
and new approaches to a range of topics and problems that go to the heart
of its core theme of intersubjectivity and methodology. The more specific
topics that are discussed include intersubjectivity and empathy, inter-
subjectivity in meaning and communication, intersubjectivity pertaining
to collective forms of intentionality and extended ways of embodiment,
intersubjectivity as constitutive of standards of normality, and finally, the
central role of intersubjectivity in the sciences.
Iso Kern’s opening chapter is not only intended to serve as an introduc-
tion to and general commentary on Husserl’s phenomenology of inter-
subjectivity, covering a broad spectrum of relevant issues and texts, and
adding some critical assessments. It also determines the way the present
volume is organized. This is the first time Kern offers a detailed overview
Introduction 3
of this entire field of inquiry for an English-speaking audience. Kern is
a leading expert on intersubjectivity in Husserl. He is the editor of the
three Husserliana volumes—Hua XIII–XV, from the Nachlass—on the
phenomenology of intersubjectivity. No one knows this textual material
better than he does. His introduction brings up central topics related
to intersubjectivity and also hints at various points of contact between
Husserlian phenomenology and developmental psychology—suggestions
which are taken up by some of the contributors.
The first main section of Kern’s overview deals with weighty methodo-
logical issues and fine-tuned ways of differentiating between the most
pressing problems within the present field of inquiry. One important
question is the extent to which an individual can and should be isolated
for methodological purposes, i.e., to identify exactly what is achieved
through intersubjectivity. Against the background of these systematic
preliminaries, the next main section highlights different strata and kinds
of empathy. Kern accounts for the ways in which relations to other indi-
viduals are established and which kinds of access there can be to others
from the first person perspective. Helpful distinctions are drawn between
inauthentic and authentic empathy, and between naïve, or direct, and
reflexive empathy. These bring out very precisely, then, the roles of empa-
thy of varying depth in social understanding. Accordingly and appro-
priately, the third main section targets communication, common actions
and community, and thus the scope for various kinds of interaction and
association between persons. Then, from reciprocal or collective forms of
constitution, the fourth main section turns toward intersubjective objec-
tivity itself, and thereby examines how epistemic standards are set—be
they those of normality in everyday life or those that are elevated to a
scientific level of accuracy.
These four main sections of the opening chapter correspond to the
four thematic categories of articles in this volume. Kern’s introduction
ends with a short fifth section, with brief remarks on the “existential”
and “monadological” character of phenomenological metaphysics. It
includes some intriguing thoughts that are not pursued further in this
Against the background of Kern’s extensive opening chapter, Part I of
the present volume is devoted to the very meaning of intersubjectivity
and how it can be the basis of a methodology. Husserl’s own method
of phenomenological reduction is supposed to yield an analysis of the
constitution of objects in general and their intersubjective constitution in
particular.1 Accordingly, in Chapter 2, Christian Beyer’s concern is pre-
cisely “Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution.” The relevant notion
of constitution is clarified and related both to Husserl’s arguments for
“transcendental idealism” and to his intersubjective conceptions of com-
municative acts and objective empirical reality, respectively. In Ideas II,
Husserl refers to the environment insofar as it is constituted in “mutual
4  Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke
understanding and mutual agreement” as the “communicative environ-
ment” (Hua IV, 193). At first sight, this might look like a conception of
the surrounding world as formed by language. However, a closer look at
Husserl’s conception of constitution reveals that epistemic subjects con-
stitute the world in the first place, by means of the epistemic conscious-
ness involved in their communicative acts, among other things. The main
goal of Beyer’s chapter is to elucidate the relevant notion of constitu-
tion. He starts out from the hypothesis that the notion is epistemological.
The idea that the world constitutes itself in epistemic consciousness is
closely linked to Husserl’s conception of “transcendental idealism” and
his arguments for this position. Two of these arguments are reconstructed
and discussed, with an emphasis on their relation to Husserl’s analysis
of communicative acts, which closely resembles Paul Grice’s analysis of
non-natural meaning. Beyer’s own interpretation of this notion is devel-
oped in terms of what John Perry calls “mental file processing.” Recent
analytic philosophy is thereby brought in.
Like Beyer’s contribution, Chapter 3 also highlights the relation between
Husserl’s phenomenology and analytic philosophy, characterizing the for-
mer as a “semantic approach” and developing on that methodological
basis a reconstruction of Husserl’s view of the intersubjective constitution
of the environment, or life-world. The constitutive function of perception,
action, and empathy, as well as their interrelations are thereby brought
to the fore. David Woodruff Smith discusses “Intersubjectivity: In Virtue
of Noema, Horizon, and Life-World.” In his book Husserl (Routledge,
2013), Woodruff Smith maintained that Husserl’s philosophical system
seeks to integrate objectivity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity. He argues
that Husserl’s approach to intentionality, central to his conception of phe-
nomenology, is aptly called a “semantic” approach. On Husserl’s basic
analysis, the intentional structure of an experience involves its noematic
meaning, its horizon of implicit further meanings, and its invocation of a
sense of context in the relevant surrounding world, or “Umwelt.” Here,
Woodruff Smith draws out forms of interdependence among the sense
of “I,” the sense of “you” as “other I,” and the sense of things in “our
world.” It is argued that an implicit understanding or horizon of expecta-
tions about our surrounding world—natural and social—is part of our
familiar forms of perception, empathy, and action in our life-world, or
“Lebenswelt.” Drawing on Ideas I and Ideas II, a reconstruction of this
interdependence of meaning is developed, as is a corresponding interde-
pendence in the world, drawing implications as seen from a holistic read-
ing of Husserl. That reading is informed by the systematics of the earlier
Logical Investigations and by the expansive vision of the later Crisis.
Chapter 4, by Eduard Marbach, is entitled “On Husserl’s Genetic
Method of Constitutive Deconstruction and Its Application in Acts of
Modified Empathy into Children’s Minds.” It gives an account of a genetic
method to be found in Husserl, and it follows a hint in Kern’s opening
Introduction 5
chapter by relating this method to developmental psychology, with a
special focus on pictorial representification (“Vergegenwärtigung”) and
empathy, i.e., intersubjective experience. Marbach outlines Husserl’s turn
to genetic phenomenology, discussing the potential and the limits of its
method of constitutive deconstruction as the genetic extension of static
eidetic variation. Static, descriptive phenomenology is an analysis of the
possible essential forms in pure consciousness, regardless of the way they
have become what they are. Genetic analysis is meant to be explanatory
phenomenology of the lawful genesis at work in the concrete correlations
between personal subjects of different kinds and ambient worlds of dif-
ferent kinds. The central question of the contribution of the relatively
normal and abnormal subjects to world-constitution involves problems of
constitutive deconstruction and of modified empathy of essentially differ-
ent types, giving rise to the question of their limits. Marbach then turns to
a few examples from Husserl’s texts, which are introduced to corroborate
an argument in favor of cooperation between phenomenology and empir-
ical developmental psychology in view of overcoming limits of empathy.
Finally, this argument is expanded through glimpses of an exploratory
developmental study of acts of representification, carried out in the form
of an interpretation from the phenomenological point of view.
From these accounts of constitution and methodology in Husserl, Part
II of the present volume moves on to two different ways in which consti-
tution can be intersubjective, i.e., it is concerned with empathy addressing
particular people on the one hand and the role of open intersubjectivity
on the other.2
In Chapter 5, Leila Haaparanta writes “On Knowing the Other’s
Emotions.” She discusses empathy with particular others, with a special
focus on the emotional dimension of intersubjective constitution. Her
account brings in relevant ideas to be found in Husserl and Edith Stein
but purports to go beyond their approach by stressing what she calls
“agnosticism” or a “skeptical attitude,” i.e., the awareness of fallibility
underlying the empathetic ascription of emotions. Haaparanta intends to
combine the question concerning what emotions are with the question
concerning how we are related to other persons’ emotions. She claims
that in contemporary research, empathy is usually regarded as involv-
ing knowledge of the other’s emotions, and possibly having emotions
that the knowledge arouses. Haaparanta argues that if empathy is taken
to be cognitive in this way, one who supports what she calls “the judg-
ment theory” must construe it as interpretive reasoning; it is revealing the
other’s judgments and the argumentative chains that the other assumes
to support those judgments. It is argued that the combination of what
she calls “the affect theory” and empathy is not without problems either,
if the supporter of the affect theory regards empathy as knowledge of
the other’s affects. It is suggested that paradoxically a skeptical attitude
toward empathetic knowledge is a condition of such knowledge. The
6  Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke
proposed theory emphasizes the connection between empathy and the
view of philosophy as never-ending questioning.
In Chapter 6 on “What is empathy?” Søren Overgaard criticizes a group
of definitions of empathy recently proposed by Nancy Snow, Frédérique de
Vignemont, and others. Common to these definitions is what Overgaard
calls the ‘similarity assumption’—roughly, the idea that it is a necessary
condition for empathy that empathizer and target are in an emotional
state of the same type. Overgaard argues that these definitions implausibly
count certain cases of emotional contagion as cases of empathy but that it
is unclear whether the similarity assumption is the root of these problems.
The similarity-based accounts are contrasted with the ‘standard’ Husser-
lian account. Overgaard suggests that it is questionable whether the latter
offers an attractive alternative. There may also be resources in Husserl for
an account of empathy somewhat different from the standard one. Tenta-
tively, a non-standard Husserlian account is endorsed.
Part II is completed by Chapter 7, by Joona Taipale, on the “Anonym-
ity of the ‘Anyone’: The Associative Depths of Open Intersubjectivity.”
Taipale scrutinizes a thesis in Husserl, namely, that the constitution of
the perceptual environment centrally involves a rather anonymous form
of intersubjectivity—“open intersubjectivity.” In the context of this dis-
cussion, Taipale relies on insights from developmental psychology and
psychoanalysis. He focuses on tacit structural referencing to potential
others and challenges the claim of anonymity. It has been argued that the
potential others are implicitly specified as co-members of our community
or “homecomrades.” Taipale pushes the idea of specification further, and
into a new direction, by arguing that the implicated others—be they co-
perceivers or co-members—are also always specified associatively, in the
light of our past interactions. Differently put, Taipale wants to show how
the “co-positing” of others necessarily “echoes” and is “colored” by our
earlier intersubjective experiences. The way in which our experiences tac-
itly implicate anyone, i.e., typical co-perceivers, is influenced by the way
in which we have interacted with particular others, i.e., particular tokens,
who serve as the primal institutors of the idea of “a typical co-perceiver.”
Against the background of this discussion of empathy and open inter-
subjectivity, Part III of the volume turns to the topics of communication
and community. Empathy underlies acts of communication and commu-
nities of individual subjects, according to Husserl. In Chapter 8, Dagfinn
Føllesdal discusses the relevance of Husserl’s view of communication in a
contemporary context in “Intersubjectivity, Phenomenology, and Quine’s
Philosophy of Language.” Husserl’s theory of intersubjectivity lies at the
core of his phenomenology. It ties together his main insights into what it
is to be a human being, how we communicate with one another, and how
our own subjectivity is a product of our experience of and interaction with
other subjects. Linguistic communication is a part of all this, but it cannot
be understood unless we study it within the whole general framework of
Introduction 7
intersubjectivity. The views of Donald Davidson and, in particular, those
of W.V. Quine are critically discussed against the background of Hus-
serl’s insights. While Davidson did not show awareness of the problems
that Husserl saw, Quine did but only gradually developed a way to deal
with them. This led him close to Husserl’s view. Føllesdal also adds some
comments on specific contributions that Husserl made to the philosophy
of language. He ends his chapter with a brief remark on Susanna Siegel’s
construal of Quine’s position, again emphasizing developments that can
be seen as guided by considerations akin to those of Husserl.
In Chapter 9, Mariano Crespo highlights the “community of love” in
his piece “From Empathy to Sympathy. On the Importance of Love in
the Experience of the Other.” A community of love between individu-
als in mutual support of each other requires more than mere empathy,
argues Crespo, namely, empathy that is also sympathy. Husserl thinks
that the point of departure for the analysis of empathy is the primordial
sphere, or sphere of ownness. Therefore, the other arises phenomenologi-
cally before one’s consciousness as a “modification” of oneself (Hua I,
144). In the text Gemeingeist, or Common Mind, I (Hua XIV, 165–184),
and in some texts recently published in the Reflections on Ethics from
the Freiburg Years (Hua XLII), we find a theory of sympathy, which,
according to Crespo, constitutes an “enrichment” of the former theory.
Crespo does not suggest that Husserl completely replaces his former con-
ception of empathy with a new one, which is sympathy-based. In fact, in
Gemeingeist I he still uses “empathy” as a broad term covering, among
other things, non-sympathy-based phenomena. However, love seems to
be the key element in transforming empathy—from an experience of the
other qua modificatum of myself into a complete feeling in the other.
Husserl admits that in empathy I share a common world with the other,
but in the final analysis I have my own aims and the other has his or hers.
Love seems to transform mere empathy into a richer experience of the
Other. “Lovers do not live side by side, nor the one with the other, but
rather in one another, both actually and potentially” (Hua XIV, 174).
In Chapter 10, David Carr explores “Intersubjectivity and Embodi-
ment.” He goes beyond the role of intersubjectivity in the two preceding
chapters and raises the possibility of a collective form of intentionality—
a “we-subjectivity,” or a “personality of a higher order.” It is even pro-
posed that, just as individual subjects are embodied, such a personality
might in some cases also come with its own embodiment of sorts. The
phenomenological approach to intersubjectivity has always been closely
entwined with its account of embodiment. From Husserl’s earliest reflec-
tions on empathy, or Einfühlung, and through the work of later phe-
nomenologists, the assumption has been that our access to other subjects
is mediated by the body. The task of phenomenology is to describe and
understand how this works. Carr draws heavily on Husserl’s treatment
of this subject, but he expands on Husserl by drawing on examples
8  Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke
from other writings and from common experience. He begins with the
so-called face-to-face encounter, often considered the paradigm case of
intersubjectivity, and examines the role of embodiment in this form of
intersubjectivity. In the second section, he suggests that this form of intersub-
jectivity, while important, is not the only form, and that we-intentionality
(or plural subjectivity) presents us with a different, and perhaps equally
important, form of intersubjective relation. After discussing this phenom-
enon in a general way, Carr returns to the topic of embodiment and asks
how it might figure in an account of we-intentionality.
Then, in Chapter 11, Emanuele Caminada throws more light on col-
lective intentionality in Husserl by contextualizing it both historically
and in relation to contemporary work on social ontology. ‘Gemeingeist,’
or ‘Common Mind,’ was a guiding concept for the third part of Hus-
serl’s Ideas II. That part concerns the constitution of the personal,
social, and cultural world, as well as the methodologies of the humani-
ties (“Geisteswissenschaften”). In “Husserl on the Common Mind,”
Caminada provides a brief historical introduction to the very notion of
Gemeingeist within German philosophy of history and society. He then
dwells on its epistemological significance and expounds on Husserl’s
implicit dialogue with Wilhelm Dilthey. Husserl’s clarification is to take
into account the phenomena of personal and group minds. Both Hus-
serl and the contemporary analytic philosopher Philip Pettit propose a
holistic understanding of mind, thereby avoiding collectivism. They do
so thanks to refined formal-ontological concepts, i.e., through a phenom-
enological account and through reliance on supervenience, respectively.
Pettit’s construal of the common mind is committed to physicalism,
whereas Husserl’s account is antagonistic to it. Husserl in effect offers a
radical alternative to Pettit’s homonymic theory—and to contemporary
naturalistic approaches to social ontology more generally.
The final part of the volume, Part IV, is on Normality and Objectivity—
The Life-World, the Sciences, and Beyond. According to Husserl, inter-
subjectivity sets communal standards, in particular standards of normal-
ity and objectivity. In Chapter 12, Christel Fricke deals with the topic
of normality in “Constructivism in Epistemology—On the Constitution
of Standards of Normality.” She addresses issues concerning the estab-
lishment of normality among perceivers through some kind of “con-
struction,” which is identified with constitution in Husserl’s sense. Such
standards of normality are taken to exert a normative pull in justification
of claims to objectivity. Thus, according to Husserl, all our knowledge
of the external world is based on perception. In a sense, all our knowl-
edge is therefore response-dependent. The way people perceive certain
spatio-temporal parts of the world is subject to a great deal of variation.
How can judgments based on perceptual states make justified claims to
objective truth? According to Husserl, truth claims are justified if they
are based on perceptual states that are proper—properly adapted to
Introduction 9
the spatio-temporal parts of the world that gave rise to them. Husserl
defines proper perceptual states in terms of the perceptual states a nor-
mal observer has when looking at the world from normal points of view
under normal perceptual conditions. The respective standards of normal-
ity cannot be explained in terms of statistical normality. They have to be
constructed, or constituted, as Husserl prefers to say, and it is argued that
the construction of these standards is a collective task.
In Chapter 13, Mirja Hartimo elaborates “On the Origins of Scientific
Objectivity.” She points to different routes to objectivity—and thereby
ways of overcoming the epistemic “relativism” that might seem to fol-
low from the subject- or group dependence of the life-world in Hus-
serl. Among these ways of objectification is historical self-reflection that
brings us to the origins of the sciences and, ultimately, to simple percep-
tion. Thus, Husserl’s analysis of the life-world(s) in the Crisis suggests
cultural relativism: the “truths” of the inhabitants of foreign worlds may
be contradictory to ours. Yet, Husserl believed that in science, as included
in the life-world, the goal is to establish truths valid for everyone. Har-
timo also examines the sources of objectivity, as discussed in Experience
and Judgment. It is argued that for Husserl the most primitive form of
objectivity has its origin in perception. Abstraction leads Husserl to what
he calls “simple perception,” which is of “ultimate substrates.” These
make perceptual judgments possible and anchor them to the pre-given,
existing world. The cognitive activity built upon simple perception aims
at investigating whether the objects truly are as they are pre-given in sim-
ple perception. This has its most developed manifestation in the scientific
judgments. Unlike the simple belief in the world, a scientific judgment is
made with a critical interest in truth and coherence within the scientific
particular worlds in service of truth. Furthermore, a scientific method
and the normative ideals that go with it should be subjected to a con-
tinuous critical and historical self-reflection. Much of Husserl’s analysis
of simple perception thus carries over to higher levels of constitution of
objectivity. Even scientific objectivity ultimately requires a reference to
perception of objects and their measurable properties. Moreover, in the
sciences we strive at coherence that has its roots in a striving for harmony
that can be found already in pre-predicative perception.
Chapter 14 brings various aspects of intersubjectivity together, insofar
as these are taken to be relevant to science. In “Husserl on Intersubjec-
tivity and the Status of Scientific Objectivity,” Frode Kjosavik discusses
corrective, critical, and constitutive functions of intersubjectivity in the
“positive sciences.” He also relates Husserl’s account of intersubjectivity
to contemporary philosophy of perception, i.e., to that of Tyler Burge,
and to social construction within the contemporary philosophy of sci-
ence. In the final part of his chapter, Kjosavik goes into the role of inter-
subjectivity in a “transcendental science” that itself offers a rationalistic
critique of the “positive” sciences. Kjosavik analyses Husserl’s view of
10  Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke
the status of scientific objectivity by looking into the following five ways
in which science is related to intersubjectivity: (1) The intersubjectivity
test of scientific observations; (2) the claim to intersubjective validity of
scientific theories and measurements; (3) the intersubjectively constituted
reality and the “sense” of such reality as given—which can both be stud-
ied in the sciences; (4) the communal “we” and the intersubjectivity of a
“particular world,” which is “closed” under a vocational interest; and (5)
intersubjectivity as constitutive of the grounds of the positive or objective
sciences and thus as itself a theme for a “transcendental” science.
In Chapter 15, Harald A. Wiltsche pinpoints the central role of inter-
subjectivity in the “positive” sciences in his piece on “Models, Science,
and Intersubjectivity.” Husserl has been accused of various philosophical
vices such as intellectualism, essentialism, foundationalism, or, perhaps
most importantly in the present context, solipsism. It is a common line of
criticism that the performance of the reduction restricts the field of phe-
nomenological analyses to the phenomenologist’s own consciousness and
phenomena. However, if this were the case, Husserlian phenomenology
would be incapable of accounting for the existence of foreign subjects
and all kinds of social occurrences. Since scientific research seems to be a
communal enterprise, phenomenology would also fail to provide a prom-
ising framework for the analysis of the positive sciences. Against this line
of argument, Wiltsche contends that, on a proper understanding of Hus-
serlian phenomenology, the communal nature of science turns out to be
grounded in the very architecture of subjectivity. Building on a case study
from modern science, Wiltsche argues that intersubjectivity is a necessary
condition of the constitution of scientific models.

1. We thank the contributors for providing us with abstracts of their chapters,
which are drawn upon in the following overview.
2. As Dan Zahavi (1996a, 1996b) has pointed out, Husserl distinguishes
between three kinds of “transcendental intersubjectivity,” i.e., three kinds of
intersubjectivity contributing to the constitution of objects as “transcendent,”
“objective and real” (Zahavi 1996b, 231), notably (i) “my concrete encounter
with the other” by means of empathic experience; (ii) “co-subjectivity” as
part of the experiential apperceptive horizon, what Husserl calls “open inter-
subjectivity”; and (iii) lifeworldly “normality qua anonymous community.”
(Zahavi 1996b, 233 ff.) The first two of these are thematized in Part II, which
concerns both acts of empathy addressing particular people and the role of
open intersubjectivity. The third one is mainly thematized in Part IV. (Zahavi
1996a. Husserl und die transzendentale Intersubjektivität—Eine Antwort auf
die sprachpragmatische Kritik. Dordrecht: Kluwer. Zahavi 1996b. “Husserl’s
intersubjective transformation of transcendental philosophy.” Journal of the
British Society for Phenomenology 27/3, 228–245).
1 Husserl’s Phenomenology
of Intersubjectivity
Iso Kern

As is well known, the only text concerning intersubjectivity that Husserl
published during his lifetime was the French translation of his Fifth Car-
tesian Meditation (Husserl 1931). But in his manuscripts, the intersub-
jective aspect of virtually every phenomenological problem increasingly
drew his attention. Nevertheless, there is no systematic text on inter-
subjectivity in his numerous manuscripts. Probably in the year 1914,
or 1915 at the latest, Husserl wrote a group of 16 texts, together con-
sisting of about 80 pages, which all deal with the problem of empathy
with another ego. This collection constitutes the longest cohesive text on
intersubjectivity that can be found in Husserl’s manuscripts. Husserl may
have been motivated to conduct this research by his work in 1913 on
the second section (“The Constitution of Animal Nature”) and the third
section (“The Constitution of the World of the Mind”) of his Ideas II,1
and by his revision of the Sixth Logical Investigation during March and
April 1914, in which he considers the speech-expression not only from
the point of view of the speaker, as he had done in the first edition of
this work, but also from the point of view of the addressee whose under-
standing of this expression is intended by the speaker (Hua XX/II, 33ff.).
Husserl probably wrote this group of 16 texts also as a preparation for
a contribution to a Festschrift dedicated to the seventieth anniversary of
Rudolf Eucken (1846–1926).2 But this Festschrift, intended for publica-
tion during the war, never appeared.3 In the following sketches, I make
use of several manuscripts from this group.
The first Husserlian manuscripts dealing with empathy (the fundamen-
tal notion in Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity) date from
1905 to 1907 and consist of passages excerpted from Theodor Lipps’s
article “Further Thoughts Concerning Empathy” (Lipps 1905). In the
years 1903–1904, Husserl was in correspondence with this famous
Munich professor, who admired Husserl’s Logical Investigations and ini-
tiated the “Munich group of phenomenologists,” together with his pupil
Johannes Daubert.
12  Iso Kern
From 1905 onward, Husserl prepared various manuscripts on the
problem of empathy. Until 1910, he was mainly concerned with our
empathic access to sensations and fields of sensations in a foreign body.
Husserl considered the apperception of a foreign body as a sensing body
to be the fundamental stratum of empathy. Another source of inspira-
tion for Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity was his discus-
sions with Wilhelm Dilthey in Berlin in 1905.4 It was Dilthey’s idea of
understanding the world of the mind through the concept of motivation
instead of the physical concept of causality that led Husserl’s thinking
in new directions, opening for him the way to a phenomenology of the
comprehension of other minds. Husserl’s thought in this domain can be
found in the posthumously published Ideas II (Hua IV).
A major development in Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectiv-
ity came with the extension of the phenomenological reduction from
egological subjectivity to intersubjectivity in the lectures on “Fundamen-
tal Problems of Phenomenology” of 1910/11 (discussed in section 1c
of the present text). From this time on, empathy and intersubjectivity
became central issues in Husserl’s phenomenology, as is evidenced by the
group of texts from 1914/15 mentioned above. The result of the increas-
ing importance of intersubjectivity was that, in 1921 and 1922, Husserl
conceived a new “great systematic work”5 on his monadological philoso-
phy based on transcendental intersubjectivity (Hua XIV, 1–302), which
was supposed to replace his never completed Ideas of 1913. In the fol-
lowing sketches, I shall quote abundantly from the manuscripts written
in this context between 1921 and 1922.
What forced Husserl to replace his conception of a phenomenological
philosophy in his never finished Ideas with another “great systematic
work” were four fundamental and far-reaching insights that occurred
in the development of his transcendental phenomenological philosophy:
first, the insight that the formulation of the transcendental reduction in
Ideas I was misleading (see below, section 1b); second, the extension of
the transcendental reduction to intersubjectivity (see below, section 1c),
an insight achieved already in the year 1910/11 but not taken into account
in the conception of Ideas, which Husserl started to write only one year
later, in 1912; third, the conception of a genetic phenomenology (phe-
nomenology of genetic constitution), achieved between the years 1918
and 1921, which follows the phenomenology of static constitution; and
fourth, the insight achieved during the same years (1918–1921), that, in
phenomenological philosophy, reality—or existence—has priority over
possibility (see below, section 28).
In his lectures “Introduction to Phenomenology” of 1926/27, Husserl
takes a fundamental step that allows for the solution to the phenomeno-
logical problem of the resemblance between the appearance of my own
living body and that of a foreign body. This step is decisive for the “asso-
ciation” of the perception of a foreign body with my own body and for
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 13
transferring the sense of a living body to the foreign body. I refer to this
text below in section 4 of this study. With this step, I dare say, Husserl’s
phenomenology of intersubjectivity was established.
The following presentation provides only sketches of Husserl’s phe-
nomenology of intersubjectivity, arranged in a manner as systematic
as possible. A detailed study of Husserl’s thoughts on intersubjectivity
would fill a whole great book.

I.  Methodological and Other Preliminary Questions

Husserl calls his various phenomenological reductions “doors that open
onto a certain field of phenomenological research.” Among these, the
most important are the following four phenomenological reductions, all
of them playing a role in Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity.

1.  Four Kinds of Phenomenological Reduction

(a) The Eidetic Reduction to Essences, or to the (conditions

of the) Possibility of Transcendental Subjectivity
For a long time, Husserl divided his phenomenological philosophy into
a “first philosophy,” the eidetic science of essences or of the (conditions
of the) possibility of transcendental subjectivity, and a “second philoso-
phy,” a scientific metaphysics of realities (existences) through a phenom-
enological interpretation of the empirical sciences of facts.6 But by the
year 1921 at the latest, Husserl realized that this division could not be
maintained (cf. below, section 28). Nonetheless, phenomenology as an
eidetic science of essences (eide in some Platonic sense) remained fun-
damental for him. The first section of Ideas I is entitled “Essence and
Knowledge of Essence.”
In this work, Husserl writes that “[. . .] pure or transcendental phe-
nomenology is to be established, not as a science of facts but as a sci-
ence of essences (as ‘eidetic’ science). [. . .] The corresponding reduction
[. . .] is the eidetic reduction” (Hua III/1, 6). The eidetic reduction is
a reduction to essences. Knowledge of essences (a priori knowledge in
Kantian terms) begins with individual, imagined examples. For example,
beginning with an intentional act of perception, or, in geometry, with a
geometrical (not real, never exact) triangle, the phenomenologist then
imaginatively changes (varies) it and grasps intuitively its conditions of
possibility. The conditions of the possibility of the act of perception are
thereby grasped, while this individual example must remain what it is.
These conditions of possibility constitute the essence of this individual—
it’s “what it is.” The eidetic insight into these conditions is at the same
time an intuitive insight into the impossibility of the opposite, an intuitive
insight that it could not be otherwise. The eidetic insight is therefore an
14  Iso Kern
insight into a necessity. Husserl often uses the example of geometrical
knowledge for eidetic or a priori knowledge, but he also stresses the dif-
ferences between geometry and phenomenology. Husserl writes in Ideas
I that, as in geometry, so too in eidetic phenomenology, to achieve the
clarification we seek,

[w]e must exercise richly our phantasy in the free reshaping of what
is given in phantasy. [. . .] Thus, one can really say, if one likes par-
adoxical discourse and if one understands its ambiguous meaning,
that “fiction” is the vital element of phenomenology, as it is of all
eidetic sciences, and that fiction is the source from which the knowl-
edge of “eternal truths” draws its nourishment.
(Hua III/1, 148)

In a footnote, Husserl adds that “[. . .]this sentence, taken as an [isolated]

quotation, is especially suitable for ridiculing, from a naturalistic point of
view, the eidetic mode of cognition” (Hua III/1, 148).

(b) The Transcendental Reduction to Egological Subjectivity

and its Misleading Formulation in Ideas I
In a text probably written during the years 1921–1922,7 alluding to the
second section of his Ideas I, “The Fundamental Consideration of Phe-
nomenology,” Husserl writes:

The talk of “residuum [Residuum]” and of “exclusion [Ausschal-

tung] of the world” must be avoided.8 It easily misleads one to the
opinion that the world falls out of the subject matter of phenom-
enology and that, instead of it, only the “subjective” acts, modes
of appearances referring to the world, belong to its subject matter.
In a certain, understandable manner, this is true. Yet, if universal,
transcendental subjectivity is posited in legitimate validity, then
within it lies, on the side of the correlate, the world itself as legiti-
mately existing in accordance with all that it truly is. Thus, universal-
transcendental research also contains within its subject matter the
world itself in accordance with all its true being, consequently also
all the sciences of the world, namely, as eidetic transcendental sci-
ences, all a priori ontologies of the world, and, as “empirical” tran-
scendental sciences, all empirical sciences of the factual world.
(Hua VIII, 432)

It is not only the expressions “residuum” and “exclusion” that may be

misleading in Ideas I, but also what Husserl writes in §89 of this work.
He says there that the real tree as a thing in nature is not the same thing
as the tree as a noema, that is, the tree in the how (mode) of its givenness
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 15
to me or to us. The tree in nature “may burn, may dissolve into its chemi-
cal elements. But the sense [Sinn, i.e., a part of the noema] of the tree
cannot burn: it has no chemical elements, no forces, no real properties”
(Hua III/1, 205). This formulation may lead to the false opinion that,
according to Husserl, the noema is something like a mental image of a
tree, a mental image which “cannot burn, has no chemical elements, no
forces, no real properties.” However, in §43 of his Ideas I, Husserl says
implicitly that the tree there in nature, given to us in perception, may
burn, has chemical elements, etc.

(c)  The Transcendental Reduction to Intersubjectivity

In the same text, written probably in the years 1921/22 and quoted
above, Husserl writes:

Originally, I placed too much emphasis in this reduction [to pure

consciousness] on the stream of consciousness, as if the reduction
were a reduction to it. In any case, this was my first conception of
the introduction of the phenomenological reduction in the year 1907
[in the “Five Lectures” (Hua II)]. There is a fundamental error in this
conception, but one that is not easily rendered transparent. This error
is abolished with the “extension” of the phenomenological reduc-
tion to monadic intersubjectivity in the lectures of autumn 1910/11.9
Already at that time, I pointed out that it could seem that the reduc-
tion to the “stream of consciousness” results in a new solipsism.
However, the difficulty is solved if we make it clear that the reduction
leads not only to the actual stream of consciousness [. . .]. The further
elucidation rests upon the demonstration of the double reduction, to
which all representifications [Vergegenwärtigungen]10 can be submit-
ted, i.e., the reduction of the representifications as present [gegen-
wärtig] experiences, and the reduction “in” the representifications.
(Hua VIII, 433f.)

Instead of speaking of a “double reduction,” it seems to me better to say

that in those lectures Husserl transformed the quasi-solipsistic phenom-
enological reduction by expanding it to the transcendental intersubjective
field. This expansion is a reflexive explication of the representifying acts
of empathy of the phenomenologizing ego. In fact, “double reduction”
cannot mean two reductions, it means two steps in one transcendental
reduction. In 1921, when Husserl began to prepare his never written
“great systematic work,” he reread and annotated the text of these lec-
tures from 1910/11. This shows that, at that time, he planned to base this
philosophy not only on a transcendental ego or a singular consciousness
but on transcendental intersubjectivity (cf. Hua XIV, 3n1): By my repre-
sentifying act of remembering, my own past stream of consciousness is
16  Iso Kern
included in the transcendental field. Similarly, by my representifying act
of empathy, intentional acts of other consciousnesses with their objective
intentional correlates are included in this field. The transcendental sphere
is no longer an “immanent” sphere in the sense of being the sphere of all
that appears to me,11 since other egos in their spheres have “things” exist-
ing through appearances for them.
Whereas Kant’s “transzendentales Ich” does not allow for a plural-
ity of Is, Husserl’s transcendental or absolute subjectivity is, like Leib-
niz’ universe of monads, an intentionally unified plurality with God, the
“monad of monads” (the unity of unities), as its highest principle. The
other ordinary egos are intentionally included in the transcendental field
as “transcendences” by my acts of empathy and by my social acts. God
is included in this transcendental field on two grounds: first, as a condi-
tion of the possibility of the subjective constitution of the cosmic order of
a world out of the factual and for us “accidental” hyletic data (Husserl
speaks of God as a postulate of reason);12 and second, as the telos of the
transcendental-genetic development of human rationality and love.
Husserl’s “double reduction” consists, first, in the transcendental
reduction to an abstract, solipsistic, Cartesian ego and then, as a second
step, in extending the transcendental field by including other subjects in
it. These other subjects are the intentional correlates of the empathic and
social acts of my own concrete ego. As these other subjects are represen-
tified in my concrete subjectivity as my co-subjects (or co-constituting
subjects), they are representified as constituting together with me our
common intersubjective world from their own different “points of view”
in their own intentional acts. They are in turn representified by me as
reciprocally including my own subjectivity by constituting me through
their different kinds of objectivating and social intentional acts.
Until the end of his life, Husserl emphasized the parallelism between
remembering (in a broad sense), which constitutes the whole life of the
ego, and empathy, which constitutes the life of other egos. In this way,
through representification, the whole universe of human monads is cog-
nitively constituted:

In the explication of myself, I come across different representifi-

cations, and therein I come across what is representified as such.
Among these I come across acts of empathy [Einfühlungen]. More
exactly, we must differentiate here between rememberings as simple
representifications and, in relation to them, empathizing represen-
tifications. Through rememberings my successive temporal being is
constituted in the modes of past, present, and future [. . .]. [. . .] In my
primordial13 being a universe of what is foreign is constituted, i.e., [a
universe] of co-beings [Mitseiendes] displaying the sense alter ego[.]
(Hua XV, 588f.)
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 17
(d) The Primordial Reduction to the Primordial Sphere of
the Ego as the Point of Departure for the Constitutional
Analysis of the Experience of the Alter Ego—Three Senses
of Primordial Experience
The “sphere of ownness,” or “primordial sphere,” has three different
meanings or scopes that are very often intermingled (e.g., in the Carte-
sian Meditations). In the first (genetic) and second (static) sense, it is the
sphere of the solipsistic experiences of the ego. These experiences are the
motivational basis for the empathy of other consciousnesses (alter egos)
and their intentional correlates (their objects) and for the further inter-
subjective identification of my own solipsistic objects with the objects of
empathized consciousnesses of others (alter egos). The solipsistic basic
sphere is a sphere of originally given, perceived, and remembered identi-
cal objects. It comprises not only my ideal arithmetic numbers and my
ideal geometrical circles, but also real spatial things (whether here and
now or there and yesterday), including the physical bodies of many oth-
ers and one unique psychophysical reality, namely, my own living body.
These objects, whether immediately perceived or idealized and identified
through remembering, have no intersubjective meaning on the solipsistic
level. The question now is, how, in this basic sphere or stratum of solip-
sistic ownness, the “empathy” or the “understanding” of other egos and
of an intersubjective objectivity (an intersubjective world) is motivated,
by my further course of experience. Or the question now is how, in this
basic stratum, my further experience of a new, intersubjective stratum
is motivated. In other words, how, in the course of my own experience,
do I acquire the verified belief that my own solipsistic world, the solip-
sistic worlds of other persons, and the unidentified solipsistic perceptual
surrounding worlds (“Umwelten”) of animals are aspects of the same
identical objective world—the one world in which we all live and that we
all (animals excluded) rationally believe to have existed for a bewilder-
ingly, unimaginably long time? Or, from the point of view of the second
stratum, the question is how, on this second level, is our objective, intui-
tively experienced, common life-world (with the scientifically constructed
worlds that have entered into this daily lived world) intersubjectively
constituted on the basis of solipsistic “worlds” and surroundings, despite
the differences between them?
(i) If we take the “primordial sphere” as a genetic concept, as Husserl
sometimes appears to do, then it is an impossible concept, a concept
that “cannot be thought” (Leibniz). Husserl writes in his Fifth Cartesian

If our problem is the transcendental constitution and hence the sense

of other subjects, and further the universal history of sense which,
18  Iso Kern
radiating from them and first making possible for me an objective
world, then the sense of other subjects in question cannot yet be the
sense of worldly existing others.
(Hua I, 124)

But it seems to me impossible that Husserl really understood it in a genetic

sense. How can we conceive of a concrete ego without other egos, hav-
ing his ego-world of real spatial things and useful spatial tools, of ideal
numbers and ideal geometrical figures and works of art, writing books
for himself on physics, physiology, mathematics, computer sciences and
the fine arts? All these things can perhaps be produced by a human being
who has lost his empathy to a very high degree but not by a human being
who had never empathized. The simple reason is that human beings are
not conceivable without their experience of the care of other human
beings (or at least of some higher animals, such as benign wolves). Not
even animals, with their habitually perceived spatial surroundings, are
conceivable without the experience of other animals. Perhaps plants live
in a “primordial sphere” in the first sense, if we suppose that plants,
perceiving nothing outside themselves, perceive no other plants caring
for them.
(ii) But we can understand this “primordial sphere” in an abstract
manner,14 including all that a human subject is capable of constituting
as its subjective “world” on its own through its original and slowly rip-
ening faculties of perception, of phonetic and other self-expression, of
remembering and other non-empathic faculties of representification. In a
thought experiment, we can “disconnect” this empathic kind of represen-
tification. Husserl speaks of “dimming out [abblenden]” or of “switching
off [ausschalten]” this representification,15 calling this solipsistic subject
an “invented [fingiert] subject” (Hua XIV, 170). The result is a kind of
abstract subject, one that does not representify the point of view of oth-
ers and is incapable of putting itself “in the shoes of others,” but that
nonetheless realizes fully its other intellectual capacities and its senses.
According to Husserl, such a subject could still be said to do a great
deal. By remembering it could constitute an identical objective (but not
intersubjectively objective) world. It could even invent a rudimentary
language as a tool for distinguishing the different identical things, the
different animals and human beings in its “world,” just as some children
invent their own language. Without taking the point of view of these ani-
mals and human beings, it could produce tools, count its tools and other
things, and conceive of a kind of arithmetic; it could measure things,
conceive of a kind of geometry, and so on. We can also ask what might
motivate this “lonely” subject to transcend its solipsistic “world” by rep-
resentifying the point of view of others and by entering in an intersubjec-
tive community? As I shall argue later in this paper, this transcendence is
only possible through love.
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 19
(iii) In a third sense, the primordial sphere or sphere of ownness also
includes the ego’s own acts of empathy or of understanding other egos and
other animals, because these acts, being my lived acts (my “Erlebnisse”),
are immediately experienced, or originally given to me. In this third sense,
the sphere of ownness is defined by intentional acts that are immediately
given or immediately (pre-reflexively) conscious (“durchlebt,” i.e., “lived
through,” as Roman Ingarden would say), and also by the noematic cor-
relates that are inseparable from these acts. It makes no sense to say that
this sphere functions as the motivational basis for empathy because acts
of empathy are my immediately conscious acts (or, as I know more or
less clearly by remembering, they have been such immediately conscious
acts, and belong therefore to the sphere of ownness). This third concept
of “sphere of ownness,” or “primordial sphere,” defines Husserl’s con-
cept of the monad. Husserl’s “primordial reduction” in the third sense of
“primordial” doesn’t mean a reduction to an ego before its experience of
other egos, but rather to an ego with its own experiences of other egos.
Husserl writes the following concerning the relation between the sec-
ond and the third concept of “primordiality” in a text from January 1934:

[A]mbiguity of [ . . . ] “primordiality”: [. . .] In the originally meth-

odological sense, “primordiality” signifies the abstraction that I,
the ego of the reductive phenomenological attitudes, perform by
abstractly excluding all “acts of empathy.” If later I say, “primordial
ego,” it takes the meaning of the primary mode of the monad [der
urmodalen Monade, i.e., my monad], which includes the primary
mode of empathy [i.e., my own acts of empathy]. In the alienation of
myself, [primordiality] takes the sense of foreign monads.
(Hua XV, 635)

I consider Husserl’s concept of a monad to be most valuable. It allows

us to define the most fundamental notion of personal identity. We can
distinguish two concepts of personal unity: on the one hand, an absolute
unity, the “monad” (this word actually means unity), which does not
allow for a “more or a less”; and, on the other hand, a very relative and
fragile unity, the unity of the interconnection of my experiences, opin-
ions, actions, plans, attitudes, convictions, and so on, which may be full
of changes, ruptures, contradictions, absurdities and cleavages, but also
of efforts to create unity and consistency among them (cf. Kern 2000).
The primordial sphere in this third sense, that of the monad, does not
include other monads (i.e., other consciousnesses in se et per se [kath’
auto]), but only my own presentations of other egos. Other monads are
transcendent in relation to my monad because they are for themselves.
They together with God are the only real transcendences for me. But as
Leibniz also said, “One monad mirrors all the other monads only from
its own point of view.”
20  Iso Kern
Dagfinn Føllesdal is entirely right when he distinguishes between the
“noema” and the “thing in itself” that is represented by the multiplicity
of the subjective noemata. But that is true only, according to Husserl, for
the experience (empathy) of other consciousnesses as other monads who,
as consciousnesses, exist for themselves.

The human subjectivity is, indeed, as a human being, an object in

itself. This means it can be experienced and identified by any number
of subjects. But as human subjectivity, it is also subjectivity, and this
implies that it is in itself and it is for itself.
(Hua XIII, 463, fn. 2; emphases by IK)

As far as the experience of mere spatial things is concerned (real stones,

houses, “trees with their physical elements,” the stars in their existence
since billions of years), all these objects are identical X’s of a manifold
of intersubjectively interrelated noemata. These X’s are not something
absolute in themselves. They are not for themselves. They do not make
sense without (in Greek terms, ouk aneu) our intentional consciousnesses
and their noemata. They are the internal identity-structure of these mani-
fold noemata. “Not making sense without consciousness” means that
consciousness is a condition of the possibility of these X’s. But if they
are intended in confirmed experiences as identical realities, this does not
mean that the consciousness of them is the sufficient reason or the suf-
ficient cause of them. As we shall see below (section 28), Husserl is in fact
not a subjective idealist.

2.  Original and Originary Givenness in Empathy

In the beginning of a text written in the year 1914 or 1915 (Hua XIII,
250f.), Husserl distinguishes, probably for the first time, between what
he then called the “sphere of self-perception” and what is added by
“interpretation as foreign human being,” that is, intersubjectivity with its
intersubjective world. This distinction will play an important role in the
later problematic of intersubjectivity. From the year 1916 to 1920, Hus-
serl will call this “sphere of self-perception” the “solipsistic sphere” and
later, the “original sphere,” “original sphere of experience,” “primordial
sphere,” and “sphere of ownness.”
In Ideas II (elaborated in 1918 by Edith Stein and in 1924/25 by Lud-
wig Landgrebe), Husserl writes, “Human beings, as members of the
external world, insofar as they are conceived as unities of physical bodies
and souls, are given originarily” (Hua IV, 163). In a text from the sum-
mer of 1921, he writes:

The primary [ursprünglich] givenness of a body [Leib] can only be

primary givenness of my body and of no other. The apperception
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 21
“my body” is essentially the first and is the only fully original one.
Only after I have constituted my body can I apperceive every other
body as a body, and this apperception has an essentially mediate
character. [. . .] Every body is thus related back to my body just
as every other ego and its interior life is related back to my own
ego as the only one given to me in the original in the most real and
ultimate sense. The foreign ego is also given to me in a certain origi-
nality, namely, insofar as the foreign physical body [i.e., the other’s
body qua physical object] is given to me originally and insofar as
an empathic co-presentation creates a peculiar apperception through
which anything like a human being attains the only givenness that
it can. However, I am essentially not given to myself originally as a
human being[.]
(Hua XIV, 7)

In a short text, also written around 1921, Husserl introduces the dis-
tinction between original and originary experience. He writes: “neither
the foreign body nor the foreign subjectivity is given to me originally
[orginaliter, i.e., as original], but nevertheless the human being there in
its surrounding world is given to me originarily [originäre, i.e., in the
most pristine manner ever possible]” (Hua XIV, 234). “The sphere of
original experience is identical to the sphere of my subjectivity” (Hua
XIV, 233). At the end of this text, the originary experience of the human
being is analyzed more precisely:

First one sees the foreign body as one sees a signpost or a word.
The apprehension [Auffassung, i.e., the interpretation as foreign
body] can be fulfilled originarily. [. . .] It can be fulfilled in differ-
ent manners, in a proper [i.e., intuitive] and in an improper [i.e.,
non-intuitive] manner. [It is fulfilled] in a proper manner if I become
aware [innewerden] of the analogy of the “foreign body” with my
own body, which is thereby taken into account and always originally
given, and if the [not original] appresentation of the stratum of the
foreign body and of the foreign subjectivity is carried out.
(Hua XIV, 234)

The reason this appresentation is not original according to Husserl is

not because it is an appresentation, but because it is an appresentation
of a foreign subjectivity. The appresentation (representification) of my
own past subjectivity is original. What is appresented in it belongs to the
sphere of my own subjectivity.
In a text written between 1925 and 1928, Husserl analyses more pre-
cisely the concept of originality he wrote about in the text just quoted.
He first tries to determine the experience of others as “original expe-
rience,” but then rejects this effort and ultimately distinguishes three
22  Iso Kern
different concepts of “original experience”: first, the sphere of “pri-
mordial originality [primordiale Originalität, i.e., Uroriginalität]” (Hua
XIV, 389), that is, the original experience, “which does not admit con-
tents of empathy, i.e., contents of the foreign subject” (Hua XIV, 387);
second, the sphere of “secondary originality [i.e., first originarity, erste
Originarität], [. . .] which includes the original sphere of every other sub-
ject” (Hua XIV, 389); third, my “tertiary original experience [i.e., sec-
ondary originarity],” which gives me “cultural objects, which for their
part originally owe their sense-bestowing to the cultivation of [other]
subjects” (Hua XIV, 390). This corresponds to what Husserl writes in
Formal and Transcendental Logic of 1929: “Of my self I have experi-
ence in primary originality; of others, of their psychic life, only in a
secondary [originality], insofar as foreign [psychic life] is principally not
accessible to me” (Hua XVII, 240). In these texts, there appears for the
first time the concept of “primordial” or “primary” originality, which
Husserl employed in his concept of primordiality, or sphere of ownness,
in his Fifth Cartesian Meditation (Husserl 1931). It thus becomes clear
that “primordiality” here means “primordial originality,” or “primary
By the word “original,” I think Husserl generally means the opposite
of “copy,” like an original painting and its copy. The other ego is given
to itself as the original of its subjectivity, whereas in my perception of
the other subjectivity, I have only a “copy” of its own self-experience.
My perception of another subjectivity is originary in the sense that it is
my most pristine (“ursprüngliche”) experience of him, in opposition, for
example, to my remembering another subjectivity, which is secondary in
relation to my perception of it. An experience of the other more originary
than the perception of the other as a psychophysical unity is not conceiv-
able, not possible.
But Husserl writes in a text from early February 1927, “My coun-
terpart [Gegenüber] is experienced by myself originally, insofar as the
intentional [object] of my original empathy itself has original character”
(Hua XIV, 478). We are here in a similar situation as with the concept of
“primordiality” (see above, section 1). If we understand “the original”
in the abstract sense of the static analysis of the constitution of the other
ego, then only my own subjectivity is given to me originally. If I consider
the other subjectivity as given to itself, this givenness is for me not origi-
nal. It is analogous to remembering. My remembered past as the inten-
tional correlate of my originally given remembering is now given to me
originally. But my past, as it was experienced by my past ego, is no longer
given to me originally.
When we understand the “originally given” as my own concrete
monad, then the intentional correlate of my own original empathy, the
other subjectivity as correlate of my empathy, is inseparable from my
empathy, and thus belongs to what is originally given.
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 23
In a text from January 1934 Husserl distinguishes primary, secondary,
and tertiary originality but not in the same way he had done in the text
written between 1925 and 1928 quoted above. My present life of con-
sciousness is given to me in first originality, my remembered conscious
life in second originality, and the empathized conscious life of others in
tertiary originality (Hua XV, 641). In another text (to which I have lost
the reference), Husserl further distinguishes within the primary original-
ity of my present conscious life between (i) the “absolute originality” of
the source-point of the now (“Quellpunkt des Jetzt”), which is given in
impression, in opposition to (ii) the “just past [Soeben],” which is given
in retention, and (iii) that which is about to come, which is given in pro-
tention. What is given to me in my conscious life in impression, retention
and protention, is primary originality. Indeed, Husserl’s phenomenologi-
cal terms must always be understood in their context.

3. Four Kinds of Problems for the Phenomenology

of Empathy
In a text written probably in the beginning of February 1927, Husserl
distinguishes four kinds of problems for the phenomenology of empathy
(Hua XIV, 477f.).
(i) Concerning the “problem of a fictive genesis,” he writes:

Let us assume that there is a surrounding world, constituted with-

out foreign subjects, or constituted without foreign living bod-
ies [Leiber], a surrounding world with only my body and external
things; and let us assume that in this world, which is original for me,
there enters a “foreign physical body” [Leibkörper]. What must then
be motivated by the experience of the similarity between this foreign
physical body and my own physical body? To what extent, then, is
the appresentation of a second subjectivity motivated, an appresenta-
tion that extends the perception of the foreign physical body to the
perception of another human being?—I said, “fictive genesis.” For I
cannot assert in advance that the genesis of the appresentation of the
foreign subjectivity presupposes the preceding genesis of a surround-
ing world without a foreign subjectivity[.]
(Hua XIV, 477)

(ii) “The problem of empathy in static phenomenology consists in the

intentional explication of the given apperception of the other: What is
implied in the perception of another human being?” (Hua XIV, 477) This
problem of static phenomenology begins, according to Husserl, with an
abstraction or “dimming out” of our given experience of the other.
(iii) There is also the problem of the phenomenological analysis of the
essential structure of the genetic constitution of empathy.
24  Iso Kern
(iv) Finally, there is the problem of the genesis of children’s and ani-
mals’ empathy. This is a problem of the interpretation of our prescien-
tific and scientific experience of the development of children and animals
(Hua XIV, 479f.). This problem is not a problem of pure phenomenology,
or of “first philosophy,” but rather a problem of “second philosophy,”
interpreting phenomenologically our ordinary experience or positive sci-
entific experience.16
In a text written in July 1935, Husserl attempts to interpret the “first empa-
thy of a child” (Hua XV, 604–608). He stresses the child-mother relation:

The child learns from the mother to understand spoken sounds as

indications, signs [. . .]. [. . .] The child involuntarily expresses sounds
[. . .], the mother in turn expresses similar sounds [. . .], the child
repeats, so too the mother. What role could this play? [. . .] The child
learns first to say “mama,” “papa” as names. The mother does not
say, “I am coming immediately,” “I will bring that,” but “mama
comes,” “mama brings[.]”
(Hua XV, 606)

II. Three Strata of Empathy and Different

Kinds of Empathy in the Alter Ego

4. The Insufficiency of Husserl’s Phenomenological Analysis

of the Subjective Constitution of Another Living Being and
the Need of an Implementation of this Analysis by Husserl’s
Phenomenology of the Constitution of Subjective Perceptual
Space as my Own Life-Space
According to Husserl, the primary motivational foundation of empathy
is the perceptual similarity between my own body and an externally per-
ceived body within the “primordial sphere.” This similarity motivates an
appresentation. It is not an appresentation in the sense in which an aspect
of a physical thing given in sense perception appresents as its “horizon”
other perceptual aspects of that thing. Rather, it is an appresentation by
expression of an interiority that is not given to me in sense perception
(cf. Hua XIV, 249). However, since the system of appearances of a body
existing “out there” and the system of appearances of my own body
always existing “here” surrounding the center of my point of view, or the
zero point of my orientation (“Nullpunkt der Orientierung”), are com-
pletely different, the motivating similarity cannot be a similarity between
two externally perceived forms. Further, the recognition of the image of
my body there in a mirror is, according to Husserl, not a simple percep-
tion, but rather presupposes similar performances as in empathy. It could
even be seen as a special case of empathy: the empathized feeling body in
the mirror is my feeling body.
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 25
Instead, the motivating similarity must rather be some correspond-
ence between the kinesthetically perceived movements and positions of
my body, on the one hand, and the outwardly perceived movements and
positions of an external body, on the other hand. The question remains
open as to how this correspondence is perceived, or, in Kantian terms,
which are the conditions of the possibility of the perception of such a cor-
respondence. However, this correspondence motivates an apperceptive
transfer whereby a certain external physical body is apprehended in cor-
respondence with my own immediately perceived, sensing, self-moving,
and perceiving living body. This apperceptive transfer cannot be a discur-
sive act of thinking or a logical inference, but occurs in one glance, just
as, without thinking, without recollection and comparison, we transfer
genetically to the things of our ordinary perception the sense that similar
things have acquired for us in past experiences, perceptions, and dealings
with them. Not only the handling of things, but even simply perceiving
them must be learned, as everyone knows.
The phenomenological analysis of the constitution of a subjective per-
ceptual space as one’s own life-space (or as my kinesthetic “playing field
[Spielraum]”) in the second part of his lectures “Introduction to Phenom-
enology” of the winter term 1926/27 (Hua XIV) fully satisfies Husserl’s
explanation of the subjective constitution of another living being. In my
editor’s introduction to Husserliana XIV, I wrote:

The most valuable achievement of these reflections [in the second

part of his “Introduction to Phenomenology” lectures of 1926/27]
consists in the fact that in them Husserl, by an analysis of the con-
stitution of space, solves a problem he had been posing for years
without previously solving it: How is the similarity between my own
body and a foreign body, a similarity fundamental for the associa-
tion of pairing [Paarungsassoziation], possible in spite of the prin-
cipal difference between the possible sensory and perceptual modes
of appearance of these two bodies? Husserl’s answer is that this
association is made possible by the constitutive correspondence of
every external distance and movement to one’s own “kinesthetic
movements” (Text Nr. 36 [of Hua XIV]). With this answer, recourse
to an external presentation in phantasy of my own body is made
(Hua XIV, xxxiv f.)

I may add here as an illustration Kant’s claim that “We represent

a line by drawing it [in reality or in phantasy].” In other words, an
outwardly perceived spatial figure is understood by one’s own kines-
thetically perceived bodily movements. Similarly, we understand imme-
diately the joyful jumping movement of another animal or human being
through our own virtual joyful jumping. Or consider the phenomenon of
26  Iso Kern
“sympathetic resonance”: When people attentively watch a hurdle race,
they raise their own leg when their favorite athlete jumps over a hurdle.
Or when we attend with joy to the musical spectacle of good dancers and
our own kinesthetic dancing mobility is stirred up. Similarly, we really
understand the arduous labor of a worker through the hard and painful
work that we ourselves have done, whether now or in the past, and we
understand the hunger of poor people by our own past or present expe-
rience of hunger. If we have never ourselves had similar experiences, we
will not really (intuitively) understand these behaviors and experiences
of others.
There is one important difference between the ordinary apperceptive
transfer in the field of ordinary things and the apperceptive transfer of
sense from my own body to a corresponding external body. In this lat-
ter transfer, the original thing (i.e., my own moving body that I myself
feel) from which the sense is transferred does not move away from me,
but rather is perceptually always here. Thus, my own body and the cor-
responding external body appear perceptually always as a pair, and the
transfer of sense is performed in the special form of an “association of
pairing” (cf. Hua I, §51). As there is a “pairing,” the transfer of sense
must be reciprocal. My own internally felt and perceived body must
receive some sense of an outer body from the corresponding external
body: it receives the sense of a human body. As Husserl said, “[t]he first
human being is the other” (cf. Hua XIV, 418).
Despite the distinctive performance of this very special associative
pairing, and contrary to what Husserl suggests in the Cartesian Medita-
tions and elsewhere, this pairing cannot produce an alter ego. This is
because this alterity presupposes a different point of view on the world.
This point of view is a point of view that I do not have at present, but
that I would have if I were not here where I actually am, but if I would
have moved into the subjective situation (“into the shoes”) that belongs
to the other perceiving and acting, suffering or enjoying, feeling and liv-
ing ego. Note that this point of view belongs not only to the other’s body.
This representification is not a mere sensory (“sinnlich”), perceptual, and
animal association, but above all it is a performance of a higher degree,
a performance of phantasy. I would call it also a performance of our
human intellect (“Verstand”).17

5. The Constitution of the Alter Ego: How the Psychic Sense of

the Alter Ego Representified in Phantasy Can Possibly
Be Confirmed in Experiences
An act of empathy (“Einfühlen,” “Verstehen,” “Fremdverstehen”) is, for
Husserl, first of all a transposition in phantasy of myself, motivated by
an external, feeling body similar to mine, into the situation of that body,
representifying this body and its surrounding world from the point of
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 27
view of that situation.18 If we grant this, we immediately encounter the
problem of how this representification in phantasy of an actual foreign
point of view can possibly be confirmed in my experience and why it is
not simply annulled by the fact that I am actually not there but here, that
is, by the fact that I can never immediately perceive the situation from
this foreign point of view.
Basically, the confirmation of the representification of the other as
another point of view on the world is made possible, according to
Husserl, by the fact that the immediately perceived externally present
body and its psychic side representified in phantasy stand, in my own
empathic experience, in a temporally continuous nexus of reciprocal
motivations. The currently perceived, externally present body motivates
(indicates, expresses) by its perceivable forms, sounds and behavior a
psychic side, and this unperceivable (not presentified, but representified)
psychic side reciprocally motivates (requires as its expression) in my
expectation a further continuation of the perceivable behavior of the
externally present body. If such further behavior is in fact not perceived
by me, the expectation is annulled. But if it is perceived, it confirms
my former motivating representification of the psychic side and again
may motivate (indicate) some other psychic contents that in their turn
motivate (require) in my expectation some further form of perceptible
behavior, and so on (Hua I, §52). There are also other styles of confirm-
ing the intellectual empathy of an alter ego, such as spoken conversation
with it. Further problems in this area concern the awareness of shared
intersubjective things (the same intentional objects in my consciousness
and in the other’s consciousness) and, ultimately, of a shared world (cf.
Hua I, §§55f.).
In a text written probably in February 1927, Husserl states that the
optimal fulfillment of empathy consists in empathizing with an experi-
ence that has as its intentional object my own experience. He places this
empathy in the context of the social I–You relation. It is the optimal
fulfillment of empathy because the intentional correlate of the empa-
thized consciousness is my own originally given consciousness. Thus,
we may say that Husserl in his later years saw the optimal fulfillment
of empathy in this relation. But he wonders whether this kind of fulfill-
ment is a necessary condition of the possibility of a real verification of

A preeminent case [of empathy] occurs when the other is interpreted

as intentionally related to my ego and its experience, and I really
experience this fact. The unity in the manifold of interpretive experi-
ence has here a point of fulfilment in the specific experience of my
own self. But is this kind of fulfilment ultimately necessary for me
to ground experiences related to a foreign subjectivity? In any case,
this kind of fulfilment plays a special role when we consider the most
28  Iso Kern
original genetic continuity of child and mother and the signification
of the social life between the I and the You.
(Hua XIV, 504)

6. Husserl’s a Priori Thought Experiment of 1915:

The Possibility of the Presentation of an Alter
Ego Prior to the Real Experience of It
In 1914 or 1915, Husserl wrote a series of manuscripts all revolving
around the theme of empathy with another ego.19 Each of them is prob-
ably the work of one day, like the one-day work in fresco painting. In one
of these manuscripts, he experiments with the following thought:

To attain the possibility of the experience of the outer appearance

of a foreign ego, I clearly don’t need the actual experience of such
an ego. It is sufficient to think myself as removed, as displaced
corporally outside myself and to think the appearance of my body
[which I have from the here, the zero point of orientation] trans-
ferred into an external appearance and, at the same time, to think
[. . .] this body in its original appearance as body [Leib] with
its sensations, etc. In the change of the mode of appearance the
body does not lose this apprehension. The identity of the object
is maintained.
(Hua XIII, 253)

My body [Leib] is at first a physical body [Körper] like any other,

notwithstanding its perceptual mode of appearance [around the zero
point], which exists factually only for it and can only exist for it.
In this fact lies a limiting rule, according to which other modes of
appearances of my body are indeed motivated by its perceptual mode
of appearance [around the zero point], [. . .] but they cannot be ful-
filled perceptually.
(Hua XIII, 258)

Several years later he adds the following remark to the above sentence:
“In this ‘motivated’ lies the difficulty. How is this motivation understand-
able?” (Hua XIII, 258n1)
After a lengthy phenomenological analysis of the modes of givenness
of my own body, centered in the zero point of my orientation and with
its kinesthetic system, Husserl concludes):

The presentation [Vorstellung] “if I was there, I would look like this
or that from there, I would have from there this or that perspec-
tive on myself” is a contradictory presentation. But nevertheless, like
similar contradictory presentations, for instance in geometry, it has a
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 29
good sense, that is, it has the good sense that a “duplication” of the
ego is possible, like the duplication of any other real thing [e.g., of a
chair]. That is, in the performance of this contradictory presentation,
the possibility of two subjects with two bodies becomes clear. [. . .]
The contradictory presentation becomes concordant [einstimmig]
when the duplication is taken as duplication. A priori it is impos-
sible for me to be simultaneously here and there; but here and there,
there may be something similar, such that I am here and an ego that
is merely—more or less—similar is there.
(Hua XIII, 263, 264)

The other ego is the ego placed on the outside [hinausversetzt], which
I can no longer maintain as identical with myself.
(Hua XIII, 265)

Thus, from the essence of the perception of myself, of the peculiar

apperception of my body, of my body as a living body, of the unity of
my stream of consciousness with this body, of the mode of appear-
ance of the surrounding bodies for this ego, and again in relation to
the appearance of the body [Leib] as the zero-body [Nullkörper]—
from all this it follows that I can attain a possible presentation of an
other before the real experience of another subject. And this presen-
tation prescribes how another subject can be given and how it can
show itself as a positing presentation.
(Hua XIII, 265)

Husserl adheres here to the fundamental ontological and epistemological

theses (which he gave up after 1921): possibility precedes reality, and a
priori knowledge furnishes the laws of experience.
Later, probably during his reading in 1921 of the 1914/15 text quoted
above, Husserl makes the following note: “The old attempt, of course
too constructive!” (Hua XIII, 254n3) And in a short text, probably dat-
ing from 1921, where he discusses again “the possibility of a universe of
incompatible ego-subjects by fictional transformation of my own ego,”
he concludes with the following remarks:

I see that this manner of consideration is not in the right place. First
the achievement of empathy must be shown in a direct manner. Then
we must consider to what extent this achieved appresentation is the
only possible way that for an ego another ego can exist, and at the
same time, that its surrounding world is identifiable with mine, that,
at the same time as the appresentation of a foreign ego and with the
origin of the concept other, a common nature is to be constituted, an
identical space with identical things.
(Hua XIV, 141)
30  Iso Kern
From 1921/22 onwards, Husserl agreed fundamentally with the old
scholastic formula posse ab esse dicitur (“possibility is spoken about by
starting from reality”) or with the Aristotelian (not Platonic) conception
that energeia (reality) is prior to dynamis (in the sense of “possibility”).
This constitutes an enormous conversion of the logician and the propo-
nent of the priority of the eidetic philosophical sciences. I shall discuss
this further in section 28.
But what Husserl always maintained (that with which he concludes the
text of 1915), quoted extensively above, and that in which he adheres to
the Leibnizian conception of the finite monad, is the following:

If I had no body, if my body, my empirical ego, were not given to

me, I would not be able to “see” any other body, any other human
being. [. . .] I can only apperceive a foreign body by interpretation
of a physical body [Leibkörper] similar to mine as a body [Leib] and
therewith as the bearer of an ego, an ego similar to my own.
(Hua XIII, 267)

7. How Do We Recognize Another Ego as an

Individual Ego, Consciousness, or Mind?
At first glance it may seem that this question is resolved if, following Hus-
serl, we have answered the general question of how we cognize another
living body as the body of another ego with its different point of view on
the world. However, here I would like to add some reflections of my own.
When we have become acquainted through perception with the body and
the behavior of another person, above all with her face, we recognize
her easily the next day. More often than not, after some acquaintance
and observation, we will still recognize her after twenty or more years.
This may happen when classmates encounter one another after a period
of fifty years. We may recognize some of them immediately, others only
after closer examination. I was once unable to recognize a friend from my
first years of high school after going more than fifty years without see-
ing him. An obstacle to recognizing him was probably the mustache that
covered his lips. But after talking together and exchanging our shared
memories, it was clear to me that I had before me my old schoolmate.
By means of fingerprints or of analyses of genes and documents, it is in
principle possible to identify an individual person. But by these modern
means, I identify her not as an individual ego, as an individual conscious-
ness, but only as an individual biological body.
A most moving story of personal recognition of another individual
mind is the story of the return of Odysseus to his homeland, Ithaca, where
he was recognized by his wife Penelope, who had been waiting for him
for twenty years.20 Odysseus returned in the guise of a beggar, into which
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 31
he had been transformed by the goddess Athena. Entering his palace, he
was immediately recognized perceptually, above all by his scent, by his
very old hunting dog Argos, who was so moved by his master’s return
that he immediately dropped dead. While washing his feet, Odysseus’
nurse, Eurycleia, recognized him perceptually by a scar. Penelope was
told by Odysseus himself, by Eurycleia, and also by their son, Telemachus
(who, searching after his father on different islands, finally found him
there), that the person before her was Odysseus. It seemed to Penelope
that this was true, but she suspected the gods (recall Descartes’ malin
génie) were only presenting a false appearance to console her. So, she
tested Odysseus, refusing to let him enter their sleeping room and order-
ing that their bed be put outside the room for him alone. At this moment,
Odysseus said to Penelope, “That is impossible, for this bed cannot be
moved. I have, as our exclusive, shared secret, sculpted it out from a tree
with roots in the earth under the bedroom.” Penelope immediately recog-
nized with certainty the mind of her husband, and thereby also his body.
Similar problems of recognition of another individual ego or of
another individual consciousness arise in the case where, by an incident
of burning, a person’s face and whole body become heavily disfigured
and thereby lose completely their usual appearance. Another case is that
of the distinction of identical twins, especially when you see only one
of them, and you are not as well acquainted with him as his parents or
brothers and sisters are, and if he doesn’t tell you his name or if he tells
you as his name that of his twin brother.
It is not necessary, though, to have a shared, exclusive secret for one
individual consciousness to be recognized by another. That’s a nice point
in the ancient story of Penelope and Odysseus. It is not only in virtue of
my memory that I am absolutely certain to exist as myself in my con-
scious history. The recognition of another’s consciousness becomes for
me absolutely indubitable by our progressing, mutually exchanged and
shared memory of our common history.

8. Representifying Ego and Representified Ego in Mere

Phantasy, Picture-Consciousness, Memory, and Empathy
In a text21 from the series of texts on empathy written in 1914 or 1915,
to which the text quoted in section 6 concerning the possibility of the rep-
resentation of an alter ego prior to the real experience of it also belongs,
Husserl analyzes different kinds of intuitive representification. Concern-
ing this text, he remarks, “The aim of these studies was to learn some-
thing about the special manner of representification called empathy”
(Hua XIII, 288n1). In a marginal note at the beginning of these studies,22
Husserl refers to another text (written somewhat later, but probably in
the same year) that analyzes empathy as a representification without any
32  Iso Kern
identification of the ego (Hua XIII, 316–320). The guiding question of
these studies is, as it seems to me, the following:

Is it not true of every representification that I am co-present [dabei

bin] in a certain manner [in what is representified]? Can I repre-
sentify [to myself] experiences that are not “my own” experiences?
And can I, after all, represent [vorstellen] experiences other than my
own? How does the difference between my own experiences and
foreign experiences, between my own ego and foreign egos, origi-
nate? Whatever I may representify, it is representified as something
in intentional experiences, in aspects [Apparenzen], in sense-data,
in apprehensions, in attentions, etc., and these experiences are
reproductively modified. But if I become [intuitively] absorbed in
them, do they not then remain before me as my own representified
(Hua XIII, 298)

(a)  The Ego in a Merely Imagined World

Husserl begins these studies with the case of phantasy:

When I imagine a land of centaurs [. . .], I imagine things, processes,

freely forming and transforming them. To what extent am I co-
present [in this land]? I may also imagine my empirical ego with its
body as spectator in this land, but this is not necessary. [. . .] On the
other hand, I have in this phantasy the corresponding appearances of
these things, they are quasi perceived in certain orientations and not
in others, through certain quasi-sense data (phantasms) and quasi-
apperceptions, and on the basis of explications that I quasi perform,
I make quasi-judgments. Further, to intervene practically in this fic-
tive world, I must be something more, I need a body, belonging to the
fictive world. I need power over the sensory fields, power to change
the groups of appearances.
(Hua XIII, 290)

May we extend this reflection by saying that the ego, functioning

as the [subject-]correlate of merely imagined data [the land of cen-
taurs], is identical with the actually imagining ego? Not identical,
of course, with the empirical subject, endowed with such and such
a body and with a group of indeterminate personal properties, but
with the pure ego? As soon as the pure imagination (neutrality modi-
fication) is transformed into a positing, do we then not have “our”
ego, which posits itself as functioning in the [representified] corre-
late, though with an indeterminate corporeality (or without any) and
an indeterminate personality, or as pure ego? [. . .] Is the ego here in
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 33
the correlate as pure ego not continuously posited, and posited as the
same as the actual pure ego?
(Hua XIII, 296f.)

What could be the “pure ego” Husserl speaks about here? I think it
must be the ego of Kant’s “transcendental apperception,” “the I that
must be able to accompany all my presentations,” the universal form of
consciousness, that is, the general condition of the possibility of the unity
of consciousness. It is not the individual concrete existing ego, which
I am and which I was, and which cannot be multiplied. This existing ego
became increasingly important for Husserl after 1920.

(b)  The Ego in the Pictorial World

For what follows, it is important to know that Husserl distinguishes
three aspects of pictorial experience: (i) the physical picture (“das phy-
sische Bild”): the picture as a perceived physical thing (e.g., a painting
hanging on the wall, with its canvas covering, painted with the more
or less thickly applied oil colors, and other technical components);
(ii) the picture-object (“Bildobjekt”): what appears through imagina-
tion in these physical or technical means of the physical picture (e.g.,
a luminous landscape of meadow flowers at noon, human beings jok-
ing together, animals playing, etc.); and (iii) the subject of the picture
(“Bildsubjekt”): a real thing, or an object of phantasy, that can be per-
ceived or representified independently of the picture referring to it (e.g.,
the real landscape, real human beings or animals, or imagined things
such as centaurs). The small centaurs appearing imaginatively in the
color points and the color strokes in a normal picture on the wall or
in a book are not the same as the centaurs as subjects of the picture,
which are conventionally imagined as being as large as real horses with
the upper halves of tall men on their neck. When Husserl talks about
the contemplation of the world in the picture, he is talking about the
contemplation of the “object of the picture,” that is, of what appears in
the physical picture.23
Husserl writes the following in the “studies,” still thinking of the ego
in the representified world:

I behold in the picture this Greek cemetery represented [dargestellt]

in it. Do I not have a position here, a relative place in the world of
imagination from which I look at the cemetery as I do? Does not the
appearance of a thing refer to a “here,” to a zero point of orienta-
tion? Certainly! [. . .] But the ego, as this accidental, empirical ego,
does not belong to it. The body could be arbitrarily transformed,
but the picture would not be troubled by it. Only what belongs to
the constitution of the appearance [of the Greek cemetery] cannot
34  Iso Kern
be taken away, and thus neither can the zero point of orientation,
which itself can be changed. The “picture” is a “view” of a land-
scape. That is not a singular appearance, but a unity constituted by
running through a manifold of appearances. [. . .] I must look with
my eyes in different directions. [. . .] Consequently, I am necessarily
co-present [dabei sein] after all.
(Hua XIII, 290f.)

“Looking with my eyes” means here, according to Husserl, a real kines-

thetic movement of my real eyes and at the same time, a movement of
my “ideal” eyes looking around in the represented Greek cemetery. The
kinesthetic data are apprehended as actual movements of my eyes and
at the same time as [. . .] quasi-movements of my eyes, “namely, images
(perceptual images) of movements of eyes” (Hua XIII, 292).
This is not only true for the visual aspect of the Greek cemetery repre-
sented as picture-object:

Am I not also co-present tactually and with all my senses? The imag-
ined landscape [in the picture] contains marvelously smelling flow-
ers, between the rocks flow cool springs, swelling moss invites me
for a rest. [. . .] Am I thus not fully and completely co-present as a
bodily-mental ego? What can I strike away [from the scene]? My
body could be different[.] [. . .] The kinesthetic systems and the sys-
tems of appearances motivated by them, visually and tactually, are
absolutely necessary.
(Hua XIII, 293)

Further, this ego is still a general, abstract ego. It is not me, the existing
ego, but neither is it the Kantian ego of the transcendental apperceptions,
which has no kinesthetic systems.
In the above description of the “being co-present [Dabeisein]” of the
feeling ego in the marvelous landscape of the picture, Husserl comes
very close to Theodor Lipps’ aesthetic concept of “Einfühlung.” Lipps
employed this concept primarily in his Ästhetik of 1903, and he also used
it to explain the experience of other persons and of animals. Husserl took
over this term from Lipps and used it together with the terms “Fremder-
fahrung,” “Erfahrung des anderen Ich,” etc., until the end of his life. He
did it notwithstanding the fact that he never accepted Lipps’ theory of the
experience of the other ego, and notwithstanding his opinion that, in fact,
“Einfühlung” is a “false expression” for the experience of another ego.24

(c)  The Ego in the Remembered World

If we exclude other egos, then the ego in the remembered world is iden-
tical with the actual, remembering ego, which, through the sequence
of rememberings, extends back in the past as an enduring ego. The
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 35
remembered ego is an embodied ego like the actual remembering ego.
“The highest subject, which performs the coincidence of identification,
is the pure ego.” (Hua XIII, 303). But I find it difficult to see three egos
in this account of remembering: the remembered ego, the remembering
ego, and the synthesizing pure ego. I would say that there exists only one
ego, which by remembering becomes conscious of itself: “I have done
this, I have seen that.” I become conscious of myself by remembering
what I have done, or by foreseeing, planning, or deciding what I will do.
I dare say that an animal living only in its present surrounding world,
having a multiplicity of different sensory and perceptual presentifications
(“Gegenwärtigungen”) but no representifications (“Vergegenwärtigun-
gen”), has no ego-consciousness. Husserl continues:

My memory reaches to infancy and there comes (not perspectivally)

upon a dark realm that it cannot transgress. We cannot detect a “con-
vergence” towards a point in time preordained [vorgezeichnet] a pri-
ori. Thus [this dark realm] is not a limit point. For the subject, birth
is not something phenomenologically given and preordained; it is not
like appearing space, which has a limes. Why can I not remember the
time before my birth? Is this idealiter [by essential reasons] excluded?
Excluding all hearsay and communication by history, I can represen-
tify, but not remember, things before my birth because the happenings
inside my remembered field are causally connected with happenings
outside of it. What is given at a certain point of time refers to coexist-
ing and preceding things that I do not have in my remembered field.
(Hua XIII, 295f.)

Thus, we may conclude that, according to Husserl, my remembering

leads me beyond what can be remembered, and that, always excluding all
other egos, the ego in this non-remembered field is identified by the pure
ego as ego. But this ego is not me, the concrete ego that I am and was.

(d)  The Ego in the Empathized World

I only represent an other by representing myself with the body of the
other and in the situation of the other. The “me” is not yet differenti-
ated here in the sense of the I and You. But we understand: Exactly as
I am co-present in my past [by remembering], or in a fiction [by imagin-
ing], so too I am co-present in the psychic life of the other, representi-
fied by myself in empathy. But this being-co-present is not linked with
the requirement of identification, as it is in remembering the past. The
essence of the flow of consciousness requires identification, carrying it
necessarily with it. [In empathy] this being-co-present is not linked with
the requirement of contradiction, whereby the ego as the subject of the
imagined acts shatters in contradiction with the given. Rather, by the
“requirement” brought forth by the foreign body, by the apperception,
36  Iso Kern
which is one with it, we have the positing of a life of consciousness, of
sense fields, mental acts, etc. This positing remains without contradic-
tion with anything of the given, and thus is maintained as a positing.
(Hua XIII, 319f.)

9. The Impossibility of Separate Subjects Related to Separate

Worlds; Some Conditions of the Possibility of the
Coexistence of Subjects
In a text drafted September 1st, 1921, in St. Märgen (Hua XIV, 91–103),
Husserl begins again with the free, fictional transformation of my ego as
concrete subjectivity. He produces a finite system of possible but incom-
patible subjects, incompatible because in this fictional transformation,
one individual subjectivity takes the immanent temporal place of the
other. This finite system is the universe of the possibilities of an ego-subject
in general, just as the fictional transformation of a thing in general results in
the universe of the possibilities of an individual thing in general. The incom-
patibility can be resolved through “the synthesis of plurality, of coexistence.”
“The question now is whether, as with things in the plural, so too subjects in
the plural [. . .] can be conceived as coexisting together, and whether and how
they are subordinated to essential laws of possible coexistence” (Hua XIV, 99).
This time, however, Husserl doesn’t continue his thought in free fic-
tional imagination, but rather bases it on the experience of actual empa-
thy. Nevertheless, he seems to consider this factual experience only as
“one form, in which we can represent (or, what amounts to the same
thing, put before our eyes) a coexistence of subjects as possibly experi-
enced” (Hua XIV, 99). The other ego-subject, experienced through empa-
thy, has me, also through empathy, in its field of experience in such a way
that we are not only coexistent in general, but exist for one another:

In this case, each of us has in his experience, and both have in a

possibly reciprocal experience, constituted a common world. Each
experiences not only a physical world, but also, integrated into it, the
foreign body and therefore the other as an animal being. Each also
finds his own body in this world, finds (in reality or in possibility)
through empathy the other as the other, experiencing my body and
myself as human being, as animal. Each integrates himself as animal,
as a bodily-psychic being, into this world.
(Hua XIV, 99f.)

After analyzing this factual experience, Husserl submits it, by eidetic

variation, to an “eidetic inspection” (Hua XIV, 100). He arrives at the
following eidetic laws:

[(i)] The constitution of a common world and a corresponding rule

strictly applied for every ego, for itself and for both in their
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 37
interrelation, is the condition of the possibility of empathic
experience, of the being for each other [Füreinandersein] of
separated subjects, and of the coexistence of both subjects as
an experience and knowledge possible for themselves. (Hua
XIV, 100)
[(ii)] It is inconceivable that several subjects could coexist without
being animal [embodied] subjects [. . .] and without finding
themselves mutually in the realms of their possible experi-
ence. (Hua XIV, 101)
[(iii)] We may think, in a parallel fashion, about a multiplic-
ity of equally possible worlds with separated groups of
ego-subjects in them or absent in them. But a priori, such
multiple worlds (or such pluralities of possibly coexist-
ent subjects that are compossible in relation to a co-
constituted world) are not compossible with one another. There
can be only one world, only one time, only one space, with a
nature and a multiplicity of animal beings. (Hua XIV, 102)

As the result of this “eidetic inspection,” Husserl writes,

World and animals are inseparable. A nature which is not an animal

nature is unthinkable, unthinkable like subjects that are not animal
subjects and not related to a nature, not there for one another [. . .]. —
At first blush it might seem obvious that there could be a multiplicity
of subjects, completely isolated from one another. [. . .] Each could
be furnished with a rule, belonging to its individuality, of the process
of consciousness making the experience of other subjects in principle
impossible. Such would be the case if we were to conceive of every
subject as constituting a nature [. . .], but of every subject [as consti-
tuting] a different nature, in such a way, that is, that the conditions of
possible empathy between these subjects must remain unfulfilled. But
all such seemingly compatible possibilities are a priori incompatible.
The results are only nonsense.25 It is also false to think the following:
If a subject doesn’t exist in my nature (or if I am constituted in such
a way that I have no nature), that subject could nonetheless exist
for itself and have another nature and another animal world around
it, which exists for it, etc. All existing subjects who coexist are pre-
sent for one another and are necessarily objects for one another in
one time.
(Hua XIV, 102f.)

The most striking thing in these striking reflections of Husserl is the con-
clusion that, once rooted in experienced facts, grounded in reality, the
“free” thinking (or phantasy) of possibilities does not progress any fur-
ther than the experience of reality. We cannot conceive of a consistent
possible world with a structure different from the real one. Reality is
38  Iso Kern
always richer than fiction. This confirms the result established above in
section 6: In the year 1921, Husserl arrived at the conclusion that reality
has priority over possibility.
Only about five years earlier, Husserl had arrived “after important
transcendental reflections” at the following conclusion:

It is a true assertion that two solipsistic subjects as subjects of spati-

otemporal worlds could be constituted in such a way that these two
worlds, even if totally similar to one another, could have nothing
to do with each other, even that it would not make sense to speak
about common [intersubjectively identical] things. Only where two
subjects, in their genesis, stand in the distinctive “preestablished har-
mony,” such that each must constitute foreign bodies within itself
and that each can and must apperceive them (in continuous confir-
mation in ongoing experience) as bodies of foreign subjects; and,
what is the same, only where the course of the appearances of things
in both subjects has the coordination making possible such recipro-
cal empathy; only there is the world of one subject at the same time
the world of the other and vice versa.
(Hua XIII, 376f.)

It seems to me that the problematic aspect of this text originates in its

beginning with two subjects, with two egos. If we wish to be true phe-
nomenologists, then we have, in a strict sense, only I, the “Ur-ego,” and
all other egos are other egos, foreign egos; they are for me “egos in a
derived mode.” Each of us must analyze the givenness of other egos and
of the intersubjective world starting from the most subjective point of
view of his ego, which has for him the original mode “ego” (and nothing
else). A multiplicity of egos has a structure fundamentally different from
a multiplicity of apples. It has the structure “ego with other egos.” Hus-
serl probably became aware of this in the years between Bernau (1918)
and St. Märgen (1921), and his decision not to continue his unfinished
Ideas (which begin with “Essence and Intuition of Essence”) but to write
a new systematic work was due in part to this insight. During these years,
when Husserl was about 60 years old, Husserl was reoriented from pure
thought to experience, from pure possibility to reality.

10.  The Possibility of a Consciousness Without a World

In a text written between 1915 and 1917 (about five years earlier than the
preceding text of September 1st, 1921), Husserl affirms the possibility of
consciousnesses without a world or outside our world. There is only one
intersubjective world, but there may be consciousnesses outside this world:

We can also conceive of a solipsistic subject as abnormal [anomal] to

an unlimited degree, crazy, and ultimately abnormal in such a way
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 39
that it is unable to constitute a world.—When we consider in our
world death, decay of the body (i.e., disintegration of the phenom-
enal type of a material physical thing upon which empathy depends),
[. . .] it does not entail that the corresponding subject, the corre-
sponding stream of consciousness, ceases to be. But there is no longer
a subject having for itself and for us a body and having for itself and
for us and together with us an appearing world. [. . .] If the coming
to an end of a stream of consciousness were unthinkable, then death
would signify persistence outside the world.
(Hua XIII, 398f.)

In a manuscript of 1936, Husserl writes:

The human being dies necessarily. [. . .] But primal transcendental life
and its ego, the life that ultimately creates the world, cannot come
from nothing and cannot pass into nothing. It is immortal, because
“to die” makes no sense for it. [. . .] Does death not remain the
brother of sleep? Death, is it not also, seen from within, an aban-
doning of the world (in the struggle with death, a being-wrenched
from the world), and may we not also say here that the streaming
life cannot cease, and the ego therein cannot cease to endure in the
mode of streaming, that it is immortal because “to die” makes no
sense for it?26

11. Empathy in the Natural and in the Personal Attitude,

Empathy in Natural Science and in the Humanities,
and the Distinction between Intuitive and
Non-Intuitive Empathy
In a text from June 1920 (Hua XIII, 438–465), Husserl distinguishes
between these two modes of empathy mainly for the purpose of distin-
guishing between the naturalistic and the personalistic exploration of the
human being, that is, between the natural sciences and the human sci-
ences of man (between natural anthropology and personal anthropol-
ogy or between the natural history of mankind and the intelligible social
history of mankind). In our inauthentic empathic view of the other, only
that which pertains to a subject’s externally observed body and behav-
ior is presented (“vorgestellt”) in intuition, while its consciousness (the
psychic, the mind) is only emptily representified (“vergegenwärtigt”) by
associative, empty indications. In other words, in this empty empathy
I consider intuitively the other only from the outside and do not represen-
tify intuitively her situation from her own point of view (from the inside).
Nevertheless, I do not consider her as a mere physical body, but the psy-
che, the mind, is only emptily representified. For example, when walking
in a hurry in a crowded street with the sole aim of arriving on time at a
meeting at the Institute of Philosophy, I notice the behavior of the others,
40  Iso Kern
avoiding clashes with them and seeking the shortest way through the
crowd, knowing associatively that the people are human persons, but
I do not thereby intuitively imagine their subjective situation or their
own point of view. Or, similarly, a military general might plan his strat-
egy with his soldiers against a hostile army and calculate their possible
reactions without intuitively representifying the feelings, thoughts, and
interests of these human beings, considering them only as military forces.
This inauthentic experience of the other indicates a utilitarian interest
and technical or manipulative attitude toward other human beings or
animals, and it is also the foundation of the point of view of the natural
sciences of men. From this standpoint, the psychic may erroneously be
interpreted as a mere “epiphenomenal” annex, or as mysteriously “emer-
gent qualities” of the physiological.
In our authentic (or, proper) empathy with the other, which Husserl
also refers to as “absolutely empathizing cognizance [Kenntnisnahme]”
(Hua XIII, 445), I live as if I were within the other person or animal
by intuitively transposing myself (“sich hineinversetzen,” “hineinversen-
ken,” “einleben”) through phantasy into the motivations of the other’s
situation and representify intuitively his feelings, thoughts, aspirations,
etc. This authentic understanding expresses the personalistic attitude
toward another human subject (an alter ego) and is the foundation of
the human sciences. Insofar as animals are concerned, authentic empa-
thy must take into account that animals have no language of the human
kind and that their perceptions and feelings as we can observe them in
their physiology and behavior are sometimes very different from ours.
In our effort to understand animals empathically, we must carefully con-
sider these differences through “deconstruction [Abbau]” and analogical
“reconstruction [Umbau]” in phantasy, so as not to fall into the fallacy
of anthropomorphizing animals (see below, section 26).
But, according to Husserl, the authentic, intuitive form of empathy is
not the primary form of empathy. The primary form is rather the inau-
thentic, non-intuitive one. In a text from the summer of 1931, he writes,

I can make a foreign psyche intuitive for myself, not through percep-
tion, but in the form of intuitive representification. I can do it, but
do not have to, and generally I do not. Indeed, it is easy to see that
in the perception of the other [through empathy] the non-intuitive,
significative understanding precedes the rendering intuitive of the sig-
nification that is already meant and functioning in the perception of
the other.
(Hua XV, 84)

The fulfillment of empathy is, according to Husserl, not necessar-

ily an intuitive fulfillment. The process of confirmation of empathy,
analyzed above in section 5, does not necessarily imply an intuitive
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 41
representification of the psyche of the other person: When a foreign body
expresses a psyche and this psyche requires a further bodily expression,
this psyche does not need to be representified intuitively. Yet at the end of
this text, Husserl asks,

But now the question is whether this kind of fulfillment, which we

have conceived on the psychic side as empty indication (empty appre-
sentation), can provide the whole story. How far can an empty under-
standing of the other go as an empty representification of something
present on the basis of the perception of the corporeal body? Does
not every “really” experiencing perception of another require an
intuitive representification (the “empathizing” representification, the
representification that understands [something that occurs in others]
[einverstehende Vergegenwärtigung])?
(Hua XV, 85f.)

Husserl does not answer this question here. I would say that not every
“really” experiencing perception of an other requires an intuitive repre-
sentification (an empathizing, “einverstehende” representification). From
a purely theoretical point of view, it is not required, but we may require
it if we are interested in it. Practically (ethically) it is required, if we are
involved with our fellow human beings.

12. Direct: Simply Representifying Empathy and Oblique,

Reflectively Representifying Empathy
According to a text written by Husserl in 1918, the empirical sciences of
mind (“Geisteswissenschaften”), or human sciences (history, psychology,
and others), require not only authentic empathy in the above sense, but
also reflexive empathy:

Direct empathy [. . .] is natural empathy, and necessarily always the

first one. The whole experience that we call “empathy” is of such
a kind that it encompasses a representification through which the
direct doxic intention is directed towards what is experienced [the
experienced things, objects] by the other subject. Oblique, reflexive
empathy is such that it is directed towards either the phenomena in
the [other’s] experience, the aspects [of the things he experiences], the
sensual data, the apprehensions, or the experiencing [. . .] subject.
(Hua XIII, 401f.)

In a text written in 1923, Husserl writes:

The other is attainable for me in a double manner: not only by putting

myself in his life in the mode of living-with while I am thematically
42  Iso Kern
directed [towards the experienced world], but also in reflection on
his ego and on his experiences and, at the same time, on the objects
of which he is aware, which he posits and which I posit with him by
taking them over undoubtedly.
(Hua XIV, 317)

Empirical human sciences, then, (i) must understand mental connec-

tions and need not explain them by the general causes of nature. To
make mental connections understandable is not to subordinate them to
or deduce them from universal natural causes, but is rather a matter of
entering into the motivational connections of conscious subjects. (ii) As
Husserl points out, “motivation is something individual.”27 Quite gen-
erally, then, in understanding mental life in the attitude of the human
sciences, it is a question of how, for example, the perceptions and other
cognitive acts of an individual person (or of a group of individual persons)
motivate judgments, of how judgments become warranted and corrected
through further experiences, and of how a person’s acts of judging (or the
acts of judging of a group of persons socially united) are motivated in her
(or their) reasoning by other acts of judging. In a different way, it is also
a question of how the judgments of a subject or of a socially united group
of subjects are motivated by affects or passions (desires, hate, social self-
assertion), of how affects are reciprocally motivated by judgments, and
of how suppositions, feelings, desires, volitions, etc. are motivated. (iii)
Such understanding is an understanding of the connections among inten-
tional experiences taking their course through time, in which a person as
a subject (or a group of persons as co-subjects) perceives worldly objects,
conceives of them, and posits them as real (“believes” in them), or aban-
dons them as merely apparent or unreal—in short, has her own views on
the world.

13. The Naive (Direct) and the Reflexive (Oblique)

Constitution of the Alter Ego by Representification in
Ordinary Life
Despite his clear distinction between direct and oblique (reflexive) empa-
thy, Husserl was not aware of its great import, not only for the human
sciences but also for the phenomenological understanding of ordinary
intersubjective human life. This import became clear to me through
discussions about the empirical sciences of mind during the 1980s and
1990s. In a paper I coauthored with Eduard Marbach (Kern and Mar-
bach 2001), we discussed the fundamental transformation that psycholo-
gists such as M.J. Candler and M. Boyes, J.H. Flavell, H.M. Wellman,
H. Wimmer, J. Perner, and A. Gopnik observed while studying children’s
developing understanding of the human mind at around four years of age.
This transformation consists in the appearance of a “new dimension” in
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 43
this understanding encompassing the following achievements: (i) Chil-
dren of this age can understand that other persons may have a false belief
on the basis of their misinformation or lack of information about a cur-
rent situation known to these children themselves. These children are
not yet able to remember that they themselves, before being informed
about the real situation, had had a false belief about that situation, in
spite of the fact that they are able to remember other things. (ii) These
children can understand that others may be misled by false appearances
of things if they have not yet had the correcting experiences that these
children themselves have had. (iii) Simultaneously with the understand-
ing that beliefs can differ between them and other people, there emerges
in children at this critical time of around four years of age an ability to
manipulate another person’s beliefs, that is, an ability to deceive others
intentionally and so deliberately lie to them. (iv) At this age, children also
begin to appreciate that other people cannot come to know certain things
if they lack the necessary information. Before the age of four, the question
of how someone knows or does not know something is incomprehensi-
ble to children. But after having reached that age, they begin asking this
question. They also begin to distinguish between a lucky guess and real
knowledge. (v) A further ability that manifests itself at this time involves
the “aspectuality of knowledge,” that is, an ability to understand the
different perceptual and conceptual perspectives of other people. For
example, at this age children begin to appreciate that someone who is
blindfolded and merely touches a ball is able to tell whether it is soft
or hard, but cannot know what color it is; or that a child sitting across
from them and looking at a turtle depicted on a sheet of paper sees it
upside down, whereas the child sees the turtle right side up. (vi) At this
age, children also begin to distinguish between reality and appearance,
understanding, for instance, that a piece of soft sponge that looks like a
rock will be perceived as a rock by someone else as long as she has merely
seen it but not touched or squeezed it with her hands.
Given the simultaneous emergence of all these achievements of under-
standing the human mind, it seems that there must be one fundamental
skill or capacity that underlies all of them. But developmental psycholo-
gists could not agree about what this underlying capacity might be.
Eduard Marbach’s and my proposal was to study Husserl’s phenom-
enology of oblique (reflexive, representifying) empathy, which seeks to
understand the motivational connections between the experiences of
other persons.

14.  From Presentational to Representational Empathy

I believe that Husserl is able to explain the perceptually immediate under-
standing of other living beings mentioned above with the help of the
phenomenological analyses discussed in section 4. Children’s mental
44  Iso Kern
development during their first year of life is quite similar to that of chim-
panzees (but even slower). At this first stage, both human children and
young chimpanzees are capable of perceptually immediate understanding
of other living beings. From the end of this first year and during the sec-
ond year, children, surpassing all animals, begin doing things that make
them into truly human beings: They point things out to other people with
their index finger, for instance, an airplane in the sky, and sometimes
say things; they understand that another person burning his fingers at a
hot stove feels pain, show compassion, and try to help and console him,
showing that they are capable of representifying empathy; they begin to
tell other people what they did or what they will do, representifying their
past and representifying their future; they play together with other chil-
dren, taking different roles, for instance, as father, as mother, as the child
of them, knowing quite well that they are all children; they pretend to be
a father, a mother, or a very small baby. But until the age of four, they are
not able truly to take the point of view of other persons in the sense that
they are able to representify the world from the point of view of another
person. For instance, they are not able to depict the visual aspect that the
world has for a person sitting at a different place; they are not able to
take her perspective. What they have is, in Husserl’s terms, direct, naive
empathy, but they are not yet able to reflect in empathy.

III. Communication, Collective Action, and Community

15.  The Person in Association with Other Persons

In the third section of Ideas II, “The Constitution of the World of the
Mind,” there is a passage in §51 about communities of persons which
may serve as an introduction to this main section III. This paragraph
is written from the same perspective as the text from the year 1920,
discussed above in section 11, but it discusses the problem not only in
the context of empathy, but also in the context of community. This was
written seven years earlier (1913) than the text discussed in section 11,
yet it was reworked in the spring of 1915 and later.28 In both texts, the
main topic of interest is the methodological distinction between the natu-
ral and the human sciences, much discussed in Husserl’s time. Husserl
made a fundamental attempt to resolve the problem of this distinction by
means of the distinction between the natural and the personal attitudes
(stance, “Einstellung”) or by the correlated distinction between causal
and motivational explication. At the same time, the text from the third
section of the Ideas II may serve as an introduction to Husserl’s phenom-
enology of community. Husserl writes:

The subject finds consciously in its surrounding world [Umwelt] not

only things, but also other subjects; it sees them as persons active in
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 45
their surrounding world [. . .]. In this attitude it does not occur to
the subject to insert the mind into the body [den Geist dem Leibe
einzulegen]. [. . .] If we were to do that, then the human being itself
is posited as a mere thing [Sache]. In this manner the mind as person,
equal to our own person, as it is as a member in the association of
persons, does not come into its own. It then functions only as a psy-
chic being in the sense of the natural attitude, causally dependent on
the body, in which it appears as inserted.
(Hua IV, 190)

Husserl distinguishes, then, on the one hand, a judicial and moral sense
of the treatment of animals and human beings as mere things and, on the
other hand, a theoretical sense of such a treatment:

I treat a human being theoretically as a mere thing if I see him not in

association with persons, relative to which we are subjects of a com-
mon surrounding world, but as a mere annex of natural objects, as a
mere thing, and hence treat him himself as a thing.
(Hua IV, 190)

We may add that, being myself a human being, I must treat myself,
too, theoretically as a mere thing in abstraction from my association
with other persons having together a common world. Husserl continues,
as far as persons and things belong to the same spatiotemporal world
(nature), the naturalistic treatment of persons has a certain legitimacy.
But minds still demand another kind of theoretical research, consider-
ing that they exist as ego-subjects for themselves and that they are, as
subjective counterparts, intentionally related to their surrounding spati-
otemporal world and that they establish naturalistic theories of the mind
(Hua IV, 190f.):

When we see everywhere mere nature, nature in the sense and with
the eyes of the natural sciences, then we are blind to the world of
mind, the domain of the human sciences. We see no persons and no
objects of culture receiving their sense from the creators of “culture,”
even though we are working together with other persons in the atti-
tude of naturalistic psychology.
(Hua IV, 191)

We are, Husserl continues, intentionally related to a common world,

by the experience of understanding the existence of other persons, that
is, by empathy. “We could not be persons for the other persons if, in a
community, in the intentional relatedness of our lives, we did not have
before us a common world; correlatively speaking, the one is not consti-
tuted without the other” (Hua IV, 191). The common surrounding world
46  Iso Kern
receives common features of new and higher strata through social acts,
that is, through acts of mutual personal determination. Through these,
there results not only an interrelated behavior toward such objects, but
also a behavior in which the persons participate as members of a whole
(Hua IV, 191f.).
These acts of collective behavior are based on acts of communication in
which the communicating person intends to be understood by the person
in front of her and intends to prompt her (“bestimmen,” i.e., to induce
her, to influence her) to certain personal actions. In turn, the addressee
may agree to this prompt or she may refuse it, and, by communicating her
willingness or unwillingness, she may for her part prompt the addresser
to certain reactions. In this manner, reciprocal relations of agreement can
be created. A shared relation to the surrounding world is thereby estab-
lished, including not only the physical and animal surrounding world,
but also the ideal surrounding world (e.g., the mathematical “world,” as
identical worlds in the consciousnesses of the communicating persons)
(Hua IV, 192f.):

The persons belonging to the association [the community] are mutu-

ally given to each other as “companions” and not as objects, but as
subjects in front of each other [Gegensubjekte], living together, con-
sorting with one another, reciprocally related, actually and poten-
tially, in acts of love and requiting love [Gegenliebe], acts of hate
and requiting hate, acts of confidence and requiting confidence, and
so on.
(Hua IV, 194)

But the surrounding world can also be taken in a broader sense. In

this sense, the communicating subjects also mutually belong to the sur-
rounding world, “relative to the outward-looking subject constituting its
surrounding world. And this subject, in virtue of its self-consciousness
and its manifold behavior directed toward itself, belongs for itself to its
surrounding world: the subject is subject-object” (Hua IV, 195).
In intersubjective association, one unique world is constituted, with
different corresponding strata on the subjective and on the objective side.
The communicating subjectivities constitute personal unities of a higher
order (such as different associations, nations, etc.), the totality of which,
as far as the real and possible personal bonds reach, makes up the world
of social subjectivities. From these social subjectivities we must conceptu-
ally distinguish the correlative world and the world of the social objec-
tivities, though these are nonetheless inseparable from these subjectivities
(Hua IV, 195).
Most of these themes, to which I alluded above, Husserl continued
elaborating on in greater detail in texts written in the following decade.
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 47
16. Addressing Oneself to Others: Husserl’s Phenomenological
Illustrations of Reciprocal Empathy with a You in the
Face-to-Face Relation
In the dense text “Common Mind I,”29 written during the year 1921,
when he was preparing his never to be completed “great systematic
work,”30 Husserl presents different types of communities. This text is a
first outline of part of this project and not a detailed phenomenological
analysis. For that reason, it is apt for citation in the present context; it
gives only glimpses of Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity and
is not an elaborated historical and systematic study. Husserl writes:

How is the I-You relation established, which is the relation of per-

sonal influence [Wirkungsbeziehung, i.e., relation of acting upon] in
the genuine sense? Metaphorically speaking, both of us, you and I,
“see each other eye to eye.” You understand me, you are aware of
me, and I, simultaneously, am aware of you. [For instance,] I address
myself to you and communicate a fact to you. I have the experience
of a fact and, by “pointing,” attract your attention to this fact, exist-
ing in your nearest realm of experience.
(Hua XIV, 167)

By pointing with the finger or throwing a piece of wood in a certain direc-

tion, I direct your attention in the direction where something happens
that is of interest to you and that is of interest to me too.

Doing so, I influence the other [. . .] in the special form of reciprocal
and simultaneous empathy, bringing the I and the You in contact.
And furthermore, in this empathy [. . .] the other should be aware of
my will or my instinctive striving to “prompt” him, to “move” him
by means of my mind to a striving or willing; and this awareness of
the other belongs itself to the “way,” to the means of prompting him.
(Hua XIV, 168)

Another means of this “prompting” in the case of direct contact with

the other person and in relation to a present situation is my imitation in
this situation of an external physical or animal behavior. Such imitations
become natural signs of something happening in the outside world, pre-
sent to me and to the other.
We must also analyze communication about things that are not pre-
sent, communication with absent persons and communication from
absent persons, that is, communication across elapsed time:

The I and the You do not “touch” each other. They give each other
their mental hands. The past I is the subject of a communicative act,
48  Iso Kern
it is the giver; the later, future [you and] I is the receiver. In this situa-
tion, willing to communicate, I create a habitual, enduring will and I,
at least in general, maintain this will. And the message is understood
in this sense by the receiver. For example, he apprehends the giver
as a non-present person, but one who lives in the present time, who
in that past wanted to give him, and still wants to give him, that
(Hua XIV, 168f.)

Also, a dead person (known to be dead) and a living person can “give
each other their mental hands” in this manner. Such communication is
understood by both as the communication of a once-living person to a
now-living person (Hua XIV, 169).
Husserl’s phenomenological analysis of empathy with the other as
another ego and as a You shows the three most fundamental dimen-
sions of our human relations. First, our fellow human is someone who
has another perspective, another point of view on the common world,
another experience of the common world, another interest for the com-
mon world. Second, she is for me another ego insofar as I have compas-
sion for her, insofar as I myself am concerned with what happens to her.
Third, the other ego is not only another ego but in the face-to-face rela-
tion, she is for me a You, and through this relation, I am myself for her a
You in a common world.

17.  The Community of Communication Through Speech Acts

Whereas in the first (1900/01) and second (1913) editions of his Logical
Investigations, Husserl provided only a short paragraph of two pages on
“expressions in communicative function,”31 there is a text of 19 pages
about speech act expressions in his pencil-written revision of his Sixth
Investigation of March/April 1914.32 This revision, unpublished during
Husserl’s lifetime, appeared as late as 2005 in the vol. XX/2 of Husserli-
ana (Hua XX/2, 33–51). In 1924, his assistant Ludwig Landgrebe, in his
typed transcript of the handwritten manuscript, organized this text under
the following four section headings:

• Transition to the consideration of the expression from the perspec-

tive of the person understanding: The consciousness of the foreign
ego in general
• Understanding [of other egos] as an act of representification:
The believing-together with the other in the consciousness of
• Meaning as what is identical in the spoken and in the understood
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 49
• The possibility of the abstraction of the communicative function of
expression: Division of speech acts [Reden] into communicative and

In the following exposition of Husserl’s ideas about communication

through speech acts, I organize the text in a different manner and choose
somewhat different titles.

(a) The Speech Act from the Point of View of the

Understanding Person: The Hearer’s
Consciousness of the Foreign Ego
Husserl stresses here that, in order to achieve full phenomenological
clarity concerning the consciousness of the hearing or reading person,
we must put ourselves, either in fact or by relying on vividly rep-
resentifying imagination, into the consciousness of the subject who
understands. “Heard speech [. . .] is comprehended [einverstanden] as
the product of the speaker. He, our counterpart, produces his speech
with the intention to communicate it and thereby to communicate his
opinion” (Hua XX/2, 33). The apperception of a speaking and think-
ing subject, continues Husserl, is so akin to perception that we say in
common language that we “perceive” another subject. This is true of
every similar apperception, having an intuitive and thereby originary
character, of other human beings who are in front of us in person
(“leibhaft”). But,

without any doubt, this “perception” is phenomenologically com-

pletely different from the perception of spatial material objects.
However, if the concept of perception covers every “originarily
giving” consciousness of the immediately intuitive kind, i.e., every
consciousness wherein the object is in its originality “immediately”
present (“bodily present”), then here we must indeed speak of
(Hua XX/2, 33f.)

Husserl argues here against the view of Benno Erdmann (1851–1921),

still popular at his time, according to which the psychical side of other
sentient beings is only known by logical inference. He writes that the
apperception of another human being as conscious is no more a logical
conclusion than is the unseen backside in the apperception of a table.
But, between these two apperceptions, there is a fundamental difference.
Whereas the backside of a table can be seen by moving the table or by
moving myself, the psychical life of another person can in principle never
50  Iso Kern
be perceptively uncovered. I cannot “open up [aufklappen]” the other
person like a thing (Hua XX/2, 34).

Therefore, we have, under the title of originary givenness (“present

[da]” in the original), something twofold: the originary present in the
first and proper sense, and the originary present in the apprehended
[representified] sense, which can only exist in connection with the
proper conception [i.e., in connection with the perception of the for-
eign body and the original givenness of my own self].
(Hua XX/2, 35)

In addition to the case of an addressee or a multiplicity of addressees,

Husserl also considers the communicative situation in which yet other
persons are present to whom the addressing person does not speak, but
who hear and understand him and may be seen or not seen by him. The
same thing may happen in the case of a written message (e.g., a letter
read not only by the addressee but also by other persons). “We have here
corresponding modifications in the consciousnesses on the side of the
addressing person and on the side of the understanding persons who are
not the addressees” (Hua XX/20, 36). The difficulties in clarifying these
consciousnesses are even greater than those found already in the clarifica-
tion of the relations of consciousnesses in the communication between the
addressing and the addressed, where an infinite regress seems to appear.

(b) The Danger of an Infinite Regress in the

Phenomenological Analysis of Communication
between the Speaker and his Addressee
Husserl exposes the following problem: As a speaker, I have a presenta-
tion of my addressee as understanding that I am speaking to him. Fur-
thermore, I also have a presentation of my addressee as understanding
that I have the presentation that he has the presentation that I am speak-
ing to him. Furthermore, I also present my addressee as having the pres-
entation that he has the presentation that I have the presentation that he
understands me speaking to him. And so on in infinitum. Husserl adds:

We are not yet sufficiently prepared to solve these and similar prob-
lems. Only the investigations to come of mediate [mittelbaren] and
empty intentions, and of their respective fulfillments, will provide us
with all the necessary means to understand the decisive differences
between [intentions] proper and intentional implications.
(Hua XX/2, 37)

I suppose this danger of an infinite regress is similar to the danger of

an infinite regress in the following case: I speak to him, I am conscious
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 51
(aware) of speaking to him, I am conscious of being conscious of speak-
ing to him, and so on in infinitum. Here we must say, I speak to him, and
speaking attentively to him, I am eo ipso aware (conscious) of speaking to
him. That’s all. We must distinguish between the awareness of a subject’s
attentive intentional act (e.g., speaking) and the subject’s objectivating
reflection on this intentional act of which the subject is aware. Reflection
is a second attentive intentional act (not necessarily an act of speaking),
objectivating the first attentive intentional act of which the subject is eo
ipso aware. The subject is also necessarily aware of this second attentive
intentional act of reflecting. In the following, when I use the expression
“aware of,” I mean only the abstract moment of awareness of the atten-
tive intentional act, which belongs necessarily to it. I use the expression
“conscious” in the same sense. When I speak in the Husserlian sense
about consciousness (“Bewusstsein”), I mean concrete, attentive inten-
tional acts, including the undetachable awareness of them.
In the case of my presentation of the understanding of the listener,
we must say that I, as a speaker, may perceive that my addressee is not
listening attentively to my speech and hence is not aware of my speak-
ing to him. But if I, as a speaker, by representification, am aware of my
addressee’s attentively listening to me and of understanding me who is
attentively speaking to him, then by speaking to him I am eo ipso aware
of having a representifying presentation of my addressee as attentively
listening to me and as understanding me as attentively speaking to him.
I am then eo ipso conscious of the fact that he is eo ipso conscious of
listening to me and understanding me as being conscious of speaking to
him. That’s all. “Living through these experiences,” as Roman Ingarden
writes in a text of 1921,35 that is, “being conscious of these experiences,”
does not mean an objectifying of (reflecting on) my “being conscious of
my representifications.” If “being conscious” means being engaged in an
objectifying, cognizing reflection, then these immediately conscious rep-
resentifications are not known. “Immediately conscious (aware)” means
here “without reflection.” There is no reflection here on my immediate
consciousness, no reflection in empathy on the immediate consciousness
of the addressee, and no reflection of the addressee on his immediate con-
sciousness. In other words, the consciousnesses are not phenomenologi-
cally analyzed (reflected). Up to this point, they are emptily representified.
I may also reflect on my phenomenological reflection on my immediate
consciousness, and I may also reflect on my phenomenological reflec-
tion and reflect on the representified (empathized) immediate conscious-
ness of the other. And, if my addressee is a phenomenologist, I may also
reflect on his phenomenological reflection, seeking to obtain knowledge
of it. As phenomenologists, the other and I will go on reflecting upon our
consciousnesses only so long as we wish. We can always stop, and we
stop automatically when it ceases to be interesting for us. To continue
infinitely into a senseless regress of reflection would be useless and even
52  Iso Kern
foolish, and, in any case, would never arrive at an actual infinity. In our
consciousness, there is always something that remains unreflected-upon,
something that remains necessarily obscure. There is no total reflection
upon our mind. A total clarification of our mind in the Hegelian manner
is, for us, not possible.

(c) The Difference between Believing a Judgment and Believing

in the Speaker’s Act of Judging, and the Parallels between
Understanding What a Speaker is Saying and Remembering
One’s Own Past
Husserl further says that the addressee may adopt (“übernehmen”) the
belief in the speaker’s judged state of affairs (“Sachverhalt”), or he may
doubt, merely conjecture, or even abstain in neutrality from any posi-
tion regarding it. Nevertheless, he understands the speaker’s statement.
In any event, the communicated act of the speaker does not leap over
into the addressee, but the addressee representifies the speaker’s act of
judging and believes it (posits it), just as in remembering I representify my
remembered past act of perceiving or my remembered past act of judging
and continue to believe it (Hua XX/2, 37f.).
Husserl distinguishes between taking on the representified belief of
the speaker, on the one hand, and the belief in the existence of the
speaker and his representified act of judging, on the other. The belief
in the existence of the speaker is a certainty and belongs eo ipso to
the addressee’s representification of the speaker’s act of judgment.
But this certain belief may also be modified: “For example, we may
doubt whether in front of us, instead of a human being, there is only a
mechanical puppet, whether the speaking is only a semblance of speak-
ing, even whether in fact there ‘exists nothing’ but a mere hallucination,
and so on” (Hua XX/2, 38).
“It is very similar to when, remembering something we did, we pass
from certainty over to doubt, or to mere supposition [Anmutung] [that,
e.g., we perceived or that we judged], or even to disbelief” (Hua XX/2,
39). Normally, in remembering, we not only believe now that we did
something (e.g., that we perceived or judged), but we also adopt the
remembered belief in the existence of the perceived things or state of
affairs that we stated in our past judgment. But if there are relevant rea-
sons for doubt, we may now ask whether our past act of judging was an
error, whether our past act of perceiving was an illusion, or even whether
we in fact performed this act of judging or perceiving (Hua XX/2, 40).
Or, in another case, we remember that in a judgment we doubted some-
thing seen, which, in the meantime, has become certain for us. Thus,
we are now sure we doubted something, but we are now in our present
judgment also sure about the thing we doubted in the remembered past
(Hua XX/2, 40).
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 53
(d) The Difference between Understanding What a Speaker is
Saying and Remembering One’s Own Past
In remembering (representifying) my past perception or my past judg-
ment, and if I have no contrary motivations, I immediately adopt the
remembered past belief in my remembered past perception, or I imme-
diately adopt the remembered past belief of my remembered past judg-
ment. However, in the representification of the speaker’s judgment,
I can understand the representified content of his judgment without
taking over his representified belief. Understanding the content of the
speaker’s judgment, I can (e.g., when I don’t know the speaker) take
no position (remain neutral), or I may doubt whether his judgment
is true. Listening to and understanding the speech of a young student
I know, I can first take a neutral but benevolent position or a neutral
but skeptical one. If I adopt the entire communication of the speaker,
I have eo ipso to assent to his belief, which I representify. The unity
of the content of this judgment and of the belief in this content is the
identical meaning of the spoken and the understood judgment (see Hua
XX/2, 41–44).

18.  The Community of Practical Will

Husserl writes in the same text from 1921, which was quoted in section
16, that already in the community of communication, there is a certain
community of will. In the strong sense of a practical community of will,
the You agrees not only to accept a communication (“Mitteilung”) as
it happens in the community of communication, but agrees to perform
some further action, such as engaging in doing something practical in
the surrounding physical or cultural world. A communication becomes
a means to engage someone in another action (Hua XIV, 169). In this
context, Husserl speaks of request, of command (forcing the You to do
something), and further of the establishment in the You of a lasting, gen-
eral will to do what I want, resulting in the master-servant relation. These
communities of practical will occur not only when I and You are mutu-
ally in touch (“in Berührung”) but also as determinations across tempo-
ral and spatial distance (“Fernbestimmung”) (Hua XIV, 169f.).
A community of practical will may also be a matter of mutual agree-
ment. Husserl speaks in this text of the following possibilities of such an

I fulfill your request if you fulfill my request [. . .] Further, we both

wish for something to happen, we decide “together,” I do this part
of the job, you the other. Etc. Subject 1 and subject 2 want the same
thing, G. They want it, but not each for himself, but rather subject 1
wants G as wanted by subject 2, and vice versa. It is included in the
54  Iso Kern
will of both that subject 1 realizes part D1 and subject 2 realizes part
D2. And this is included as a “means” (in a broad sense) belonging to
the intention [to do the shared job] and to its realization.
(Hua XIV, 170)

In a text of November 1932, Husserl speaks of the “negativum” of the

positive unification of will:

A human being disturbs me, impedes me in a mental sense. I con-

vince him, I agree with him that he is to give me liberty, that he is
to give in to me [mir nachgibt]. In this case, I “unify” myself with
him, but I do not unify myself with him for a collective action in the
unity of a shared aim. The agreement might consist in my advancing
his aim and, reciprocally, in his advancing mine. Then, in a certain
manner, he participates in my aim and I in his—only insofar as it is
necessary so as not to be disturbed. If he does not want to, I may use
force [Gewalt], I coerce [zwingen] him. What does force consist in
here? I put restraints on his action, impossible for him to overcome,
but inside the personal community, inside the consciously being-one-
for-the-other. It is a matter of being voluntarily directed against one
another, in the actual and habitual “coincidence [Deckung]” [of
(Hua XV, 509)

19.  Sexual Love as Community of Pleasure

Husserl writes in the text of 1921 (quoted at the beginning of the preced-
ing section 18), that sexual pleasure with another human being can occur
not only as such, but also in such a way that

[. . .] both parties are not only aware of their own pleasure, but they
may both exist for the other as enjoying and striving for enjoyment
together and for each other. Striving in unity through each other for
this enjoyment, they can establish the unity of a community of enjoy-
ment [Einheit geniessender Gemeinschaft]. The other and her agree-
ment, or at least her compliance [Fügsamkeit], is not only a means of
enjoyment (thus [it is not only a matter of] the other’s body, but [of]
the other subject as offering her body, which lies within the realm of
her power, and as accepting the activity of pleasure); but rather the
object of pleasure is itself [the fact] that the other participates in this
activity, that a unity of will encompasses us both and induces a unity
of action from each side that both enjoy at once. The object of enjoy-
ment is for both the other’s enjoyment.
(Hua XIV, 177)
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 55
Or, in other Husserlian terms, the object of enjoyment in true sexual love
is the mutual intentional implication of the other’s enjoyment in one’s
own enjoyment.
Husserl considers also the negativum of this relation of sexual love,
that is, the behavior of sexual inconsiderateness (“Rücksichtslosigkeit”):

It may also happen that the other subjectivity is not considered, that
the pleasure is attained by force against her will, pain is put on her
by force and even that she is annihilated. In this case, not only the
higher level of joy and value falls away, but instead there appears a
negativum, inducing eventually a contradiction that does not dimin-
ish the value, but abolishes it.
(Hua XIV, 177)

Husserl means to say that non-consideration of the other’s ego by taking

the other as a mere sexual body, as a mere thing, contradicts true sexual
love and has a negative value.
Husserl further considers the following five possibilities beyond the
initially described “ideal” community in sexual enjoyment:

[(i)] It may be that the other is forced to submit his will and that his
pleasure is forced against his will, without forcing his assent and his
[explicit] submission of will. [(ii)] It may be that there was no wish on
the forced side, but that in its submission, pleasure is growing, and
with it, satisfaction. [(iii)] It may be that for the one who is forced, no
pleasure takes place, but rather suffering, but that he resigns himself
to this suffering so as to avoid a still heavier suffering. [(iv)] It may be
that the suffering is endured (tolerated), but that he does not “resign
himself to it.” [(v)] Finally, it may be that the suffering is not even
put up with, but opposed in continuous revolt. Endurance is also a
striving against, but it contains also an acceptance in the heart, which
is not the case in continuous revolt.
(Hua XIV, 177)

20. Two Remarks on Husserl’s Rudimentary

Phenomenological Analysis of Sexual Love
as a Community of Pleasure
I permit myself the following two remarks. First, reading the above Hus-
serlian text on community in sexual pleasure, I am not astonished about
its many exact distinctions. But I am always amazed that the mathemati-
cian, logician, theoretician of knowledge, analyst of the static and genetic
transcendental and universal constitution of the world, Edmund Husserl,
a Jewish Lutheran Professor in Germany, in a time still dominated by
56  Iso Kern
Victorian prudery, wrote about those common private matters not often
written about in his academic milieu. I know only one other philosopher
who wrote about them so frankly: the Catholic Frenchman Michel de
Montaigne, in his Essais. He had an audience with Pope Gregory XIII in
December 1580, and this text was approved the next year by the Holy
Office in the age of humanism and the late Renaissance. To be exact,
Husserl did not really write about those private matters, but he thought
about them for himself alone in his mind, and “accidentally” wrote about
them in his habit of thinking in writing his Gabelsberger stenography on
a piece of paper, never published by him.
Second, beginning in the years between 1917 and 1921, Husserl had
written about the possibility and necessity of a genetic analysis of consti-
tution. He said that this genesis can be achieved by reflexively uncover-
ing the motivational relations between the different constitutive layers
sedimented in one’s own consciousness. But he never wrote a text on
the genetic constitution of the community of sexual love. Indeed, it was
impossible to achieve merely with the means of such reflexive analysis.
We may uncover reflexively the history of the constitution of our own
convictions, attitudes, habits, including habits of sexual love, and so on,
which characterize our personality but not the “archaeology” of that in
us, and which is partly due to the evolution of humankind from our pre-
human ancestors through thousands of generations down to you and me.
However, according to Husserl, this history may be the object of a
phenomenological philosophy, though not of the first, a priori, purely
reflexive philosophy, but rather of the second philosophy which inter-
prets the facts known by scientific knowledge on the basis of the results
of the first philosophy. Husserl writes in a note added to his lecture “First
Philosophy” of 1923/24,

In the phenomenological interpretation of the positive sciences

of facts, the ultimately scientific sciences of facts [der letztwissen-
schaftlichen Tatsachenwissenschaften] spring up, sciences that are in
themselves philosophical and do not admit of having any other phi-
losophies beyond themselves appended to them. By means of the ulti-
mate interpretation of the objective being explored as a fact in these
sciences (an interpretation that accrues to these sciences through
application of eidetic phenomenology) and by means of the universal
consideration, also required in this phenomenology, of all regions of
objectivity in relation to the universal community of transcendental
subjects, the mundane universe [Weltall] (the universal theme of the
positive sciences) acquires a “metaphysical” interpretation, which
means nothing other than an interpretation beyond which it would
make no scientific sense to seek another.
(Hua VII, 188, fn.)36
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 57
21. The Fulfillment of the Sexual Drive as the Unification
of my Primordial Sphere with That of the Other
In a very late text, written in September 1933, when he was 74 years
old, Husserl sees sexual love not in its aspect of shared pleasure, but in a
much more fundamental aspect as unification of two primordial spheres.
He places this understanding of love in the context of his monadologi-
cal metaphysics.37 He first distinguishes, using an analogy with the drive
(“Trieb”) of hunger, between an undetermined drive, not yet having its
“that-at-which [Worauf]” (in other words, not yet having an intentional
“object,” e.g., respectively, a meal or another person in her sexuality) and
a drive or instinct that is determinate in this way:

Determinate sexual hunger has its form of fulfilment in copulation.

In the drive lies the relation to the other as other and to the oth-
er’s correlative drive. The drive of the one or the other may have
the modified modes of abstention, repulsion. In the primitive mode
[Urmodus] the drive is eo ipso “uninhibited,” unmodified, entering
reciprocally into the other and with its drive-intentionality going
through the correlative drive-intentionality of the other. In straight-
forward fulfilment [of these instinctive intentionalities], we do not
have two separable fulfilments inside the one and inside the other
primordiality, but a unity of the two primordialities, brought about
through the one-in-the-other [Ineinander] of the fulfilments.
(Hua XV, 593f.)

Husserl adds that in the fulfillment of the copulative intention, nothing

can be found of a potentially procreated child and

[n]othing [of the fact] that [copulation] has the well-known conse-
quences in the other subject and that the mother ultimately gives
birth to a child. But the fulfilment of the drive, as entering into the
other “soul,” is not empathy with the other subject and the experi-
ence of the further life of the other[.]
(Hua XV, 596)

When talking about the unification of the primordialities, Husserl does

not mean to imply that the two primordialities become one, that the
two monads become one monad, nor that the “living in the other” of
personal love implies such a unity. That would contradict his notion of
primordiality (cf. above, section 2). He means rather a close generative
connection between monads. Husserl emphasizes here that primordial-
ity is also a “system of drives” striving into the primordiality of another
subject and thereby having a transcendent “aim [Ziel].” This ultimately
58  Iso Kern
leads to his conception of a universal teleology of monads (Hua XV,
594f.). I shall get back to this below, in section 29.

22. Nonsexual Personal Love and Personal Community

of Love: “Living in the Other”
According to Husserl, nonsexual love for a human being is not purely
“spiritual” love, but embodied love. In “Common Mind I,” he writes,

Personal love [is] a lasting mental attitude [Gesinnung], a lasting

practical habit. Its practical performance consists of
(1) an active delight [aktives Gefallen] in the personal individual-
ity of the beloved one, in his whole conduct in passive and active
behavior toward the surrounding world, in the bodily expression of
his individuality, in general, in his spiritualized corporality [durch-
geistigte Leiblichkeit];
(2) a striving not only to achieve this enjoyment as richly as pos-
sible, but to be in personal “touch” with [this person] and to be in
a community of living and striving in which his life is taken up into
my life, that is, his striving is taken up in my striving insofar as my
willing is realized in his willing and in his effective doings, and his
willing realized in my doings. [. . .] When I arrive with another in the
community of striving, I live as myself in him and he lives in me. But
the character and intimacy of this community depends on the extent
of emotional security of the one in the other, of the I and the You.
It depends on the extent of the community of striving, and on other
(Hua XIV, 172)

Ideally, this community of lovers is not only founded in specific direc-

tions of striving, but, further, in a proper or improper manner, it is
founded in all the possible strivings of the two subjects: “Their union
in their community of love entails that in a universal manner all striving
of the one enters or has entered, once and for all, into the striving of the
other and vice versa” (Hua XIV, 173). This means that, once one has
become aware of the striving of the other, he tries explicitly to take up the
striving of the other (the proper case), participates in it with the approval
of the other, and helps her. Even if the other prefers to achieve the task by
herself, her task is not only her own task but also that of the lover (the
improper case). In this task “the desire and the will of the lover is also
realized—not for herself as an isolated ego, but for the sake of the other,
since this other as subject of its living and striving is completely taken up
into the domain of the striving intentions of the lover” (Hua XIV, 173).
Even when the other is absent and largely does not know what I am
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 59
doing, her will is also living in what I am doing. Being present, she would
participate with pleasure in my activity.

We may say that lovers don’t live side by side or together, but one in
the other, actually and potentially. They bear together all responsibil-
ities, they are bound in solidarity, also in sin and guilt. [W]e may ask
if this love is not a borderline case and if it constitutes the concept of
love in every good sense. The love described above is perhaps a sinful
love, or perhaps includes every sinful love. We think here, of course,
of the infinite love of Christ for all human beings, and of the general
love of humanity that must be awakened by every Christian in his
heart and without which he cannot be a true Christian. In our former
description of love, there was no question of ethics.
(Hua XIV, 173f.)

Husserl’s reflections take a rather unexpected turn here. What could be

sinful in the union of love he described before? His allusion to universal
Christian love could indicate an egoistic limitation, a “dual egoism [Ego-
ismus zu zweit].” But if a person is able to love the beloved in the perfect
manner described by Husserl, it seems inconceivable that her love could
be egoistic. Such a person could not love an egoist, could not participate
in his egoistic actions, unless she is ethically more or less blind. The love
described by Husserl could be a love between two persons blind to the
faults of the other, raising the beloved one to the heights of the stars. That
is the case between people who have amorously and sexually fallen in
love (already described in section 19), and in the cases where one person
participates in the egoistic behavior of the other without seeing that the
other behaves in such a manner. Or it could happen between two ethi-
cally perfect, “ideal” human beings not yet seen in our world. But then it
could not be sinful. In the beginning of his description of nonsexual love,
Husserl wrote that he would describe an ideal case, and this case is the
case of love between two perfect persons. Ideals can be useful. But such a
love is not possible between two real, ethically imperfect human beings.
Perfect love between imperfect persons includes as an essential element
reciprocal criticism made lovingly. It is the privilege of friends who love
one another perfectly to honestly criticize the other, and it is a privilege
to be criticized by a loving friend who knows me well. Most people do
not like doing that job. Adversaries and enemies like it, but their criti-
cism is often unjust, false. If we set aside the imagined, ideal case of love
between perfect human beings, then this task of mutual criticism must
be considered, and the ethical dimension is then present in the relation
of true love. Aristotle said in his Nicomachean Ethics that in the highest
form of friendship, the two united persons love to the highest degree the
ethical goodness of their friend and they help one another to be good.
60  Iso Kern
23. The Ethical Community of Friendship, Christian Love,
and the Community of Love
Reflecting on the ethical dimension of the union of love, Husserl continues:

Loving elders punish their children and they do not take up, in the
manner described above, the whole living and striving of their chil-
dren into their own living and striving. A friend is sad when his
friend falls away from her “true self.” [. . .] In every human soul there
lies—this is the [Christian] belief—a vocation, a germ for the good,
which is to be developed in one’s own action, [. . .] an ideal ego, the
“true” ego of the person, which is only realized by acting “well.”
Every ethically awake human being voluntarily posits in herself her
ideal ego as an “infinite task.”
(Hua XIV, 174)

Depending on this ethical wakefulness or non-wakefulness of one or both

partners, Husserl describes different forms of the ethical community of
I am not aware of other texts in which Husserl develops the idea that in
every human soul there lies a vocation for the good, a germ for the good,
an ideal ego, a true ego that is to be developed in one’s own action and
that the good friend ought to promote. He seems to accept it not only
as the liberal Lutheran Christian he was, but also as a phenomenologi-
cal reality. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this idea has its expression
in the teaching that man is an image of God. The idea that a human
being has the germ of his goodness in himself is widely spread in differ-
ent cultures. It can be found in the idea of the Buddha nature in a human
being, which constitutes the real possibility to become a Buddha, or in
Mengzi’s teaching that in every human heart are the “beginnings” of the
virtues, or again in the Hindu thought that divinities may grow out of
us. I would imagine that this idea has a phenomenological foundation in
human consciousness, in a fundamental tendency to be ethically good,
and in the corresponding contempt for one’s own self-confessed or not
self-confessed (yet not unknown) evil.
Christian charity [“Nächstenliebe”], Husserl continues, is not yet a
community of love:

But [this love] is linked with the striving, necessarily motivated by

love, to become a community of love extended as far as possible.
There is thus a striving to enter into relation with others, to open
one’s self to them and to open them for oneself, all in accordance
with practical possibility. The limits thereof are drawn ethically and
thus by ethical love itself.
(Hua XIV, 175)
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 61
It is important to stress that Husserl’s personal ethics was an ethics of
love, very different from the public ethics he taught in his lectures and
published work.38 In my view, this personal ethics probably had its roots
in the Christian New Testament. Husserl always had this book on his

24. Personal Unities of a Higher Order and their

Correlate Achievements
Like the text “Common Mind I” of 1921 discussed above, the text “Com-
mon Mind II” (dated by Husserl “Bernau, 1918, or St. Märgen, 1921”)
has not been written for lectures. Rather, it was composed with an eye
toward the “great systematic work” in which Husserl hoped to establish
the transcendental phenomenological field from the outset not as the field
of an abstract, individual transcendental subject, but as the concrete field
of transcendental intersubjectivity.39 In this text, he discusses “personal
unities of a higher [social] order,” constituted in their collective perfor-
mances (“Leistungen”).40 He distinguishes collective performances that
have a collective will and collective performances without a collective
will. By way of introduction, Husserl writes,

[. . .] in the context of community, I have enduring convictions (just

as previously I already had presentations) that have sprung up in
my experience, and I may also have enduring convictions that have
sprung up in the experience of others and were communicated to me
by others, which I conceive of as the convictions of others (i.e., [I
believe] they have convictions agreeing with my convictions). They
think, they believe the same thing as I do, and, vice versa, they know
that this is also the case for me, in relation to certain contents. We
mutually know each other “to hold the same judgments” (in an
enduring sense). That is also the case with evaluations. And, in the
same manner, there is a realm of needs (desires, longings), enduring
strivings and decisions, known to be shared.
(Hua XIV, 192f.)

Husserl then continues to speak of collective performances with a collec-

tive will.

(a) Collective Performances with a Collective Will

[Decisions known to be collective] have a special role and we will
have to discuss them more closely. In any case, there is a conviction
belonging to the community, an estimation of the community, a deci-
sion of the community, an action of the community.
(Hua XIV, 193)
62  Iso Kern
Concerning collective actions, Husserl distinguishes actions performed
by the other because I ordered the other to do so or determined him in
another manner. In this way, his action is also mine. If the relation of
determining is a reciprocal one, then

[t]he total action and performance is in a higher, founded sense my

action and also his action: each immediately does “his own part” [of
the collective performance] and performs a primary action, which
is exclusively his own, but [each primary action] is here part of the
secondary, the founded one, which is the full action of us both. This
is the case in all collective performances [with a collective will].
(Hua XIV, 193)

A good example of a “full action of us both” would be playing together

as a duo a piece of music, for example, a sonata for cello and piano.

(b)  Collective Performances Without a Collective Will

The examples Husserl gives for such performances come from language,
science, and law. In these fields, performances of others are the starting
points of our own performances built upon them:

It is like in my individual consciousness, when I take over a formerly

accomplished performance and use it as a starting point for higher
performances without having to remember my former performance
and make explicit its constitutive sense.
(Hua XIV, 193)

(c)  The Constitution of Personal Unities of a Higher Level

Analyzing this constitution, Husserl stresses that every communicating
personal subject acts through a foreign conscious subject in the form of
foreign strivings and volitions. Correlatively, he stresses that this personal
subject is also conscious of its own character as a medium of foreign per-
sonal volitions and intentions. And it is also conscious that the foreign
subject of consciousness is aware of its medial character for its own voli-
tions and intentions:

It is a personal connection, originating in empathy, in which [. . .]

there lives “one” conviction, “one” evaluation, “one” will, with all
their presuppositions of unity of an analogous kind. And as corre-
lates we have the unity of “one” performance, of “one” work, even-
tually a unity extending through an open infinity of time: the unity
of a State, of a religion, of a language, of a literature, of an art, etc.
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 63
Limited societies, such as associations and corporations, have the
unity of an aim, the unity of a specific performance that has its place
in the system of the successive performances motivated by the unity
of the aim.
(Hua XIV, 194)

(d)  Two Kinds of Action Through the Will of an Other

Here, Husserl distinguishes “personal connection in the unity of a collec-
tive will and in a collective action” from “personal connection without
the unity of a collective will and without a collective action.” In the first
case, the aim of my will lies in the will of the other: I want what he wants,
I want to obtain my aim through his will and his action. In the second case,
I act through the will of the other in such a way that my product (e.g., a
technical work) is imitated by others. In this manner, my kind of action
and work enters the general culture, is improved, without my intention,
by unknown people who may know nothing about me (Hua XIV, 194f.).

(e) Constitution of a Common World of Sense Perception and

Constitution of a Common Personal World of Culture
Just as every individual has its sensibility (“Sinnlichkeit”) and its apper-
ceptions with enduring objective unities as their correlates, the commu-
nicating multiplicity of persons has its sensibility and apperceptions and,
as their intentional correlate, a world with a horizon of indeterminacy:

I see, I hear, I experience not only with my own senses but also with
those of others, and others experience also with my senses. This
occurs through the transmission of information. [. . .] Each of us
accommodates to “our” experiences, not only to her own experi-
ences. We are many sensory subjects, but through communication,
we profit from the senses of all. [. . .] It is as if there were one subject
as the correlate of the common world. The communicating multiplic-
ity functions analogously to a subject: it attains a unity of experience
through individual subjects and their senses.
(Hua XIV, 197)

We have not yet considered here the sensuousness of the emotions

and of the drives, and the specifically “animal” actions, the constitu-
tion of the world of subjective and communal [bodily] needs.
(Hua XIV, 198)

On the higher level of the socially united personality and of the dif-
ferent strata of culture, the individual person herself acts and achieves
64  Iso Kern
outcomes [“Leistungen”]. But she embraces in consciousness the perfor-
mance and performative achievements of other persons. Husserl distin-
guishes here unilateral and reciprocal communicative relations:

All unities of the historical mind are unilateral. My life and that of
Plato are one. I continue the work of his life. The unity of his perfor-
mances is part of my performances. His striving, his willing, his giving
shape [Gestalten] [to things] continues in mine. Science, as a historical
unity, is the correlate of the unity of performances that passes through
a multiplicity of persons. Those who come later exercise empathy inso-
far as they understand the performances of those who came before and
understand, through the history of ideas, what they aimed at, what the
earlier ones have left open, and what has to be improved—and we as
followers will continue it, correct it, and bring it to an end.
(Hua XIV, 198)

The reciprocal communicative relation consists in everyone working

together in social coexistence.

(f) The Communicative Multiplicity of Persons as the Substrate

of Collective Actions and Collective Performances: The
Common Mind

So, we have a multiplicity of persons with many personal faculties,

with many streams of consciousness and many acts of consciousness
entering and integrating them—but also “one mind,” a personality of
a higher order, as the ideal bearer of a character, of a faculty (what is
specific to a nation, the character of a nation [Volksart, Volkscharak-
ter]), with a consciousness encompassing in unified selection all the
individual consciousnesses etc.
(Hua XIV, 199)

Therefore, when we speak, for instance, of a common mind, it is not

only an analogy, it is not a mere image, no more than it is when we
speak correlatively of the figure [Gebilde] of a language or a unity of
customs. A faculty of a university has its convictions, desires, decisions
of the will, it executes actions; in the same manner, a society, a nation,
a state. And we may also speak here in a strong, but higher sense of
faculties, character, mental attitude [Gesinnung], etc.
(Hua XIV, 201)

What is conspicuous here is Husserl’s limitation to rational communities

of rational human beings, and his neglect of all kinds of irrational “com-
mon minds” and their alarming mechanisms, the topic of inquiry of the
psychology of masses. The Husserlian text presented above was written
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 65
before the powerful uprising of the Nazi movement in Germany. And
after it came to power, Husserl reflected only on the crisis in the modern
rational sciences. At that time, he was probably reluctant to speak about
“Gemeingeist,” “Volksgeist.” But he didn’t abandon his earlier insights.
Irrational “common minds” are not only movements of some political
groups or parties animated by a “Führer” such as Hitler or Mao Zedong,
but also an everyday phenomenon illustrated, for example, by groups of
fans (fanatics) of football clubs. They have their idols, fight for their club,
with which they identify themselves completely. They lose every rational
inhibition by consuming great quantities of alcohol, kick up a row after
matches of their clubs and their heroes, which are their own matches,
and they continue the war by destroying cars, trains, and shops, and by
fighting against the police, etc.

IV. Constitution of Solipsistic and Intersubjective

Objectivity: Homeworld and Foreign World,
Normality and Abnormality
Since in this main section, we must speak about normality and its nega-
tions (abnormality and anomaly), I will begin with a terminological
remark about the latter two negative terms: In those cases in which the
sense of the term is normatively neutral, that is, when there is no implica-
tion of moral criticism, I shall use the terms “anomalous,” “anomaly,”
and “anomalism.” They have the meaning of the unusual, uncommon,
strange, not often seen. However, when moral criticism is implied, the
terms “abnormal,” “abnormality,” and “abnormally” ought to be used.
But in practical life, it is not uncommon for people to conflate the abnor-
mal and the anomalous.

25. Solipsistic and Intersubjective Normality in the

Constitution of Objectivity
In a text written between 1915 and 1917, Husserl examines the problem
of the constitution of an objective world in light of the dependence of the
world’s appearances on the psychophysical conditions of the perceiving and
experiencing subject. He does this first in the solipsistic attitude (as he calls
it here, but later he will speak instead of the “primordial sphere,” in the
second of the three senses of primordiality distinguished above), and then in
the intersubjective sphere of a community of subjects (Hua XIII, 360–385).

(a) Causality between Things and Body: Psychophysical

Conditionality in the Solipsistic Attitude
In the second sense of “primordiality,” Husserl defines the solipsistic
sphere in this text as what remains when “I exclude everywhere all layers
66  Iso Kern
of apperceptions originating in empathy and consider myself, my body,
and my immanent and transcendent surroundings only as I find them in
[this kind of reflexive] ‘inward attitude’ ” (Hua XIII, 360). In this sphere,
there are ordinary physical things in their spatiotemporal and causal
relations, my body, and also ordinary causal relations between my body
and the ordinary physical things that are similar to the relations between
things. “When I place a piece of iron on something soft and elastic, the
elastic yields and the iron presses in. It is very similar when I place it on
my thigh” (Hua XIII, 361). But in the solipsistic attitude there is also
psychophysical causality:

The heavy physical thing presses not only on my body in the physical
sense, but in the subjective sphere, too, there is connected to it the
non-physical consequence of a sensation of pressure. [. . .] If a physi-
cal thing covers my eyes, this has as a non-physical consequence the
vanishing of the appearances of things previously given in percep-
tion etc.
(Hua XIII, 362)

On the other side, voluntary and involuntary subjective kinesthetic activ-

ities have a spatial and physical sense (e.g., “I move the hand, the eyes”).
I move the billiard ball and I cause, as a consequence of this movement,
the movement of a second ball.
Husserl claims that we have here two specific kinds of interweavings
(“Verflechtungen”): (i) On the one hand, sense data may have a consti-
tutive function as presenting data for sense qualities in the appearances
of physical things; on the other hand, when we reflect on the appear-
ances (aspects of things) and their immanent sense data, these data pre-
sent themselves as causal consequences, provoked in consciousness as
mediated consequences of the influence of the corresponding external
physical things on my body. (ii) On the one hand, subjective sequences
of our kinesthetic activity are constitutive as motivating “premise-data”
for the perception of space; on the other hand, these sequences have,
in an appresented manner, the sense of spatial movements of my eyes
and hands, and in the corresponding attitude, they found the experiential
givenness of certain causal relations (e.g., through my subjective activity
I move my eye as a physical thing in space, I effect the spatial movements
of my hand, of my foot, etc.).

In this manner all subjective data, constitutive for the appearing con-
tent of the spatial things and events perceived by me at a moment,
[. . .] necessarily permit a psychophysical-causal apprehension. Thus,
already in solipsistic experience we have a fundamental component
of psychophysical conditionality.
(Hua XIII, 363)
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 67
(b) The Possibility of Anomaly in Solipsistic Experience:
The Systems of Orthoaesthetic Perceptions
Husserl maintains that in the solipsistic sphere, the idea of anomalous
perceptions conditioned by an anomalously functioning corporeality is
based on perceptions in which corporeality functions normally. He con-
siders two cases:

[(i)] [A] portion of the perceptual organs may become inoperative

without disturbing a concordant and complete constitution of an
experienced world. [. . .] Certain systems of constitutive experiences,
linked with the objective phenomena of touching-with-this-hand,
seeing-with-this-eye, become inoperative. But they can become inop-
erative because, in the total system of possible experiences, there are
other and several groups of systems which “perform the same [func-
tion]” in such a way that any one touching finger may replace any
(Hua XIII, 364f.)

(ii) In the second case, conditioned by an anomaly (pathology) of a sense

organ, the experiences of a thing may be anorthoaesthetic:

For a solipsistic subject, it only makes sense to speak of an anom-

alously functioning corporeality, conditioning anorthoaesthetic
appearances, if it has a system of orthoaesthetic experiences and
therefore has before it an identical spatiotemporal causal nature.
This again presupposes that this subject’s body is constituted for
it in systems of orthoaesthetic perceptions, and this again presup-
poses that this body cannot be totally pathological but must be “nor-
mal” insofar as a part of its organs must function orthoaesthetically
and also insofar as pathological members of the body can be given
through orthoaesthetic perceptions as “objectively real.”
(Hua XIII, 368)

(c) Are Appearances in Solipsistic Experience Relative to

Psychophysical Conditionality? The “thing itself” as
Continuum of Optimal Appearances Unified by the
Idea of Causality
Here, Husserl discusses the following problem: Since perceptual appear-
ances are conditioned psychophysically, may we then conclude that in
solipsistic experience, “things are not as they appear, or, more precisely,
that non-orthoaesthetic appearances related to an anomalous corporeal-
ity ultimately have the same right as orthoaesthetic ones related to a nor-
mal corporeality?” (Hua XIII, 369) For Husserl, in solipsistic abstraction,
68  Iso Kern
such a relativism is not motivated: The orthoaesthetic appearances are
orthoaesthetic not because they are related psychophysically to a so-
called normal corporeity. Their legitimacy does not lie in the fact that
they are conditioned by a so-called normal organization of the body.
A real solipsistic world is constituted rather as reality in space and time
in that the systems of orthoaesthetic experiences are, in a certain regular
conditionality, related to the corporeality of a certain “normal” organiza-
tion, which is itself equally constituted in this world. “Therefore,” Hus-
serl concludes, “it is entirely natural that the sensory moments of the
things [der sinnendinglichen Momente] belong to the things themselves”
(Hua XIII, 370).
But this assertion must be restricted. It is only true for perceptual things
insofar as they are given optimally (e.g., a visual thing at an optimal dis-
tance in the best illumination, or a piece of music from acoustically opti-
mal seats in a concert hall). “Here lies the true relativism of appearances,
which belong to the essence of the givenness of things,” Husserl writes.
In other words, “All relativisms belonging essentially to the [spatiotem-
poral] thing of experience are to be located within the realm of orthoaes-
thetic appearances and their connections” (Hua XIII, 370).
We may perhaps add the following comment. Even if in solipsistic
experience incoherences would arise between the so-called “common”
sensory appearances (the koinà, as they are called by Aristotle)—e.g.,
between the shape of a thing seen and the shape of the same thing
touched—still, the sensory appearances should not be relativized in gen-
eral, but rather the optimal appearances in the better sensory field should
be sought. If, because of a deformation or a debility of the physiological
visual system, the visual shapes of objects appear distorted or confused,
they would all be considered as non-orthoaesthetic; the corresponding
forms experienced by touching would be the orthoaesthetic appearances
and the forms experienced by optimal touching would be the optimal
appearances of the thing itself.
But the thing in its optimal givenness (i.e., “the thing itself”) is an idea
that entails open infinities. From a mountaintop in a bird’s eye view, and
by changing my position, I may obtain a unified “picture” of something
(e.g., of a city lying at the foot of this mountain). And, by going closer
to individual things, I can take this global view of the city as a frame for
more detailed perceptions inside this frame. This frame is a type-like idea,
something necessarily rough, not a fixed geometrical form, but a type-
like schema. And every part I take out of this schema is again an index
for a new schema, etc. (see Hua XIII, 370).
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 69
(d) The Orthoaesthetic Manifold of Aspects as Common
Property of All Subjects and Anomaly in the
Experience of the Common World
In this manuscript on normality and objectivity, Husserl passes from the
solipsistic experience of the world to the intersubjective one. Each subject
experiences its own aspect of the same spatiotemporal thing, but each
assumes through empathy that the other subject would have the same
aspect by appropriately changing its position in space:

The infinite orthoaesthetic manifold of possible (motivated) aspects

is in a certain sense common property of all subjects. [. . .] At the
same time, in this common manifold, every single subject has in its
experience different items and processes. One subject cannot at the
same time have two aspects of the orthoaesthetic manifold. However,
distributed across various subjects, a manifold of aspects can exist
simultaneously, and they must if the subjects experience the same
(Hua XIII, 377f.)41

That every subject of a community has the same manifold system of

orthoaesthetic appearances (aspects) is the normal case. But as color-
blindness, for example, shows, there are demonstrable differences in the
apperception of colors and in the different fields of sensory perceptions.
But “every subject, even if colorblind, has its orthoaesthesy: it consti-
tutes its appearing world, and the world appearing therein is the true
world” (Hua XIII, 379). This appearing world is anomalous (in the sense
specified above), but it would be normal if most subjects were to perceive
sensuously in the same manner. At best, the optimal system could be the
preferred one because it represents the greatest richness of differences
belonging to the “true thing.” “As normal [subjects], we distinguish
what the anomalous [subject], depending on his system of orthoaesthesy,
confuses” (Hua XIII, 379f.). But for the definition of normality, the idea
of the optimum cannot be used, for this would have as a consequence
that the eagle’s sight and the dog’s sense of smell would be the norm. It
would be more reasonable to say that what is typically general, what is
average, should be the norm, as opposed to the super- or sub-normal
(Hua XIII, 380).
The anomalies shown by the contradictions in the assertions of differ-
ent subjects concerning the properties of the same things are first resolved
on the basis of normality, that is, on the basis of what “all” human
beings experience, orthoaesthetically, each for herself and all together.
If some people do not agree, they are sensuously deficient oddballs
(“Querköpfe”). But that cannot be the final word on this topic. On the
one hand, each of us experiences her own spatial things and has to posit
70  Iso Kern
in empathy other human beings as experiencing the same things. Above
all, assertions and predictions concerning space and causal consequences
coincide to a great extent between myself and other human beings. On
the other hand, there remain inconsistencies:

One and the same thing cannot have inconsistent properties. [. . .]
However, the idea of the same thing can be fully maintained from
the point of view of mathematico-physical nature and of the depend-
ence of all sensuous things as “mere appearances” of the true things
(mathematical nature) upon a varying subjectivity, mediated by the
causality of things with the body (both considered in their being-
in-themselves [nach ihrem An-sich-sein betrachtet]).
(Hua XIII, 380f.)

(e) Logico-Mathematical Objectivity as the Necessary

Intersubjectivity of the Spatial World Versus the Manifold
of Individual Subjects’ Various Orthoaesthetic Systems
The constitution of mathematical nature is required because of the differ-
ences between orthoaesthetic systems of perceptions. This constitution is
not achieved by the sensuous intuitiveness of perception, but by thought.
That which is sensuously intuitive is subjectively conditioned and subject
to the rules of experience. This leads to the problems of empirical psy-
chology concerning perception.
If it pursues the aim of an exact, unambiguous determination of
nature, mathematical physics is already possible for a solipsistic sub-
ject. But for such a subject, the mathematically determined thing cannot
be the “thing in itself [Ding an sich]” in opposition to the sensuously
perceived thing as the mere manifold of subjective appearances of that
thing. This opposition originates only with the contradictions of the
orthoaesthetic systems in the communicative sphere. For the solipsistic
subject, mathematical nature is given in an exact manner, but one that
is empty for the senses, while perceived nature is given in a less exact
manner, but one that is intuitively more or less fulfilled for the senses
(see Hua XIII, 382n1).
Intuitive things, orthoaesthetically perceived, are the necessary basis
for thinking mathematically of intuitively empty “things in themselves.”
We do mathematical physics as perceptually normal human beings with
a consistent intuitive world of perception. A perceptually anomalous per-
son may also do physics. But how far, Husserl asks,

can his anomaly go, without being dependent on affirmations of

others with a richer, better-manifesting sensibility? [. . .] If he were
anomalous to such a degree that he lacked the sense for warmth, the
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 71
sense of sight, how far could he go without [. . .] borrowing from
others who dispose of these senses?
(Hua XIII, 383f.)

We broach here Husserl’s problematic of the intuitive “lifeworld [Leb-

enswelt]” as the basis of the scientifically, mathematically constructed
worlds of thought. But Husserl’s final concept of the life-world is not only
the concept of the world of intuitive perception, but the concrete world
of daily life into which certain results of the sciences, through tradition,
have more or less been integrated. This is in opposition to the particular
worlds of professional interests, such as those of the mathematical physi-
cist or the chemist, who in their daily life live also in their “lifeworld” as
the necessary basis of their various scientific interests.

26. Empathy with Children and Animals and

their Natural Worlds
In a text from the summer of 1921, written in St. Märgen in the context
of preparing his envisioned “great systematic work,” Husserl begins with
the following question: “How is the ontology of experience [of nature]
influenced by anomalies? Can I agree with ontological assertions that
the other knows to be valid, but which I cannot know?” (Hua XIV, 113)
Husserl states that everybody has her own closed experience, her uni-
verse of the experienced and of the possibly experienced. To the extent
that experiences can be “introjected [introjiziert]” through empathy,
nothing new happens to me, since I can experience what the other experi-
ences and adopt his experiences. But when experiencing anomalies, I am
unable to understand the other: matters may be intuitively given for him,
but not so for me.
Husserl stresses that the ontology of nature has to do with the form of
nature (not with the hyle, not with the various sensory fields), and that
this form is not influenced by its content:

What is essential pertains to the ontological form of the thing, and

then also to the constitutive form of the [subjective] constitution
[of the thing]. The ontological form may be variously and sepa-
rately filled in. But the form must be grasped adequately by every-
one, and the form of intersubjectivity [must by grasped adequately]
through empathy, and in community with others through reciprocal
(Hua XIV, 113, fn. 1)

However, according to Husserl, also included in the form is the way in

which every sense contributes its stratum (“Schicht”) to the constitution
72  Iso Kern
of the objects of nature, how these layers (e.g. the visible and the tangi-
ble) have their correspondences and indications, and how normality and
anomaly belong together. I could not empathize with anomalies or new
sensory fields in another subject if I could not experience anomalies or
experience how one sense functions independently of another (see Hua
XIV, 113, fn. 1).
Husserl pursues this problem by asking what is required to have an expe-
rience of the things of nature. If I were a jelly-fish, or if I had only the sense
of smell, would I thereby already have an experience of things of nature?
Nature need not be a full nature: There could be experienced natures of
a lower level. However, “all possible apperceptions of nature, which can
be integrated into a full apperception of nature, are of a common type:
They are always apperceptions constituting unities of appearances, unities
of adumbrations [Abschattungen], unities of optimal appearances” (Hua
XIV, 114). Accordingly, we can imagine systematically deconstructing the
genetic strata of our adult experience of nature and imagine, for example,
what would remain of the things of nature if we could not kinesthetically
move our body from one place to another, but could only move our seeing
eyes. From our point of view as adults, we can then speak with justifica-
tion about embryonic and infantile development:

[T]he infant sees the same things as I do, but it does not yet have
fully developed apperceptions of them: It lacks the higher horizons,
its experiences are not yet able to organize themselves in the manner
our experiences do and to admit new motives[.] [. . .] We may say the
same of animals.
(Hua XIV, 115f.)

In our motivated empathy, we are justified in relating an organic indi-

vidual to the same surrounding world (“Umwelt”) only if we endow it
with the strata of apperceptions corresponding to modifications of its
body in relation to our own body. Any strata of apperceptions that do
not have this correspondence must be “deconstructed.” But our empathy
is extremely vague: It does not possess the prescribed horizons of our
genetically acquired experience of things of nature, “including in every
case the full ontological form of a thing, a process of a thing, or a plural-
ity of things” (Hua XIV, 117):

It is completely different in our apperception of an animal, and espe-

cially in the case of lower animals, where we are unable entirely to
identify in a bodily way with them [uns in sie körperlich hinein-
schmiegen], with coincidence of the essential organs and groups of
organs and the corresponding kinesthetic systems. But in this case
deconstruction is necessary [. . .]. As children, we initially project a
human being [into the animal’s body] and expect confirmation in the
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 73
animal’s behavior as if it were human behavior. [. . .] Even in relation
to an adult human being we first apperceive tout comme chez nous,
and it is only through experience that the other differentiates herself
[besondert sich] and deconstruction takes place.
(Hua XIV, 117)

As far I can remember, Husserl does not discuss empathy with ani-
mals such as bats who perceive their surrounding world in a manner
very different from the way we, the human beings, experience them.
These nocturnal animals perceive their surrounding world while flying
around not with their eyes, but with their ears, that is, by hearing the
echoes of their own sounds (echolocation). In the case of empathy with
these animals, we should speak not only of deconstruction (“Abbau”),
but also of reconstruction (“Umbau”). We possess the elements, or the
“building blocks,” for this reconstruction because we ourselves have
experience with echoes, and have experienced that the echoes of our
own vocalizations that return to us more quickly are returning from
objects closer to us.
In a text probably written in September or October of 1933, Hus-
serl says,

Fundamentally, there is no perfect knowledge of the other. He exists

out of his individual “historicity,” his genetic self-constitution, which
I can never completely unveil, not even in stretches. I cannot even
unveil my own genetic constitution. Through remembering I cannot
reconstruct my own transcendental constitution, in spite of the fact
that as a developed human being I exist only as the acquisition [Erw-
erb] of this constitution and have the ability to remember.
(Hua XV, 631f.)

Husserl concludes his distinction between the experience of things of

physical nature and empathy with sentient beings: Unlike the experience
of physical things, the experience of the other, including the closer deter-
mination of the indeterminacy of empathy, is not a matter of “filling out”
an ontological structure lying already in our horizon, but rather of newly
forming a suitable horizon with a suitable formal structure.42
Husserl was probably more interested in the intersubjectivity of the
constitution of objectivity than in the constitution of intersubjectivity
itself, that is, of the relations between subjects. The main concern of his
philosophy was the phenomenological elucidation and foundation of
objectivity in its multiplicity of different kinds (mathematical, logical,
natural, historical, etc.). And objectivity must be intersubjective. But, as
we have seen in his manuscript “Common Mind I,” he was also inter-
ested in different kinds of communities and in communications between
subjects (see sections 16–24). Nevertheless, he never wrote, as far as
74  Iso Kern
I know, about the communication of human beings with animals or the
communication between animals.
But the community of and communication between human beings and
animals is very important for humans, especially for children and older
persons. How happy are children to have a cat, a dog, a rabbit or a
guinea-pig, and how they like to play with them! And when children
do this well, those animals are also happy to play with the children and
become attached to them. For many older persons (and not only older
ones) a dog or a cat is their best friend during their lonely hours. Most of
these animals are mammals, for whom individual relations can become
very close. But it may also be a highly developed social bird, such as a
parrot, who in a human home is happy to communicate with a human
person and this human person is happy to communicate with it. This
community and communication between different species is a very inter-
esting phenomenon and occurs not only between humans and animals
but also between animals, such as between a rabbit and a guinea-pig, a
dog and a cat, or a horse and a chicken.
All these communications take place on the level of expressions of
moods and feelings, on the level of intentions and sentiments, and of
the observation of these moods, feelings and intentions, which are the
most important things in human life. We may live very happily with-
out science and philosophy, but not without sentiments and intentions,
nor without inclinations and their communication. I know of a person
who told a friend of mine that the intelligence of his dog is of an out-
standing degree because it knows English, German, French, Italian and
Latin, all the languages he had so much difficulty to learn. When he goes
for a walk with his dog and at some point wishes to return home, he
sometimes says to his dog, “Now we return home!”; sometimes he says,
“Jetzt gehen wir nach Hause!”; sometimes he says, “Maintenant nous
retournons chez maman!”; sometimes “Adesso ritorniamo a casa!”; and
sometimes, “Nunc debet reverti!” And the dog, after looking at his mas-
ter, immediately heads home. This dog’s astonishing knowledge of so
many languages consists in fact in nothing other than the high degree of
observation of his master’s bodily expressions of intention, surpassing by
far the human perceptual and observational capacities.
And the communication between mammals and birds happens exactly
in the same manner as the communication between animals and human
beings. The ethologist Konrad Lorenz writes:

For communicating his mood, the human being does not need to rely
on minimal movements of intentions, because he can speak about it.
But jackdaws and dogs depend on “reading in the other’s eyes” what
the other will do in the next moment. For this reason, in higher social
animals, the mechanisms of transmitting and of receiving expressions
of mood are much better developed and much more specialized than
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 75
in us human beings. The vocalizations of animals, such as the kja and
kjuh of the jackdaws and the grey goose’s expressions of mood with
a few syllables, are not comparable to the words of our language,
but are rather comparable to such expressions of mood as yawning,
frowning, laughing and the like, which are uttered unconsciously and
innately and understood in the same manner. The “words” of the
different “languages” of animals are, as it were, only interjections.43

Through our unconsciously uttered hey, ouch, oh, ugh, aww, and um,
we communicate a great many sentiments and moods to our co-subjects,
human and animal. But higher social animals and human beings also
communicate in an intentional manner through intended movements and
sounds in order to influence their partners.

27. The Experience of the World as Homeworld

and as Foreign World
The Husserlian distinction between the familiar, the “being at home
with,” and the foreign, the “strange,” which he made during his last
years, is probably the most universal and fundamental distinction in our
experience of the world. It covers the differences between our own and
foreign cultures, between the kinds of thought and behavior of our own
and of other social groups or classes, between our own and foreign coun-
tries, between our own and foreign peoples, between the normal and
the insane (psychologically ill), between the habitual and the strange,
between human beings and animals, between the comprehensible and
the incomprehensible, and so on. Most worlds of the modern mathe-
matical sciences are foreign to us all, even if we are familiar with one of
them. What a genius does is incomprehensible for us. We may think he
is insane. When the architect Antoni Gaudì (1852–1926) presented his
architectonic plans during his doctoral defense at the University of Barce-
lona, the examiners said, “This man is either foolish or a genius.” We are
familiar with the average, not with the outstanding. As human beings, we
live every day in these changing, relative differences.
Equally important is the fact that through our homeworld, through
“where we are at home,” we socially identify ourselves and give our life a
normative social orientation. Every human being needs to belong socially
somewhere where she feels at home. For example, she may belong to a
football club, often only as a fan. And the fan says, “That’s my club!” She
even takes pleasure in struggle for her club. It may be a very complex and
a very loose association, but it implies at least some structure of socially
recognized values. It is difficult to have values and not fall into anomy if
one does not share theses values with a group. People belonging to a for-
eign group are often considered to be competitors or even enemies. Most
fundamental for us is perhaps a religious community, or a substitute for
76  Iso Kern
it, where we feel at home, even if this group labels itself as freethinkers,
agnostics, or atheists. Recently (May 11th, 2014) I heard a broadcast
about Jews who, under the Nazi regime, converted to Christianity and
ultimately felt themselves to be outside or between all groups—between
Jews who expelled them and Christians who didn’t really accept them,
between Germany or Austria or Hungary, where they were once at home,
and the country where they had arrived to live. They felt as though they
were abroad everywhere. Most of them suffered psychologically. Some
of them, once they had grown old, returned home to the best of their
abilities. In his discussions of homeworld and foreign world, Husserl
emphasized the cognitive side of acquaintance-with and non-acquaintance-
with, of cognitive accessibility and inaccessibility. But the emotional
side of being at home somewhere seems to me even more important for
human beings (and also for animals).
Husserl wrote the following in Schluchsee in August/September 1933,
when Hitler was already Reichskanzler:

To the types of animals and of human beings pertain typical modes

of givenness, of acquaintance and non-acquaintance, and of becom-
ing acquainted. It is like this for every real thing and for the world
as a whole. Taken together, we have the structure of the homeworld
and its degrees; the structure of the horizon of the foreign; and the
ways in which the homeworld constantly develops [erschliesst] itself
through experience, while also expanding itself through inclusion of
the foreign [. . .].
(Hua XV, 623f.)

Focusing on human beings, Husserl writes that everyone experiences her

home-fellows (“Heimgenossen,” “Heimmenschen”) as human beings of
the familiar surrounding world. The foreigner is experienced by every
home-fellow not with the psychic properties of a home-fellow, but as a
human being of an unknown homeworld, with his own potentialities,
his own habits of interest, and his own subjective structure of possible
experience and practical activity:

As a psychically individual type and also as a national [völkisch]

type, especially as a homeland type, what is foreign is for me and for
us home-fellows something completely unknown, and that is pre-
cisely what gives it the concreteness of its being.
(Hua XV, 624)

When going abroad with the aim of encountering what is foreign, we

necessarily use our habitual apperceptions, acquired at home, to apper-
ceive the animals, plants, human beings and cultural things with which
we are not at home. At first, we apperceive everything as being like some-
thing at home (“tout comme chez nous”). But in doing this, we are not
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 77
yet at home in this new surrounding world, and slowly we notice this in
our encounters (Hua XV, 624f.):

Problems of method arise here, problems of how, within the relativ-

ity and from out of the familiar world and familiar humanity, an
understanding and even a mutual understanding can be established;
[. . .] [problems] of how to bring about a familiarization and an
intuitive understanding of the foreign world as though it were our
homeworld—and there also arises the question of the limits of such
knowledge, of the degrees of its own relativity, and of the legitimacy
of the idea of a complete understanding, as complete as the one we
have at home.
(Hua XV, 625)

In the same text, Husserl goes on to speak of our knowledge of the

animals we have already encountered in our homeworld:

In virtue of their psychic character, their apperceptions, and their

constitutive functions, animals have their finite surrounding world,
their own mode of world horizon. Their mode is not our mode. Even
when our surrounding world is very limited, it is not the surround-
ing world of a beetle, of a bee, of a turtle, nor of household pets
(which, reared in a human manner, have acquired certain features of
humanity). And yet we understand, we experience them. There must
be something common in the manner of appearing of these unities
[i.e., things]. How are we to understand the task of understanding,
of progressively bringing to an increasingly complete experience, the
psychic life of an animal, of obtaining an intuitive view of its life-
possibilities and of the world as such that exists for it, of its interests
in life, of its aims?
(Hua XV, 626)

In a text from September 10th of the same year (1933), Husserl writes:

The homeworld is the world of the general accessibility of exist-

ing things for everyone, verifiable for everyone—cum grano salis!
There are more and less intelligent, more and less skillful individu-
als, those who are more and less receptive to instruction. And must
we not also consider that our homeworld is a world of ruling and
serving? In any case, the homeworld is for everyone a far-reaching
and fundamental stratum of the normal, the ordinary, the every-
day [des Alltäglichen], the all-intelligible [des Allverständlichen] in
persisting and changing (everyday, normal surrounding world, eve-
ryday humanity [alltägliches Menschentum], “average humanity
(Hua XV, 629)
78  Iso Kern
And he concludes:

Normally, we live in our homeworld, or, better, in a surrounding

world that is for us a really familiar world (albeit one that is not
familiar to us in all its individual realities) that is really to be real-
ized for us in intuition [die für uns wirklich durch Anschauung zu
verwirklichen ist]. In the mediate horizon there are also foreign
humanities and cultures. They belong to it as foreign. But foreign-
ness signifies accessibility in its proper inaccessibility, in the mode of
(Hua XV, 631)

V. The “Existential” and Monadological Character of

Phenomenological Metaphysics

28. Transcendental Phenomenology as an Eidetic Science

of the Conditions of the Possibility (Essences) of
Transcendental Intersubjectivity and Phenomenological
Philosophy as a Scientific Metaphysics of
Realities (Entities)
Until 1921/22, transcendental phenomenology for Husserl consisted of
an eidetic science of the conditions of the possibility (essences) of tran-
scendental intersubjectivity (first philosophy), and a phenomenological
philosophy as a scientific metaphysics of the reality of my ego and the
reality (existence) of other egos (second philosophy). Recall that the first
section of Husserl’s Ideas I concerned eidetics (Hua III/1, 10ff., “Essence
and Knowledge of Essence”). From the years 1921/22 onwards, in Hus-
serl’s philosophy, the experience of reality precedes the presentation of its
possibility, just as in the classic philosophy of antiquity (Aristotle) and the
middle ages enérgeia precedes dynamis, esse precedes posse (posse ab esse
dicitur, possibility is spoken about, beginning from reality (existence)).
It is important to note that this insight began with Husserl’s analysis of
empathy.44 It was probably in these years 1921/22, when he was prepar-
ing his “great systematic work,” that he first realized that the experience
of one’s own existing ego precedes any a priori thought of the conditions
of the possibility of an ego in general, and that an “ego in general” does
not exist.
In a text dating from June 1921 (which to the best of my knowledge
has not been published), Husserl writes,

Am I not a “necessary fact,” and is my contingency not determined

merely by the unintelligible matter [hyle] that codetermines my psy-
chic (monadic) development? The necessity [of this fact] consists in
the impossibility of invalidating [Undurchstreichbarkeit] the, under
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 79
such presuppositions, understandable unity [of my psychic (monadic)
development]. This unity is also under other presuppositions the
same individuality and is never another.45

In a text written in 1931, Husserl says the following regarding the

eidos “transcendental ego”:

We have here a strange and unique case, namely, the relationship

between fact and eidos. The being [Sein] of an eidos, the being of
eidetic possibilities and the universe of these possibilities, is inde-
pendent of the being or non-being of any realization whatsoever of
such possibilities [. . .]. But the eidos “transcendental I” is unthinka-
ble without a “transcendental I” as something factual. [. . .] I cannot
transgress my factual being, which entails that [I cannot transgress]
the being-with of others intentionally comprised by it, etc., and thus
[I cannot transgress] the absolute reality [of transcendental intersub-
jectivity]. [. . .] I am [thus] the most primitive fact [Urfaktum][.]
(Hua XV, 385f.)

In a text, written on April 17th, 1933, Husserl advances to the ultimate

consequences of the philosophical position he initiated in 1921: He over-
turns completely his old ordering of first and second philosophy:

Can I change fictively the world in any other way than by beginning
with the world given originally to me, the present world, having a
past and a future from out of my present? [. . .] And is it not evi-
dent that no world, no fictive world in the freedom of phantasy, is
conceivable in which I with my present world (even if it is a fictively
transformed present world) do not feature? And does this not imply
still more, namely, that no other conceivable world can exist without
my factually present being, and therefore also not without the factu-
ally present world? Concerning me and my world, reality precedes
every possibility!
(Hua XV, 519; emphasis IK)

For Husserl in his later years, the result of the first step of the transcen-
dental reduction is not an abstract, solipsistic Cartesian ego, and not, as
in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, a universal “I of transcendental apper-
ception” as the condition of the possibility of the unity of experience, but
rather my actually existing, concrete self in its intersubjectivity. Husserl
wrote in a text from around 1930,

I must distinguish the presently transcendentally-­phenomenologizing subjec-

tivity (as a real ego, as a monad) from transcendental subjectivity ­simply;
the former [i.e., the presently transcendentally-phenomenologizing
80  Iso Kern
subjectivity] shows itself to be transcendental intersubjectivity, includ-
ing transcendentally-phenomenologizing subjectivity.
(Hua XV, 74f.)

As we shall see below, in section 29, this insight results in a fundamental

difference between the monadologies of Husserl and Leibniz.
As a theoretician reflecting on the transcendental field of intersubjectiv-
ity as the thematic field of the most fundamental science, Husserl regards
this field as self-sufficient (“selbständig”) and self-contained (“in sich
abgeschlossen”). In this position, there is a tendency to a “transcendental
subjective idealism.” In 1927 he writes, “We must call the field of a sci-
ence self-sufficient when its theoretical pursuit never needs to go beyond
this field. However far we may penetrate into its infinite horizons, it is a
self-contained horizon, never to be transgressed” (Hua XXXII, 52). But
we must concede (perhaps against Husserl) that this is not the case for the
transcendental field of existing subjects. The principle of explanation of
this field is motivation. For transcendental subjects relying on their sense
data (hyle), there are motivational reasons for constituting an orderly
world, a cosmos. But in the life of these subjects there are also facts that
condition motivations but that are not explainable by motivation. As
embodied subjects, unmotivated events contingently occur to us, events
that can only be explained by factual nature itself, by “brute nature,” and
not by nature as a merely intentional correlate of intersubjective experi-
ences. As a consequence of a serious accident, a human subject may be
maimed bodily, or mentally incapacitated, and this natural, factual cause
has consequences for his life and his stream of consciousness: certain
groups of motivations now fall away and interconnections of motiva-
tions may be different.46

In my view, there is no absolute theory of the world, neither in

the natural and in the human sciences, nor in the transcenden-
tally subjective sciences, because they are all finite perspectives
of limited human reason, living, moving and thinking temporally
inside this world and depending on it. Only the Producer or Crea-
tor of this world (the “intellectus originarius” of Kant) may have
an absolute science of it, because in His “standing present [nunc
stans],” He necessarily “knows” what He continuously “produces

29. From Transcendental Egology to Absolute Monadology:

The Absolute Interpretation of the World and the
Teleology of Monadic Development
In a text from the beginning of the year 1922, also written in the con-
text of the preparation of his “great systematic work,” Husserl gives
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 81
an outline of his metaphysics (Hua XIV, 256–272). Physical and ideal
objects (e.g., pure geometrical forms, numbers, the Ninth Symphony
of Beethoven) are of a subordinated dignity of being (“untergeordnete
Seinsdignität”) because they are nothing other than unities in regulated
progressions of experiences and of intellectual activities of subjects. On
the other hand,

Of a higher order is the dignity of being of the subjectivity with

ego-cogito-cogitatum. I leave it open whether it is the ultimate and
highest dignity of being.48 But in any case, the ego is “in itself” and
not in something else. [. . .] The ego is for itself. By being, it becomes
conscious of itself. [. . .] But it has not only concepts obtained directly
from out of itself[.] [. . .] It can also be conceived by another I-subject,
making itself known [bekunden sich] in empathic experience.
(Hua XIV, 257)

Since I conceive it as another ego, I can reciprocally also make myself

known to it. This reciprocity of mutually making-oneself-known is only
possible through our embodiment (Hua XIV, 258). Like in Leibniz’ mon-
adology, finite monads necessarily have a body. There are no finite pure
spirits or pure minds, such as the angels have been conceived in scholastic
medieval philosophy. Husserl concludes his lectures on “First Philoso-
phy” of the winter term 1923/24 with the following sentences:

Unique, absolute being is being as subject [das Subjektsein], being as

constituted for itself, and the entire absolute being is the universe of
the transcendental subjectivities standing together in real and pos-
sible community. In this way phenomenology leads to monadology,
anticipated by Leibniz in his ingenious aperçu.
(Hua VIII, 190)

As in Leibniz’ monadology, every ego is a unity (monas). Each has its

own flow of consciousness with its objective physical and ideal inten-
tional correlates. However, in opposition to Leibniz, Husserl maintains
that “the monads have windows.” Yet he qualifies this claim immediately
in a sense, making his own monadology conform to that of Leibniz:

They [the monads] have no doors and windows insofar as no other

subject can really [reell] enter into a monad. But through the win-
dows (which are acts of empathy) the other subject is experienced
just as well as my own past experiences are through recollection.
(Hua XIV, 260)

According to Husserl’s texts discussed above (sections 14 and 15), sexual

and personal love are also such “windows.” Every monad has not only
82  Iso Kern
a nature, but a world together with other animal and human subjects.
These other subjects have a body in this world and experience this world,
whereby this world is constituted as an identical world for all monads
(Hua XIV, 260f.).
In a text written in the second half of October 1931, Husserl says the
following concerning the relation between monads:

The existence of every monad is [intentionally] implicated in every

other one. Each has constituted in its “consciousness” the same
world. In every monad there is “implicitly” contained every being
and, transcendentally, the universe of the monads and everything
constituted in the singular monad and in community. On the other
hand, the monads are absolutely separated. They have no moment,
nothing real [Reelles] in common. They coexist in monadic universal
time [in der monadischen Allzeit].
(Hua XV, 377)

Leibniz would say that even physical nature is a manifestation of mon-

ads; that there are monads everywhere; that there are no other things
than monads; that there is no fundamental difference between the physi-
cal and the psychical, but only differences of degree; that all monads have
an infinity of perceptions that are more or less differentiated, more or less
clear. Husserl writes,

There is a difference between the absolute, i.e., the multiplicity of

monads, which is presupposed by every possible nature and objective
nature itself. The latter is a mere correlate of positing, a mere consti-
tutive “product” [Erzeugnis] of the totality [of monads], on the basis
of pure products of subjective natures, even of many necessary levels,
in every single monad.
(Hua XIV, 266)

In Leibniz’ finite monads, seen as different levels of perceptual and

appetitive unities, there is a radical difference. Most of the monads are
simply finite perspectives on the world from different points of view,
whereas there are also specific monads that reflexively know that they
themselves and the other monads are different finite perspectives on
the world from different “points of view.” These monads, the human
ones, have not only perceptions, but also apperceptions. They are able
to contemplate what they are. This corresponds to Husserl’s doctrine
of self-reflection and of reflection in empathy (see above, section 12).
Furthermore, we can say not only that this ability of reflection makes
these monads self-conscious to a higher degree (or gives them, as Kant
would say, borrowing a word from Leibniz, the form of transcenden-
tal apperception), but also that it permits them to be aware that others
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 83
have their own “points of view.” On the level of ethics, this has practi-
cal consequences: The reflective monad, endowed with apperception,
can will and choose to be a certain way, and is able to respect oth-
ers as other “points of view” with their own wills and aims. I think
the metaphysical view in Husserl’s and Leibniz’ thought is ultimately
the same: they simply have, as different finite monads endowed with
apperceptions, different finite, reflexive perspectives of an extremely
high level.
Husserl felt a very close affinity between his own philosophy and that
of Leibniz. In the first part of his lectures on “First Philosophy” from the
years 1923/24, in his “Critical History of Ideas,” Husserl said the follow-
ing of Leibniz’s monadology:

An intuitive thinker such as Leibniz invents nothing where his

inspired phantasy is not able to anticipate a suitable intuition, and
thus his monadology is one of the most extraordinary anticipations
of history. If one understands it thoroughly, one must ascribe to it a
great truth content. In his discussion of the fundamental properties
of the monad under the rubrics of “perception,” “appetitive passage
from one perception to the other,” and, above all, “representation of
what is not really present but nevertheless perceptually [intuitively]
conscious,” Leibniz grasped the fundamental properties of intention-
ality and elaborated them metaphysically.
(Hua VII, 196f.)

In the text written in Schluchsee in September 1933, quoted above in

section 21, Husserl discusses the teleology of the totality of monads. As
we recall, in this text Husserl begins with the unification of primordiali-
ties in sexual love. He speaks further on in this text of the “infinity of the
pre-animal and animal levels of monads right up to the human monads,
on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the pre-infantile and infan-
tile monads—in the perpetuity of ontogenetic and phylogenetic develop-
ment” (Hua XV, 595).
The teleologically developing totality of monads is at first a community
of instinctive drives that ultimately arrives in the human community at
the consciousness of itself:

This [community] has a universal world in which it finds itself as

cognizing this world and as having ascended to the will to know the
world, creating, in the European humanity of culture, universal posi-
tive [and mathematical] sciences [of the world]. And from here alone
the transcendental reduction is possible, through which the monads
are first discovered as human monads, and then all monads in the
form of their generative relations.
(Hua XV, 596)
84  Iso Kern
Husserl stresses at the end of this text that the transcendental phenom-
enological question, going back to the generative origins of the totality of
monads, starts from myself and from the world in which I live concretely
and naturally, the life-world of my and our experience, which is at the
same time the world of the sciences, themselves belonging to this world.
In a text written on November 13th, 1931, entitled “Teleology,” Husserl
exposits a universal view of the teleological development of the monads:

[E]very transcendental existence [Dasein], not only in its singleness,

but in its intersubjective communitization [Vergemeinschaftung], is
traversed by a unifying striving for “perfection.” It is not by acci-
dent that the human being, always occupied with the particulars of
experience, of evaluating, of aiming (purposing) in actions, never
arrives at satisfaction. Or, more exactly, [it is not by accident] that
no satisfaction in something particular and in finitude is real and full
satisfaction, and that satisfaction refers to a totality of a life and to a
personal totality of being.
(Hua XV, 404)

The human being lives in an “infinity,” which is the enduring hori-

zon of its life. It transcends the instincts and creates values of a higher
level and transcends these values. Every human being finds itself in
an infinitely open world of values, that is, a world of practical values
that are to be transcended “in infinitum”[.] [. . .] But all this indicates
only the lower level of happiness. The infinity of the life-horizon,
as far as it contains the disclosed [erschlossener] infinity of human
generations, brings death and fate into the horizon, and the possibil-
ity of suicide, also the possibility of an intersubjective “suicide.” In
the disclosed infinity there is bliss and absurdity. From the begin-
ning, there are no hedonistic values. [. . .]. The values of the person
[. . .] have their origin in completely different sources, the sources of
love in the strict sense of the word [im prägnanten Wortsinn]. [. . .]
Love—losing oneself lovingly in the other, uniting oneself with the
other (but not as in the relation between master and slave)—is not at
all hedonistic, even though it founds joys, “high” joys.
(Hua XV, 405f.)

But all of this must be thought through again. Cf. the old manuscripts?49
(Hua XV, 407)

What is unique to Husserl’s late monadology, in contrast to the mon-

adology of Leibniz, consists in its strict phenomenological point of view.
Husserl’s whole monadology is ultimately centered or rooted in one’s
own ego. He writes in a text from 1932 or 1933, “This ego is unique in
an absolute sense, not admitting of a meaningful multiplication; or, to
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 85
put it even more acutely, it excludes as meaningless any such multiplica-
tion.” (Hua XV, 589f.)
Here, I as a monad conclude this very finite and temporally limited
perspective on Husserl’s infinite phenomenology of intersubjectivity.
I confess that sometimes I have said things Husserl did not say. But he
thought that he was only the beginner and founder of his new phenom-
enology, and that this phenomenology had to be corrected, continued
and expanded by the phenomenological investigators of the future. If
I were only to repeat his sayings, he would reprimand me the day I shall
meet him in another world. I am one of the dwarfs on the shoulders of
this giant, and my hope is to see a little farther and clearer than he himself
saw, at least sometimes.

1. In a note, in a text of his assistant Ludwig Landgrebe about the genesis of
Ideas II, Husserl writes the following concerning the third section, entitled
“The Constitution of the World of the Mind [der geistigen Welt]”: “The third
section should, in the process of the printing of Ideas I, be added to [the first
two sections], on the basis of the outlines ‘Nature—Mind.’ [Husserl lectured
during the summer term of 1913 about ‘Nature and Mind.’] [. . .] In 1913
I began the systematic formation and definitive writing [Reinausarbeitung] of
the section ‘The Constitution of the World of the Mind,’ but I did not come
further than the first pieces.” (In the Husserl Archives under the signature M
III 1, II 1, p. 1/2). During the holidays of Easter of 1915, Husserl tried to con-
tinue and add depth to his manuscripts of Ideas II (Schuhmann 1977, 193).
2. Cf. the editor’s introduction to Hua XIII, xliii.
3. These manuscripts have been published in Hua XIII, 236ff.
4. Husserl writes of these discussions in his letter to Georg Misch of June 27th,
1929, published in the Afterword to the third edition of Georg Misch’s Phi-
losophy of Life and Phenomenology (Misch 1967). I excerpted from this
letter in my introduction to Hua XIII, xxxiii.
5. See Husserl’s letter to Roman Ingarden of November 25th, 1921 (Husserl
and Ingarden 1968, 22). This work was supposed not only to establish the
reduction to pure or transcendental subjectivity as a reduction to pure or
transcendental intersubjectivity, but also to integrate genetic phenomenology
(in contrast to static phenomenology), conceived between 1917 and 1921.
Husserl’s studies for this “great systematic work” ended by his return to the
“solipsistic” or “Cartesian” (not intersubjective) conception of the phenom-
enological reduction, presented in his lectures “Introduction to Philosophy” of
the winter term 1922/23 (Hua XXXV) and “First Philosophy” of the winter
term 1923/24 (Hua VII and VIII). Husserl planned to elaborate these lectures
as “Meditationes de prima philosophia from the Most Radical and Universal
Points of View” to a new work (Husserl and Ingarden 1968, 31). But this
project was abandoned in his lectures “Introduction to Phenomenological
Psychology” of the summer term 1925 and the lecture “Nature and Spirit”
of the summer term of 1928 (Hua XXXII). These lectures were a modified
resumption of “the great systematic work” of 1921/22. Husserl’s wife, Mal-
vine, wrote on April 16th, 1926 concerning her husband that “Nevertheless
(indeed after a hard strive of 13 years—so long a time is it since the Ideas),
he advanced far enough that by April 8th [Husserl’s 67th birthday] he could
begin with the final presentation [. . .] and may hope to publish the first part
86  Iso Kern
with Niemeyer” (Husserl and Ingarden 1968, 37). Nothing of the planned
work was ever published. From 1929 until 1931 his aim to publish a new sys-
tematic work was again inspired by the “Cartesian way,” but by 1931/32 he
returned again to a “systematic work” in the line of his endeavors of 1921/22
and of 1925 until 1928. Husserl’s last publication, the fragment of the Crisis
(Hua VI), is a partial realization of these endeavors.
6. Concerning the distinction between first and second philosophy see Rudolf
Bernet, Iso Kern and Eduard Marbach 1993, chapter 10 (written by Iso
7. Rudolf Boehm, the editor of this text, remarks in a footnote that this text
probably dates from 1924. I think the content of this very important text
does not fit with Husserl’s plans of 1924 (when he returned to conceiving the
transcendental reduction in a Cartesian, egological manner), but rather with
his plans of 1921/1922, when he conceived a new “great systematic work,”
completely different in four fundamental points from the Ideas. See above,
the introduction.
8. Husserl speaks of the “phenomenological residuum” in the paragraphs
§§33, 49 (“Residuum of the Annihilation of the World [Residuum der Welt-
vernichtung]”), and 50 of the Ideas I (Hua III/1). In §50 he writes, “[. . .]
we direct the theoretically investigating look at pure consciousness in its
absolute being for itself.”
9. In “Fundamental Problems of Phenomenology.” Cf. Hua XIII, Text Nr. 6,
ch. VI, §39, 188, and Beilagen XXVI, XXX.
10. I follow de Warren 2010 in translating “Vergegenwärtigung” as

11. Husserl distinguishes between “reelle” immanence, consisting in my inten-
tional acts and the hyletic data, and the immanence of the physical things
of my experience of nature which are, according to him, nothing else than
unities (X’s) of a regulated infinity of possible appearances in relation to my
consciousness. Since in my consciousness such a thing is never given ade-
quately or completely, it is also in a certain sense “transcendent” to my con-
sciousness, but it exists only in relation to my consciousness and is nothing
for itself. Only other consciousnesses (and, through them, the intersubjective
real and ideal worlds) are for me truly transcendent. See Hua XIV, 244–250.
12. Cf. my book Husserl und Kant (Kern 1978), §27, and my contribution in
Bernet, Kern, and Marbach 1993, chapter 10, “First and Second Philosophy
or Phenomenology and Metaphysics.”
13. “Primordial” has later been replaced by “immanent.”—Note of the editor of
Hua XV.
14. “The psychophysical in solipsistic abstraction”—see Hua XIII, 408; Hua
XIV, 310; Hua XV, 635.
15. See Hua XIII, 360; Hua XIV, 176; and many other passages.
16. On “first” and “second philosophy,” see my contribution in chapter 10 of
Bernet, Kern, and Marbach 1993.
17. Cf. Kern 1973, division II, the first two chapters on “The Understanding
[Der Verstand]” and “Sensibility [Die Sinnlichkeit].”
18. These acts are not yet called social acts by Husserl. According to Hus-
serl, social acts are first of all acts of addressing others (“sich an Andere
wenden”). These acts are acts of communication, but not necessarily on a
linguistic level. Husserl investigated communication on the linguistic level as
early as the first of his Logical Investigations (1900/01). Mere gestures (e.g.
pointing) are also communicative. My intentional evoking of my partner’s
awareness that I intend to communicate something to her is a basic feature
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 87
of social acts. This communication may be merely an informative one (e.g.,
when I intend merely the other’s taking notice of something), but it may
also express my wish or my will that the other do something further (e.g.,
when I address myself to others with requests or orders). In this context,
Husserl speaks of social or personal self-consciousness, which is very differ-
ent from the self-consciousness of an ego (e.g., the simple self-consciousness
that I have done this or that, or that I shall do this or that). In personal self-
consciousness I am not only aware of my personal character, of my personal
habits and so on, but I am also aware of my own intentional acts and of my
character as more or less understandable and understood, or more or less
mis-understandable and misunderstood, by others. (For further analyses of
social acts see below, section 13 and following.)
19. Cf. Hua XIII, editor’s introduction xliii-xlvi.
20. The story of the return of Odysseus from Troy has been written down form
about 600 B.C., but has roots going back to the time of about 1200 BC.
21. Hua XIII, Nr. 10, “Studies on Intuitive Representification: Memory, Phan-
tasy, Image Representification, with Special Attention to the Question of
the Representified Ego and the Possibility of Making Other Egos Present,”
22. Hua XIII, 528, textual note to p. 298.
23. Cf. Hua XIII, 292; see also Hua XXIII, Phantasy, Image Consciousness,
Memory, and the editor’s introduction.
24. Cf. Hua XIII, Text Nr. 13 (1914 or 1915), 335ff., and the editor’s introduc-
tion to that volume, xxv f.
25. This word appears in French in the original.
26. Ms. K III 6, p. 251a.
27. Ms. E III 2, probably from 1915: “Motivation ist etwas Individuelles” (my
transcription, p. 53), “motivation is individual in kind.”
28. In 1916, Husserl gave his manuscripts for Ideas II to Edith Stein, who, using
still other manuscripts, transcribed them by handwriting and put them in
systematic order. She wrote a few sentences of her own to link up the differ-
ent parts. She hoped that Husserl would read and amend them for publica-
tion, but he was occupied with other matters. In 1924, Husserl’s assistant
Ludwig Landgrebe wrote a typescript copy of Stein’s manuscript. Volume IV
of Husserliana is a publication of this typescript. Dirk Fonfara of the Husserl
Archives in Cologne has prepared a critical edition of Ideas II under the title
Urfassung von Ideen II und Ideen III (Original Version of Ideas II and Ideas
III), going back to Husserl’s own manuscripts as far as they can be found
in his literary remains. This volume of Husserliana will appear in the near
29. “Gemeingeist I.” “Gemeingeist” in Husserl’s use of the term is not a common
concept. A possible English translation could be “the mind in the commu-
nity.” My guess is that the German word comes from the sociologist Ferdi-
nand Tönnies (1855–1936). His once well-known work Gemeinschaft und
Gesellschaft (1887, English translation as Community and Society, 1957)
was studied by Husserl. Cf. Hua XIV, 182.
30. Cf. Hua XIV, editor’s introduction, xviii-xxiv, and above in the introduction.
31. Hua XIX/1, chapter 1, §7, “Expressions in Their Communicative Func-
tion,” 39–41.
32. Under the signatures A I 17 and A I 18 in the Husserl Archives in Leuven.
33. Under the signature M III 2 8a, 39–81 in the Husserl Archives in Leuven. Cf.
Hua XX/2, 33, 37, 41, 44, where these titles appear as §§3–6 respectively.
88  Iso Kern
34. The second edition of the Logical Investigations appeared without the Sixth
Investigation. Husserl had also written a new text of this investigation for
this second edition, but when he read the proofs of this new text, he was
unsatisfied with it and rejected it. He never published his revision because
he was later occupied with other problems. He entrusted Ludwig Landgrebe
with this and other newer logical texts for the preparation of a publica-
tion, but then he rejected Landgrebe’s proposals. When in 1928 Husserl read
Landgrebe’s comprehensive arrangement of newer logical texts, he wrote
an introduction for it and published it as Formal and Transcendental Logic
(Hua XVII) in 1929. Landgrebe published his comprehensive arrangement
of Husserl’s newer logical texts in 1939 under the title Erfahrung und Urteil
(English translation 1973, Experience and Judgment).
35. Ingarden 1994, 211 (originally published as Ingarden 1921).
36. Cf. the fourth version of the article for the Encyclopedia Britannica (Hua IX,
37. Hua XV, Text Nr. 34, “Universal Teleology: The Intersubjective Drive,

Encompassing Each and Every Subject, Viewed Transcendentally. The Being
of the Monadological Totality,” 593–597.
38. See Ethics and Theory of Value (1908–1914) (Hua XVIII), the lectures Intro-
duction to Ethics (1920 and 1924), and the ethics he published in his article
in the Japanese journal Kaizo on “Renewal as a Problem of Individual Eth-
ics” (1924) (Hua XXVII, 20–42). Elements of his personal ethics of love can
also be found in a text, written around November 13th, 1931, and entitled
“Teleology” by Husserl (in Hua XV, Beilage XXIII; see below, section 29)
and in section IV (“Reflections on Ethics from the Years in Freiburg”) in Hua
XLII, Limit Problems of Phenomenology: Analyses of Unconsciousness and
Instincts, Metaphysics, Late Ethics (Texts from the Estate, 1908–1937), in
the Beilagen XXIV, XXII, Nr. 25 and Beilage XXXIII.
39. Cf. Hua XIV, editor’s introduction, xviii-xxiv.
40. On the same topic, see also Hua XIV, 207–217, Beilage XXVI, “Common
Mind II: Cultural and Communal Life,” written in autumn 1922.
41. Concerning the objectivity and intersubjectivity of aspects, see also Hua XIV,
Text Nr. 13 (January/February 1922), 250–256.
42. “The New Formation of a Suitable Horizon with Suitable Formal Structure”
(Hua XIV, 119).
43. See the essay “Salomos Ring” in Lorenz 1964, 73.
44. See above, section 6.
45. Ms. B III 10, p. 12a/b, transcription, p. 13.
46. Hua IV, 276. Cf. Kern 2003.
47. I have attempted to say something about this belief in my paper “Trinity:
Theological Reflections of a Phenomenologist” (Kern 1986).
48. Husserl believed in God, but, as he said, he had no theology.
49. Husserl refers here to “Common Mind I” from the year 1921. See above,
sections 22 and 23.

Bernet, Rudolf, Iso Kern and Eduard Marbach. An Introduction to Husserlian
Phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1993.
de Warren, Nicolas. “Tamino’s Eyes, Pamina’s Gaze: Husserl’s Phenomenology
of Image-Consciousness Refashioned.” In: Carlo Ierna, Hanne Jacobs and
Filip Mattens, eds., Philosophy, Phenomenology, Sciences. Phaenomenologica.
Dordrecht: Springer, 2010, 303–332.
Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity 89
Husserl, Edmund. Méditaions Cartésiennes. Paris: A. Colin, 1931.
Husserl, Edmund. Erfahrung und Urteil: Untersuchungen zur Genealogie der
Logik. Ed. by Ludwig Landgrebe. Prague: Academia and Verlagsbuchhand-
lung, 1939.
Husserl, Edmund. Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a Genealogy of
Logic. Translated by K. Ameriks and J. Churchill. Evanston, IL: Northwestern
University Press, 1973.
Husserl, Edmund and Roman Ingarden. Briefe an Roman Ingarden: Mit Erläu-
terungen und Erinnerungen an Husserl. Phaenomenologica 25. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1968.
Ingarden, Roman. “Über die Gefahr einer Petitio Principii in der Erkenntnistheo-
rie.” Jahrbuch Für Philosophie Und Phänomenologische Forschung 4 (1921),
Ingarden, Roman. Frühe Schriften zur Erkenntnistheorie. Ed. by Wlodzimierz
Galewicz. Gesammelte Werke 6. Tübingen: De Gruyter, 1994.
Kern, Iso. Husserl und Kant: Eine Untersuchung über Husserls Verhältnis zu
Kant und zum Neukantianismus. 2nd ed. Phaenomenologica 16. The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1978.
Kern, Iso. Idee und Methode der Philosophie: Leitgedanken für eine Theorie der
Vernunft. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1973.
Kern, Iso. “Review of Edmund Husserl, Natur und Geist: Vorlesungen Som-
mersemester 1927.” Husserl Studies 19/2 (2003), 167–177.
Kern, Iso. “Trinity: Theological Reflections of a Phenomenologist.” In: Steven W.
Laycock and James G. Hart, eds., Essays in Phenomenological Theology. New
York: SUNY Press, 1986, 23–38.
Kern, Iso. “Zwei Prinzipien der Bewusstseinseinheit: Erlebnis und Zusammen-
hang der Erlebnisse.” Facta Philosophica 2 (2000), 51–66.
Kern, Iso and Eduard Marbach. “Understanding the Representational Mind:
A Prerequisite for Intersubjectivity Proper.” Journal of Consciousness Studies
8/5–7 (2001), 69–82.
Lipps, Theodor. Ästhetik: Psychologie des Schönen und der Kunst. Hamburg:
Verlag von Leopold Voss, 1903.
Lipps, Theodor. “Weiteres zur Einfühlung.” Archiv Für Die Gesamte Psychologie
4 (1905), 465–519.
Lorenz, Konrad. Er redete mit dem Vieh, den Vögeln und den Fischen. München:
Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1964.
Misch, Georg. Lebensphilosophie und Phänomenologie: Eine Auseinanderset-
zung der Diltheyschen Richtung mit Heidegger und Husserl. 3rd ed. Stuttgart:
B.G. Teubner, 1967.
Schuhmann, Karl. Husserl-Chronik: Denk- und Lebensweg Edmund Husserls.
Dordrecht: Springer, 1977.
Tönnies, Ferdinand. Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft. Leipzig: Fues’s Verlag, 1887.
Tönnies, Ferdinand. Community and Society. Translated by U. P. Loomis. East
Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1957.
Part I

and Methodology
2 Husserl on (Intersubjective)
Christian Beyer

1. Introduction
Intersubjective experience plays a decisive role in Husserl’s account of
what he calls the constitution of the environment (surrounding world, in
German: Umwelt) in general and of the objective spatio-temporal world
in particular. In Ideas II he refers to the environment insofar as it is con-
stituted in “mutual understanding and mutual agreement” as the “com-
municative environment” (Hua IV, 193). At first sight, this might look
like a conception of the surrounding world as formed by language. How-
ever, a closer look at Husserl’s conception of constitution reveals that it is
epistemic subjects who constitute the world in the first place, by means of
the epistemic consciousness involved in their communicative acts, among
other things. The main goal of the present contribution is to elucidate
the relevant notion of constitution. I start from the hypothesis that we
are dealing with an epistemological notion here (section 2). The idea that
the world constitutes itself in epistemic consciousness is closely linked to
Husserl’s conception of “transcendental idealism” and his arguments for
this position. Two of these arguments are reconstructed and discussed
in section 3, with an emphasis on their relation to Husserl’s analysis of
communicative acts, which closely resembles Paul Grice’ analysis of non-
natural meaning (and is considered further in section 6). Section 4 criti-
cizes an interpretation of Husserl’s notion of perceptual constitution that
is incompatible with the results arrived at in this connection. My own
interpretation of this notion is developed in section 5, in terms of what
John Perry calls “mental file processing.” In section 6, I answer the objec-
tion that the resulting conception leaves no room for the intersubjective
constitution of objective reality.

2.  “Constitution” as an Epistemological Notion

The term “constitution” is often used by Husserl, especially after his
“transcendental turn,” but he never really thematizes its content as such.
Fink rightly describes it as an “operational concept,” one with which the
94  Christian Beyer
author operates within his or her philosophical theorizing, without its
being explicitly introduced or explained, or reflected upon, but such that
the author’s use of this concept “shadows” the underlying method of phi-
losophy (Fink 1976, 186). Kern points out that after his transcendental
turn the “problem of the universal constitution” of the objects of “pure
consciousness” becomes central to Husserl’s thought (Kern 1964, 24).
Føllesdal stresses the intimate relation of Husserl’s concept of constitu-
tion to his notion of intentionality (Føllesdal 1998). More recently, he has
characterized this concept by the helpful circumscription “active struc-
turing,” (see Føllesdal 2016) which I will come back to. Ströker calls it a
“key concept” (Ströker 1987, 116) and says a bit more about its content:
In order to answer the question of “the constitution of reality,” we have
to investigate, in the attitude of epoché, into the justification we have for
the noetic (intentional) structures manifesting the universal belief regard-
ing the actual or “real”—a belief which underlies our natural attitude.1
So on Ströker’s interpretation, which I regard as well-supported by
textual evidence, the analysis of the constitution of reality has to take
the form of a meta-justification, where ‘justifaction’ is understood in an
internalist sense, as something that we have cognitive access to and that
we can make explicit from our first-person point of view. Here she agrees
with Kern, who stresses in addition that the Husserlian “question regard-
ing the justification of epistemic pretensions” at the same time concerns
the “possibility” of knowledge or cognition (Kern 1964, 26), an inter-
pretation which I share (see Beyer 2013). Furthermore, on Ströker’s read-
ing, the reality whose constitution is in question is what we take to be
the actual world and its elements. These two assumptions, internalism
about justification and the idea that the natural attitude beliefs, whose
justification and possibility conditions are at issue, concern the actual,
as opposed to other (non-existent) possible worlds, would play a central
role (along with the method of variation already to be found in Logical
Investigations), in at least one version of Husserl’s 1908 “proof” of what
he called “transcendental idealism,” to which I will return in a moment.

3. Husserl’s Arguments for “transcendental idealism” and

their Relation to his Account of Communicative Acts
Husserl had an ambivalent attitude toward this “proof.” He repeated a
version of it in his 1915 lecture “Ausgewählte phänomenologische Prob-
leme,” regarding which he would later (in the 1920’s, against the back-
ground of the more “genetic” approach he would take in Experience and
Judgment) say that the argument was suffering from the absence of the
doctrine of “experience (Erfahrung)” as habituality (cf. Hua XXXVI,
131, Fn. 1). I will return to this doctrine later. Also, he would say, in
the same critical note, that the whole proof was led “solipsistically, so
to speak,” without taking into account “the transcendental intersubjec-
tivity of constitution” (Hua XXXVI, 130). I do not quite understand
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 95
this latter self-criticism, because the lecture contains a section (§12) on
“empathy as a condition for the possibility of one and the same world
for a multitude of egos (für mehrere Ich),” in which he contends that the
“unity of the world” is constituted by “what we all collectively estab-
lish empirically, communicating our experiences,” using “possibilities of
mutual understanding (in the framework of endless time, also possibly by
tradition).” (Hua XXXVI, 123) In any case, it is noteworthy that Hus-
serl regards the proof as incomplete as long as it fails to make recourse to
intersubjectivity and communication.
On the other hand, he suggests, in the self-critical note referred to, that
the 1915 lecture contains the “lower level (Unterstufe), as transcendental
idealism, of the primordial sphere and [is] to be complemented by an
upper level” of constitution, or constitution analysis (Hua XXXVI, 130).
Experience as habituality and transcendental intersubjectivity suggest
themselves. So what does the proof look like?
There is more than one version of it.2 The following version captures the
central idea, i.e., the correlation between real existence and real epistemic pos-
sibility, and (at least at first glance) it admits of a “solipsistic” interpretation:

Husserl’s “formal general proof of transcendental

idealism” (1914/15)
P1: (1st correlation thesis): If a contingent object (possible world, indi-
vidual thing, state of affairs involving such a thing; cf. Hua XXXVI,
139f) A is real (really exists), then the real (as opposed to the merely
logical) possibility obtains to acquire (empirical) knowledge regard-
ing A (“rechtmäßige Erkenntnis von A”) (Hua XXXVI, 138, l. 35f).
P2: (2nd correlation thesis): If a contingent object A does not exist,
then the real possibility to acquire knowledge regarding A does not
obtain (Hua XXXVI, 138, l. 36f). (For, otherwise the acquisition of
knowledge regarding A would be “compatible with the non-existence
of the object of knowledge (verträglich mit der Nichtexistenz des
Erkannten), which is a contradiction.” Hua XXXVI, 138f.) (Note
that Husserl here uses “Erkenntnis” as a success term, and that he
takes the real possibility of Erkenntnis to be tantamount to (the
possession of) knowledge.)
C1: (strong correlation thesis): Hence (by P1 and P2, by way of contra-
position) a contingent object A exists iff the real possibility obtains
to acquire knowledge regarding A.
P3: The real possibility to acquire knowledge regarding a contingent
object A “requires” an “epistemic subject (Erkenntnissubjekt),”
which “either experiences A, or acquires knowledge regarding A on
the basis of experience, or else has the practical possibility (or the
practical ability) to experience A and acquire knowledge regarding
it.” (Hua XXXVI, 139)
96  Christian Beyer
C2: Hence (by C1 and P3—also by P1 and P3; P2 is redundant): The
existence of a contingent object A requires “the necessary co-existence
of a subject either acquiring knowledge (eines erkennenden)”
regarding A “or having the ability to do so (erkenntnisbefähigten).”
(Hua XXXVI, 139f)

By a “real possibility,”3 Husserl understands a possibility that is such

that “something—more or less—‘speaks in favour of it’ (‘für die etwas
spricht’ und bald mehr, bald weniger spricht).” (Hua XX/1, 178) Real
possibilities are, in other words, more or less motivated possibilities;
and—here comes the crucial point—Husserl understands motivation in
such a way that it is always someone who is motivated a certain way. His
explanation of the concept of motivation runs as follows:

[H]ow did I hit upon that, what brought me to it? That questions like
these can be raised characterizes all motivation in general.
(Husserl 1989, 234, with translation change;
Hua IV, 222)

There is no motivation, and thus no real possibility to acquire knowledge,

except for a subject who can raise questions such as the one formulated in
the first sentence of this quotation. This is why Husserl subscribes to P3.
However, formulated in this way, such questions do not take into
account other subjects of motivation. Yet Husserl at least stresses that
there are grades of real possibility—he talks about something “more
or less” speaking in favor of a possibility in this connection (see last
paragraph). If other subjects’ motivations are additionally taken into
consideration, by means of empathy (see below), then the grade of real
possibility and justification should rise significantly, given Husserl’s holis-
tic view of justification (where ‘justification’ is understood in such a way
that there can be pre-predicative justification, in the form of rational pre-
judgmental motifs for corresponding acts of judgment).
Note that Husserl does not need the 2nd and the strong correlation
thesis, i.e. P2 and C1, in order to establish C2. C2 already follows from
P1 and P3, so that P2 is redundant.
It would seem, however, that P3 is too strong. Is it really necessary,
in order for a real possibility of knowledge regarding a real object, and
world, to obtain, that there actually be a (co-existent) conscious being for
whom it obtains? Husserl indeed thinks so. He explains his “transcen-
dental idealism” as follows:

The thesis of transcendental idealism runs: A nature without co-

existing subjects of possible experience [Erfahrung] regarding it is
unthinkable; possible subjects of experience are not enough.
(Hua XXXVI, 156)
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 97
Why are actual subjects of experience supposed to be necessary? Hus-
serl’s answer refers to the notion of full epistemic justification (or full
degree of real possibility)—a notion which he takes to be applicable (as
far as empirical consciousness is concerned) just in case of truth:

In order for [a thing of nature] to really exist, and thus in order for
the assumption that it exists to be reasonable or justified [berechtigt]
not merely in a restricted but rather in an unrestricted way, i.e. to
the fullest extent [voll und ganz], there must be an actual ego in [an]
whose experiences [. . .] the being of the thing manifests itself [. . .]
in such a way that nothing in the consciousness of this ego stands in
the way of this being by scoring it out [durchstreichend], and also in
such way that the course of experience [Bewusstseinslauf] of this ego
does not leave the being of this thing open.
(Hua XXXVI, 76f.)

Behind this lies a conception of full epistemic justification that is at

the same time internalist and non-fallibilistic—a combination of views
I regard as problematic, because only an omniscient subject would
seem to be in a position to possess such justification. While Husserl sees
his phenomenological work as paving the way to “the promised land”
(Husserl 1930, 570), he probably still does not intend his transcen-
dental subject to be conceived of as God-like . . . However, he believes
that there is a possible course of experience that would be sufficiently
justified to guarantee the actuality of the real world. This becomes
clear if you look at the following version of his proof, which is from
1908 or so.

Husserl’s “variation” proof of transcendental idealism

P1: For every logically possible world w there is a logically possible
course c of empirical consciousness such that the reality (/actual-
ity/existence) assumption regarding w would be holistically4 justi-
fied for the subject of c (in the light of c), in the sense of a “real”
(as opposed to a “merely logical”) “possibility,” (Hua XXXVI,
61) and such that if w is varied, then c varies accordingly, and
vice versa (cf. Hua XXXVI, 54; Hua XXXVI, 55f; Hua XXXVI,
117 ff).
P2: If the reality of a possible world were completely independent
of consciousness, then the covariation described in P1 could not
obtain. (For, if a and b exist5 independently from each other, then a
and b are “independently variable.”) (Cf. Hua XXXVI, 56)
C: Hence (by P1 and P2) the reality of a possible world is not com-
pletely independent of consciousness.
98  Christian Beyer
Note that in the final analysis the justification described in P1 turns out
to be intersubjective, on Husserl’s view, drawing upon empathy and com-
munication (cf. Hua XXXVI, 123; Hua XXXVI, 61). I shall come back
to this kind of justification in section 6 below.
One problem I see with the “variation” proof concerns Husserl’s sub-
stantiation of P2 (in brackets). He talks about independent existence and
claims that it implies the possibility of independent variation. That seems
fine as far as existent objects such as the stones a wall consists of (consti-
tuting its “pieces”) are concerned: They can be independently varied and
do not depend on each other, while the individual color-moment and the
individual moment of extension of a colored object, for example, which
cannot be varied independently, do ontologically depend on one another
(and on the whole comprising them). However, the “covariation” referred
to in P2 does not concern actual objects; it concerns “logically possible”
worlds and courses of experience. By Husserl’s own lights, these are not in
general existent. So the “consciousness” referred to in P2 (and the corre-
sponding subject of experience) is not represented in P2 as existing either,
and the dependence described in the conclusion of the argument (C) is not
true ontological dependence, which requires existence. Thus, the reality
of a possible world has not been shown to depend on consciousness in
any interesting sense, and the argument does not establish transcendental
idealism as defined by Husserl in the last but one quotation.
Husserl’s above-presented “formal general proof” is more difficult
to refute. I already indicated that its premiss P3 seems to me to be too
strong. To my mind, there may be real epistemic possibilities without
co-existing epistemic subjects. Husserl, by contrast, holds that real pos-
sibilities require a “substrate,” and “a merely logically possible subject”
cannot function as a substrate (Hua XXXVI, 139). Here Husserl relies
on a metaphysical assumption; he seems to regard real possibilities as
epistemic dispositions, or habitualities, rather than as possibilities for
acquiring such dispositions in cases where epistemic subjects would be
co-existing—as real higher-order possibilities, if you will. But does the
real existence of a world or object depend on a subject’s actual disposi-
tions, as the 1st correlation thesis (P1) would state under this reading?
Should the notion of real possibility not rather be interpreted in a weaker
sense, so as to yield a more plausible version of this thesis, in terms of real
higher-order possibilities? After all, Husserl himself stresses that “surely
no human being and no animal” must exist in the actual world (adding
that their non-existence would however already result in a “change of
the world”) (Hua XXXVI, 121).6 I think that these questions are to be
answered affirmatively, and that understanding the 1st correlation thesis
accordingly also fits in better with Husserl’s contention that the real pos-
sibilities in question:

[. . .] are motivated possibilities, whose motivation is to be found

somewhere in the whole of absolute consciousness—the actual
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 99
one—, i.e., in some empirical consciousness (among the multitude of
consciousnesses forming a communicative association [im kommu-
nikativen Verband stehender] or some ‘real’ individual consciousness
or other).
(Hua XXXVI, 61)

There may be something like collective intentionality, and it may be use-

ful to treat social institutions, communities and so on as bearers of inten-
tional states for certain purposes; but it hardly makes sense to regard a
“multitude of consciousnesses forming a communicative association” as
a substrate of mental dispositions of the relevant kind, yielding internal-
ist (and thus first-personal, cognitively accessible) epistemic justification.
Thus, we should not reconstruct Husserl as demanding such mental dis-
positions in order for the relevant real possibilities to obtain. Something
weaker should be required, such as real higher-order possibilities that
may remain unactualized but could be actualized by someone properly
taking into account a multitude of individual epistemic perspectives.
What exactly does it mean for a “multitude of conscionsnesses” to form
“a communicative association,” and in which sense can such a multitude be
regarded as belonging to “the whole of absolute consciousness,” as Husserl
puts it in the foregoing quotation? To answer this question, we ought to con-
sider (1) his notion of a communicative act, for presumably a communicative
association is a group of subjects capable of being related with one another
by such acts (or actually being thus related). Also, we should consider (2) in
which sense such an association may be part of the “whole of absolute con-
sciousness” studied in the context of phenomenological constitution analysis.
Ad (1). Communicative acts are social acts, such as speech acts. Like
Searle, Husserl offers an intention-based explanation of the notion of a
communicative act, anticipating the basic idea of Paul Grice’ definition
of non-natural meaning (Grice 1957), which also underlies Searle’s con-
ception of speech acts (see Searle 1965, sec. IV). The following quotation
from the manuscript Gemeingeist I (edited by Iso Kern) supports the
ascription of a Gricean view of communication to Husserl:

1) I do something with the intention that the Other takes notice

of it [es bemerkt], and in the expectation (and hence also in the
intention) that the Other behaves in such and such a way. But
this does not yet make a social act. The Other need not take
notice of my intention (I do not address him).
2) I do something in the expectation that the Other does something
and takes notice of my intention that he does it. Do I  thereby
already address him? I  address him if my main intention is to
tell him something [wenn ich in erster Linie die Absicht einer
Mitteilung habe]. I  convey something to him [gebe ihm etwas
kund]. If my wife puts an apple onto my hat so that I remember
to eat something before I leave, then I understand her intention.
100  Christian Beyer
Is that a telling [Mitteilung]? It certainly involves that she makes
known her intention [to me]. Another example: Gypsies leaving
branches at the crossroads, so that their fellows get informed
about the route taken—this ought to be described as a telling.
(Hua XIV, 166)

To be sure, to exclude cases of the type sketched by Husserl sub 1), Grice
does not only demand the intention of informing the addressee, or to
induce a belief in him or her, but also “the intention of inducing a belief
by means of the recognition of this intention.” (Grice 1957, 384) How-
ever, in Ideas II it becomes clear that Husserl lays down the same require-
ment (see Hua IV, 192).
Re (2): In which sense does a group of subjects mutually related through
such communicative acts belong to “the whole of absolute consciousness”?
The whole of absolute consciousness is the stream of consciousness whose
essential and rational structures are laid bare by myself, the subject taking
the phenomenological attitude; it thus belongs to a single subject. Husserl’s
foregoing “Gricean” analysis of the structure of communication arose in this
methodological context; so it is no coincidence that it is formulated in the
first person singular. Now according to this analysis, the content of a com-
municative or meaning-intention is that the Other—the addressee—takes
notice, or comes to believe, that thus-and-so by means of the recognition of
the intention to induce (or motivate) this belief in him or her. The aware-
ness of a mutual communicative relation therefore has the content that the
Other(s) do, or may do, something (like leaving branches at the crossroads)
“in the expectation (and hence also in the intention)” to make me believe
that thus-and-so by means of my recognition of the Other’s intention to
induce this belief in me. On Husserl’s view, this awareness has the form of
iterated, reflexive empathy (see Beyer 2006, 79): I empathetically ascribe
to the Other(s) an empathetic ascription of an intention to me. In this way,
communicative relations can be represented from the viewpoint of a single
subject, and on this basis the (actual or possible) subjects whose conscious
structures are thus represented (as containing acts of simple and iterated
empathy) acquire the sense of standing in such relations to each other, thus
forming a communicative association. They are constituted as such (in a
sense to be explained in more detail in sections 5f) in absolute consciousness
and contribute to its epistemic profile by being simultaneously constituted
as (actual or possible) partners in the mutual exchange of information.
In section 6 it will become clear that this makes possible an awareness of
the real possibility of mutual correction and broadening of perspectives
that contributes to the (“intersubjective”) constitution of spatio-temporal
Let us now return to Husserl’s conception of real possibility. Even in
the last but one quotation, in which Husserl refers to communicative
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 101
associations, he demands actual consciousness, which he seems to regard
as a conditio sine qua non for the obtaining of a real or “motivated
possibility.” I cannot help but thinking that Husserl is making a simple
mistake here. He assumes that:

Clearly, if the assumption regarding the existence of a particular thing

[. . .] is supposed to be reasonable, then the ideal [i.e., merely logical;
CB] possibility of a consciousness experiencing [erfahrend] that thing
is not enough, but rather an actually experiencing consciousness is
required, hence a really existing ego standing in an experiential rela-
tion to this thing.
(Hua XXXVI, 76)

There is a sense in which this is indeed true, but trivially so: Of course
there is no actual internalist justification without an epistemic subject,
just as there is no actual belief without someone having that belief. The
question is whether there is a sense in which real possibilities and corre-
sponding epistemic justifications regarding the actual existence of A may
obtain without there actually being a subject co-existing with A that pos-
sesses such justification. I do not see why not. The relevant notions of real
possibility and justification may be spelled out in terms of higher-order
possibilities, in the way indicated above, i.e., as possibilities for acquir-
ing mental dispositions to acquire knowledge in cases where epistemic
subjects would be co-existing with the world or object whose existence is
in question. I conclude that Husserl’s “formal general proof” should be
replaced by the following:

Modified “formal general proof”

P1: (1st correlation thesis): If a contingent object (possible world, indi-
vidual thing, state of affairs involving such a thing) A is real (really
exists), then the real (as opposed to the merely logical) possibility
obtains to acquire (empirical) knowledge regarding A.
P2: The real possibility to acquire knowledge regarding a contingent
object A requires the real higher-order possibility of an “epistemic
subject (Erkenntnissubjekt),” which would “either experience [. . .]
A, or acquire [. . .] knowledge regarding A on the basis of experi-
ence, or else [have] the practical possibility (or the practical ability)
to experience A and acquire knowledge regarding it.”
C: Hence (by P1 and P2): The existence of a contingent object
A requires the real higher-order possibility of “a subject either
acquiring knowledge (eines erkennenden)” regarding A “or having
the ability to do so (erkenntnisbefähigten).”
102  Christian Beyer
The real higher-order possibility in question concerns counterfactual
motivation and justification in the case of the existence of a subject co-
existing with A (where the truth of a counterfactual in the sense intended
does not imply the falsity of its antecedent). In order for environmen-
tal stimuli, perceptual and judgmental possibilities etc. to be there, and
to be ready to motivate epistemic subjects, there do not have to be co-
existing subjects. However, what would count as a real possibility of the
required sort is indeed dependent on epistemic subjects. It is dependent
on us, the phenomenological subjects reflecting about such counterfactual
situations—in other words: it depends on the “pure Ego.”7 In this sense,
the real higher-order possibilities entailed by the actual existence of A are
a function of the epistemic standards we—the phenomenologists—regard
as sufficiently justified for a counterfactual subject, in the context of our
constitution analysis; with these possibilities resulting in a certain way
A is structured. It is this idea that I take to be the true core of Husserl’s
transcendental idealism, regarding which I consider the unmodified “for-
mal general proof” to be an overstatement. This brings me back to the
notion of constitution, conceived of as “active structuring.”

4. Sokolowski’s Interpretation of Husserl’s

View on Perceptual Constitution
Before returning to the latter idea, I would however like to discuss briefly
a claim defended by Sokolowski in his book on this notion, because its
truth would threaten the thesis that for Husserl there is a reality inde-
pendent from co-existing subjects. For, if there is such a reality, then on
Husserl’s view it ought to have a specific sort of impact on epistemic sub-
jects in cases in which there are such subjects. After all, Husserl regards
the idea, sometimes associated with Kant, that there are things whose
essence does not prescribe a certain way of being given as “nonsense.”
(Hua Materialien III, 171) Thus, in Ideas I he claims that spatial things
can by their very nature only be given through “adumbrations,” (Hua
III/1, 88) which include what he refers to as “sensual hyle.” However,
Sokolowski argues that in the course of his development of the notion of
constitution Husserl would give up the corresponding “hylemorphistic”
view of the perception of spatial things (in favor of a view on which per-
ceptual awareness is a higher form of temporal awareness).
Regarding Husserl’s conception of the constitution of empirical reality,
Sokolowski contends:

[I]f we were to descend into the sphere of temporality, we would [on

Husserl’s view; CB] see that the distinction between noesis and hyle
does not hold. [. . .] When he introduces his theory of genetic consti-
tution, [. . .] Husserl will finally drop the distinction between noeses
and sensations.
(Sokolowski 1964, 142f)
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 103
But Sokolowski does not give a quotation to support this claim, and the
role of the hyle is still thematized in Husserl’s 1925 lectures Phänome-
nologische Psychologie, where Husserl subscribes to the same view
of hyle and its “spiritual” forming (Vergeistigung) in perceptual con-
sciousness as in Ideas I (Hua IX, 166f). Also, from the fact, stressed by
Sokolowski (also see Mohanty 1995, 60), that there is no hyle involved
at the level of temporal awareness (which is because there is no “adum-
bration” to be found at this level, as already stressed in Ideas I), it
certainly does not follow that it plays no role at the level of perceptual
consciousness (of spatial things). It is consciousness (including what
makes perceptual experience conscious), rather than the perceptual
environment, that constitutes itself in temporal awareness, on Hus-
serl’s view.
True, there is a 1909 manuscript on the relationship between per-
ception and phantasy (to be found in a Husserliana volume edited by
Eduard Marbach) in which Husserl states that “it is not the case that,
starting with the case of perception, considered as a concrete experience,
we find a color in it as the content of apprehension and then also the
character of apprehension, constituting the appearance” (Hua XXIII,
265), and also that he “gives up the identification of impression and
impressional content” as it was drawn in Logical Investigations (Hua
XXIII, 267). These statements have been cited in the literature to sup-
port the claim made by Sokolowki (Mohanty 1995, 59). However, if
you read them in context, it becomes clear that Husserl does not let his
hylemorphistic view of perception go by the board here (and also that
he misinterprets his own earlier view from Logical Investigations): He
continues to characterize the “color adumbration (Farbabschattung)” as
a “content of apprehension (Auffassungsinhalt)” (Hua XXIII, 267), but
points out that such sensual adumbrations essentially differ from their
reproductive modifications, called “phantasmata.” (Hua XXIII, 267)
This last point is indeed a modification of his earlier view (a clear pres-
entation of which is found in “Intentionale Gegenstände,” for example).
But it does not affect his hylemorphistic view of perception. I conclude
that one of the central claims of Sokolowski’s study is unjustified; we
can stick to the thesis that for Husserl there is a specific impact (in the
sense of a peculiar mode of being given) of mind-independent things as
such on the mind, and that it is constituted by what he refers to as sen-
sual hyle and adumbration.

5. Constitution as Active Structuring

of the (Actual) World
Now to the conception of constitution as “active structuring.” This can
be spelled out along the lines drawn by Husserl in Experience and Judg-
ment, in such a way that Husserl’s “idealistic” notion of the actual world
becomes clarified further as well.
104  Christian Beyer
According to Husserl, empirical consciousness is always embedded in
a holistic structure, what Husserl calls its “intentional horizon,” whose
future elements are predelineated (in part) by the noematic sense of the
respective act. For example, if you consciously see something whose
front side you are visually confronted by as a house, then you will
“anticipate”8 visual appearances of a backside and an inside, respec-
tively, as future experiences you would undergo if you walked inside
or walked around the object while observing it. As Husserl explains,
the anticipations in question concern the way the represented object
would present itself in the framework of further courses of experience
compatible with what is currently experienced, and they also concern
the way this object relates to other objects in the world, thus consti-
tuting the core of your current world horizon, what Husserl calls the
“external horizon (Außenhorizont)” (Husserl 1999, 28f) of the expe-
rience (see below). This world horizon is correlated with your corre-
sponding real possibilities regarding (what you take to be) the actual
world. When the anticipations in question are intuitively fulfilled, in
the sense that a pre-predicative experience of (what seems like) verifi-
cation occurs, then your individual concept associated with the object
in question, what Husserl sometimes calls “Begriff,” will change—
provided you make, at the level of predicative experience, a judgment
that is motivated accordingly:

The judgment-substrate in its logical sense, as it [sc. the judgment-

substrate; CB] has acquired it [sc. that logical sense; CB] by the
activity of predicative determination, constitutes one concept of
concept [. . .].
(Husserl 1999, 277)

These individual concepts may be looked upon as variable or dynamic

systems of belief about a particular object, what Perry refers to as “men-
tal files,” (cf. Perry 1980) and they (i.e., their respective current version)
influence the further course of predicative experience:

We speak of a sedimentation of sense regarding the object [Sin-

nesniederschlag am Gegenstand]. That is to say: Just like any step of
receptive [i.e. pre-predicative; CB] experience, every step of predica-
tive judging has its lasting result. It generates [stiftet] habitualities
which influence the further course of actual judging in a great variety
of ways.
(Husserl 1999, 250)

The identification of a “concept” in the present sense of the term with a

mental file à la Perry is supported by the fact that Husserl characterizes
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 105
such individual concepts as being infinitely “open” and “in flux.” (Hua
XX/2, 359)9 Note that the elements of these concepts or files involve a
sense of identity through time, which holds them together:

I see an object without a ‘historical’ horizon [footnote: without a

horizon of acquaintance and knowledge], and now it gets one. I have
experienced the object multifariously, I have made ‘multifarious’
judgments about it and have gained multifarious [pieces of] knowl-
edge about it, at various times, all of which I have connected. Thanks
to this connection I now possess a ‘concept’ of the object, an indi-
vidual concept[. . .] [W]hat is posited in memory under a certain
sense [mit einem gewissen Sinn] gains an epistemic enrichment of
sense, i.e. the x of the sense is determined further in an empirical way
(Hua XX/2, 358)

The “historical” horizon and the objects of the anticipations referred to

in the preceding quotation constitute the “internal horizon (Innenhori-
zont)” (Husserl 1999, 28) of the experience. They all belong to the same
“x of the sense,” also referred to by Husserl as the “determinable X,” i.e.
they share a sense of identity (of represented object) through time. Other
past and anticipated experiences also belonging to what Husserl calls the
“historical horizon” (or “experiential horizon [Erfahrungshorizont];”
Husserl 1999, 27) bring it about that your “ ‘concept’ of the object” is
networked with other concepts of (other) objects. They constitute the
“external horizon (Außenhorizont)” of the experience (see Husserl 1999,
27 ff.) and will (again, under appropriate epistemic circumstances) give
rise to (i.e., motivate) relational judgments.
In Experience and Judgment it becomes clear that by “constitu-
tion” (as opposed to passive “pre-constitution;” Husserl 1999, 119)
Husserl means an “activity (Tätigkeit)” (not to be confused with an
intentional action)10 of the experiencing subject in a process of expe-
rience aiming at knowledge; where knowledge, or truth, defines the
relevant interest of the subject leading it to pursue this activity.11 So
it occurs in a context of epistemic justification, which is why the phe-
nomenological analysis of constitution, or “elucidation of the origin
(Ursprungsklärung),” takes the form of a meta-justification.12 On my
interpretation, this activity consists, at the level of predicative expe-
rience (i.e., empirical judgment), in the processing of mental files or
individual concepts (see above); at the pre-predicative level, it consists
in the experiences motivating such (actual or potential) file processings,
such as, in Husserl’s paradigmatic case, the experiences occurring in
the course of the continuous observation of an object and its behavior
across a period of time.
106  Christian Beyer
6.  Intersubjective Constitution of Perceptual Objects
It might be objected that there is no room for intersubjective constitution
of objects in Husserl if (predicative) constitution is supposed to be mental
file processing in a context of epistemic justification, as the present inter-
pretation has it. After all, this processing takes place within the epistemic
system of a single subject. In reply, I would like to draw attention to the
following passages highlighting the crucial role that (reciprocal) inter-
subjective experience plays in connection with the constitution of the
perceptual environment:

Every Ego finds [. . .] things in its surroundings that he regards as

living bodies [die er als Leiber ansieht] but that he separates sharply
from his ‘own’ body as foreign bodies, such that there is an Ego, but
another one [aber ein anderes] that belongs to each such living body
[. . .]; an Ego that likewise [. . .] has [. . .] his current consciousness
and his dispositions; [an Ego] that likewise comes upon [vorfindet]
his surroundings of things [seine dingliche Umgebung] [. . .]; and
such that we [sic] regard the surroundings which the foreign [. . .]
Ego comes upon as—by and large—the same surroundings as our
[sic] own [und dabei sei die Umgebung, die das fremde . . . Ich vorfin-
det, im grossen und ganzen dieselbe wie unsere Umgebung] [. . .].
(Hua XIII, 115f)

Thus we all have the same ‘groups’ of perceptual possibilities that

can be connected with each other in unifying consciousness [die im
Einheitsbewußtsein miteinander verbindbar sind], [groups of percep-
tual possibilities] in which we all move by way of identification [in
denen wir uns alle identifizierend bewegen]; where we all continue
to make our own new experiences, but in such a way that we can
in general ‘adopt’ [‘übernehmen’] or acquire [zueignen] them from
one another by mutual understanding and generally make the same
identifications as the others etc. [dieselben Identifikationen im allge-
meinen vollziehend wie die anderen etc.]
(Hua XXVI, 214)

In these passages Husserl states that despite differences in our “expe-

riences” and “dispositions” (which correspond to different mental files
and actual or potential file-entries) we mutually take ourselves to gener-
ally make “the same identifications” about “—by and large—the same
surroundings,” and to be able to acquire from one another, “by mutual
understanding,” what each of us experiences for him- or herself. This
would mean that there is the real possibility of an intersubjective trans-
fer of predicative file-entries (and their pre-predicative counterparts),
by means of assertive communication and hence mutual empathetic
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 107
ascription of intentions (see section 3 above), concerning the same per-
ceptual objects.
But how can the underlying assumption of common perceptual “sur-
roundings” containing intersubjectively accessible, shared objects be
meta-justified? To answer this question means, at the same time, to
answer the objection that Husserl’s view of the constitution of the per-
ceptual environment amounts to a version of solipsism, according to
which I constitute my own world only. I propose that Husserl does offer
such an answer in his reflections about the conditions for the possibility
of mutual communicative understanding—a possibility we cannot but
regard as actualized if our communicative acts are to meet the conditions
of Husserl’s “Gricean” analysis sketched in section 3 above. Thus, in
Ideas II he writes:

The environment constituting itself in experiencing others, in mutual

understanding and in mutual agreement is designated as the commu-
nicative one. [. . .] Each person has, ideally speaking, within his com-
municative environment his egoistic one insofar as he can ‘abstract’
from all relations of mutual agreement and from the apperceptions
grounded therein, or, rather, insofar as he can think them separately.
(Husserl 1989, 203, with translation
changes; Hua IV, 193)

By implication this means that intersubjective experience (“experiencing

others”), mutual (communicative) understanding and mutual agreement
must be “constitutively” related to a non-solipsistic (or non-“egoistic”)
environment, including shared perceptual objects, for it is in these inter-
subjective phenomena (or the mental file processings they motivate) that
such an environment “constitutes itself.” (In Cartesian Meditations Hus-
serl explains that it is the very “appresentation of the Other” associated
with intersubjective experience that “necessarily” produces “the sense of
identity regarding ‘my own’ primordial nature and the representified one
belonging to the Other;” Hua I, 152; also see Hua I, 154.) For example,
in order for me to be able to understand (by means of empathy) another
person using the demonstrative ‘this’ to refer to a perceptual object, I can-
not but assume that my own environment and that of my communication
partner coincide, at least as far as the perceptual object referred to is con-
cerned; and the same goes, mutatis mutandis, for the speaker. The refer-
ent must be regarded by both of us as belonging to a shared environment,
despite inevitable differences between the individual files or notions we
associate with that referent. In the communicative situation both notions
must contain, or receive, an entry that identifies their object with the
object that the other person’s relevant notion concerns (see Beyer 2000,
160, headword: “intersubjective identity of determinable X”).
108  Christian Beyer
The proposed interpretation of the notion of constitution in terms of
file processing in contexts of epistemic justification suggests that in the
following passages from Ideas I, § 86 (titled “The functional problems
[Die funktionellen Probleme]”), where Husserl addresses the “problems
of the constitution of objects [. . .],” he is not least concerned with the
problem of “cognitive dynamics” (Kaplan), i.e. the question of what ena-
bles us to have particular objects and states of affairs in mind and keep
track of them through time—a problem that has prompted the introduc-
tion of the concept of mental file:

The greatest problems of all are the functional problems, or the prob-
lems of the “constitution of objects of consciousness.” They concern
the manner in which noeses, with regard to nature, for example, [. . .]
bring about [zustande bringen] consciousness of something in such
a way that it is possible for the objective unity of an object [Gegen-
ständlichkeit] to coherently “manifest itself (bekunden),” “prove
itself (sich ausweisen)” and to become “rationally” determined.
(Hua III/1, 196)

The aspect of function is the one that is central to phenomenology

[. . .]. The analysis, comparison, description, and classification adher-
ing [haftend] to isolated [einzelnen] lived experiences is replaced by
an inspection of the individual [experiences] under the ‘teleological’
aspect of their enabling function regarding ‘synthetic unity.’ The
inspection now focusses on the manifolds of consciousness which
are predelineated, so to speak, [. . .] by the noeses [. . .] belonging to
the lived experiences, such as, concerning the sphere of experience
[Erfahrung] and empirical thought, the multiform continua of con-
sciousness [. . .] being interconnected and belonging together by their
very sense [die durch Sinneszusammengehörigkeit verknüpft sind], in
that they are embraced in a unitary way by consciousness of one and
the same objective item that appears, intuitively manifests itself or
gets cognitively determined in different ways as time passes [bald in
der, bald in jener Weise]. It [i.e., the inspection; CB] tries to explore
how one and the same objective [. . .] unity [. . .] is [. . .] ‘meant,’
how quite various but essentially [wesensmäßig] required forms of
consciousness are correlated with the identity of what is meant [zur
Identität des Vermeinten gehören] [. . .].
(Hua III/1, 197)

However, what does it mean, in this framework, to constitute the “objec-

tive unity” of an object? To indicate the direction in which this question
can be answered, I shall finally return to the role of intersubjective experi-
ence in the “intersubjective constitution” (Hua VI, 171) of the elements
of the perceptual environment.
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 109
Husserl thinks that perceptual content (noematic sense) is often formed
by the results of pre-predicative experiences undergone in the process of
detailed observation, or “explication (Explikation),” of an object and
initiating mental dispositions or (as Husserl prefers to say)13 habitualities
of the experiencing subject, which could manifest themselves in predica-
tive entries into a mental file about that object:

With each stage of the process of explication, a sediment [Nieder-

schlag] of habitual pieces of knowledge [habitueller Kenntnisse] forms
itself with regard to the object of explication [an dem . . . Gegenstand
der Erfassung] that has been indeterminate [. . .] before. When the
process of explication in the mode of originality has run its course,
the object is persistently constituted as determined by the respective
determinations, even if it has sunk into passivity. It has acquired the
forms of sense originally constituted in the acts of explication as
habitual knowledge. Thus every explicating [hineingehende] exami-
nation of an object has a lasting result regarding that object [an ihm].
[. . .] From now on, it will be looked upon by the respective sub-
ject [. . .] as an object already known through these determinations,
which have been ascribed [zuerteilt] to it by explicating cognition.
That is to say: the new cognition, even if it [. . .] again takes the form
of an original perceptual presentation of the object, will [. . .] display
an essentially different sense-content than the former perceptions.
[. . .] [T]he sediment of the [. . .] former ascription of a determination
is now a component of the interpretive sense [des Auffassungssinnes]
of the perception.
(Husserl 1999, 137f)

While these rich perceptual contents or “interpretive senses” can in prin-

ciple be shared, they will in fact most likely differ from subject to sub-
ject, and even intra-subjectively as time passes, due both to the dynamic
nature of the individual concepts, and their pre-predicative foundations,
in which perceptual objects “constitute themselves,” and to their indi-
vidual differences.
However, when it comes to the perceptual environment and its ele-
ments, it is this very richness and perspectival nature of perceptual con-
tent whose implicit awareness allows for its intersubjective constitution
as “objective,” i.e. as transcending our perceptual experience and the
corresponding modes of appearance. Husserl writes:

As a subject of possible experiences, everyone has his own experi-

ences [. . .] But everyone [. . .] knows that he and his fellows are
related, in actual connexus, to the same objects of experience, such
that everyone has different aspects, sides, perspectives etc. of the
same objects, with these different aspects etc. however belonging
110  Christian Beyer
to the same total system of manifolds [Mannifaltigkeiten] that
everyone is constantly aware of (in the actual experience of one
and the same thing) [. . .] as horizon of possible experience of this
thing. With respect to [in Richtung auf] the difference between
things conceived in the way of their modes of appearance [Din-
gen im Wie der Erscheinungsweisen] regarding the way they appear
‘originally to myself,’ on the one hand, and the way they appear
when I ‘empathetically ascribe them to’ the Other [dem Anderen
‘eingefühlten’ Dingen], on the other hand, and even with respect to
the possibility of incoherences [Unstimmigkeiten] between my own
apprehensions and the ones I empathetically ascribe to the Other,
it holds for everyone that what he experiences truly originaliter
[originaliter] as a perceptual thing turns into a mere ‘representa-
tion of [Vorstellung von]’ or ‘appearance of’ the one objective being
[dem einen objektiven Seienden]. [. . .] As far as [the correlated; CB]
consciousness is concerned [bewußtseinsmäßig], ‘the’ thing itself is
actually [. . .] permanently [conscious as] a unity of the openly infi-
nite manifold of varying experiences and things experienced of and
by both myself and others [eigener und fremder Erfahrungen und
(Hua VI, 167)

In other words: Perceptual things are constitued as objective in the inter-

subjective (i.e., empathetic) experience of the respective thing as tran-
scending the rich manifold of “aspects, sides, perspectives etc.” belonging
to the “horizon of possible experience of this thing” of a single subject
experiencing the thing “originaliter” (i.e., in the mode of perception). The
greater the number of perspectives that are taken into account, the more
objective the perceptual thing becomes, as far as its constitution as an
element of the perceptual environment (or world) is concerned. This is
brought home to me by the intersubjective awareness of “the possibil-
ity of incoherence” between my own appearances or apprehensions and
those of the Other(s) with whom I stand in intersubjective “connexus.”
In the light of this manifold of perspectives, the notion of an “original
experience” of a thing in a single act of perception gets replaced by the
notion that my own perceptions are but “appearances” of that thing—
just like everyone else’s perceptions. ‘The’ thing, as it exists objectively in
the world, transcends all these individual perceptual perspectives, but it is
correlated with such a manifold of individual perspectives. This correla-
tion is not merely contingent but represents an aspect of the essence of an
element of the perceptual environment:

[We are not here dealing with] contingent facts; rather, it holds that
no thinkable human being [kein erdenklicher Mensch] [. . .] could
experience a world in modes of presentations different from the
Husserl on (Intersubjective) Constitution 111
ones we described in general terms as being always flexibly relative
[in der . . . unaufhörlich beweglichen Relativität], as a world that is
pregiven to [that human being] in his conscious life in community
with a world of coexisting human beings [in Gemeinschaft mit einer
Mitmenschheit vorgegebenen Welt].
(Hua VI, 168)

7. Conclusion
Transcendental phenomenology is a meta-epistemological project inves-
tigating into the essence and conditions for the possibility of epistemic
constitution and into the essential structure of a world thus constituted
as real. The essence of constitution turns out, in the course of this project,
to consist in mental file processing in contexts of epistemic justification.
The close connection Husserl sees between the notion of constitution
and transcendental idealism can be relaxed in terms of counterfactual
co-existence of epistemic subjects in whose stream of consciousness the
real world constitutes itself. On Husserl’s view, this constitution involves
the interplay between noesis and hyletic adumbration (pace Sokolowski).
It also involves intersubjective experience in general and communica-
tive acts (as analyzed by Husserl and Grice, involving iterated, reflexive
empathy) in particular. In this way a multitude of epistemic perspectives
is taken into account at various levels of constitution. Indeed, the connec-
tion with transcendental idealism ought to be relaxed, as Husserl’s argu-
ments for transcendental idealism, as they stand, are less than convincing.
(In particular, his central argument depends on a dogmatic metaphysical
assumption regarding real possibility, conceived as an epistemic capac-
ity.) Accordingly, he operates with a problematic conception of epistemic
justification. The true core of Husserl’s transcendental idealism is that
the actual or counterfactual epistemic capacities to be correlated with the
existence and actual structure of the real world are a function of the epis-
temic standards established as justified in the context of transcendental
phenomenological constitution analysis.14

1. The connection between justification and the content of the belief whose jus-
tification is in question is not always such that the justification we have for
a belief sheds light on the constitution of the object or state of affairs deter-
mined by its content. Thus, to use an example by Bolzano (Bolzano 1837,
§162, 192), the fact that in summer the thermometer stands higher than in
winter can be invoked to justify the belief that in summer it is warmer than
in winter, but that justification certainly does not help constitute the inten-
tional reference or object of the belief in question.
2. Cf. Hua XXXVI, texts 2 and 3 and the summary on pp. 60 f. as well as
text 6.
112  Christian Beyer
3. The first use of this term by Husserl that I am aware of was in his “Dingvor-
lesung,” summer term 1907 (Schuhmann 1977, 177; 3. August 1907); in that
lecture Husserl also discusses the “strata (Schichten) of thing-constitution”
for the first time (Schuhmann 1977, 106, 26. Juni 1907). In the same year,
Husserl starts using the terms “transcendental phenomenology” and “tran-
scendental subjectivity” and claims that “all objectivity” is “constituted” in
the latter (Schuhmann 1977, 108, September 1907).
4. Cf. Hua XXXVI, 118f (keyword: “höhere Harmonie”).
5. Note that for Husserl, only the actual world exists. So the quantifiers in (the
formal representation of) P1 need to be interpreted in a special way (e.g.
6. It should be mentioned that Husserl has later titled the paragraph containing
this remark with a big question mark (cf. Hua XXXVI, 121, fn. 2).
7. Cf. Hua I, 174: “The pure Ego is the final subject, the phenomenological
one, which is not subject to any suppression [Ausschaltung] and is itself the
subject of all eidetic phenomenological research.” (my translation)
8. For the close connection between anticipation and (internal) horizon, cf.
Husserl 1999, 26–36. For an insigthful interpretation of Husserl’s notion of
horizon, cf. Smith and McIntyre 1982, 227–265.
9. For further textual evidence supporting this identification, see the following
10. See Husserl 1999, 89 ff.—Note that constitution can take the form of inten-
tional action, but in the sphere of perception and empirical thought this is
the exception rather than the rule. So clearly, “constitution” does not mean
11. To be more precise, it is only at the level of predicative experience that the
subject’s epistemic interests take the form “of the will to knowledge (des Wil-
lens zur Erkenntnis);” cf. Husserl 1999, 92.
12. See Husserl 1999, 44; headword: “justification of the doxa (Rechtfertigung
der Doxa).”
13. Husserl reserves the term “disposition” for forces, tendencies etc. of sub-
stances as they are postulated in the framework of the “naturalistic attitude”
of science and empirical psychology.
14. This article was written at the Centre for Advanced Study (Oslo) in the
framework of the research group “Disclosing the Fabric of Reality—The
Possibility of Metaphysics in the Age of Science,” led by Frode Kjosavik and
Camilla Serck-Hanssen. I gratefully acknowledge the support. For helpful
comments, I would like to thank an anonymous reader.

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phänomenologische Forschung 11 (1930), 549–570.
Husserl, Edmund. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenom-
enological Philosophy, Second Book. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
Husserl, Edmund. Erfahrung und Urteil. 7th ed. Hamburg: Meiner, 1999.
Kern, Iso. Husserl und Kant: Eine Untersuchung über Husserls Verhältnis zu
Kant und zum Neukantianismus. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1964.
Mohanty, J. N. “The Development of Husserl’s Thought.” In: Barry Smith and
David Woodruff Smith, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Husserl. Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, 45–77.
Perry, John. “A Problem About Continued Belief.” Pacific Philosophical Quar-
terly 61/4 (1980), 317–322.
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The Hague: Nijhoff, 1977.
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ica. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1965, 221–239.
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A Study of Mind, Meaning and Language. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1982.
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Main: Klostermann, 1987.
3 Intersubjectivity
In Virtue of Noema, Horizon,
and Life-World
David Woodruff Smith

0. Prolegomena to a Husserlian Model

of Intersubjectivity
The structure of intersubjectivity appears with increasing prominence in
Husserl’s writing over half a century. In the course of this study, I develop
a reconstruction of key elements of Husserl’s analysis of intersubjectivity:
the phenomenology of intersubjectivity, in the intentionality or “constitu-
tion” of self, other, embodiment, and empathy; the ontology of intersub-
jectivity, in the structure of the collective “we”-subjectivity in the Umwelt
or Lebenswelt; and the logic of intersubjectivity, in the semantics of the
sense “I,” of “other I,” and of “we.”
We, you and I, find ourselves in a world, our Umwelt, in which we
experience ourselves: individually as “I”; together as “we”; and in rela-
tion to other beings such as “this dog” and “that tree.” Indeed, phenom-
enological reflection on our everyday experience (turning from the natural
to the phenomenological attitude) finds a nearly ubiquitous sense of this
togetherness in our familiar forms of perception and thought and action.
Accordingly, a rich structure of ideal noematic meaning defines the “con-
stitution” of subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and objectivity in our Umwelt.
That structure of meaning and world—featuring intersubjectivity in
several roles—is formed in the basic structure of intentionality. A subject
experiences or performs an act of consciousness bearing a structure of
noematic meanings (forms of sense, Sinn), which carry a horizon of fur-
ther possible noematic meanings, all playing their roles in our Umwelt,
or Lebenswelt. Within that structure—featuring you and I amidst natu-
ral and cultural things around us—we find intersubjectivity, in nearly
ubiquitous roles that feature relations of interdependence among us and
things in our surrounding world. The relevant forms of dependence bind
together the noematic meanings of “I,” “you” or “other I,” “we,” “this
tree (etc.),” and “this Umwelt.” And where these structures of meaning
are true to our environment, we find corresponding forms of dependence
among the “intended” beings in our Umwelt: you and I and we and this
tree and the many other things in our world.
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 115
This complex or “manifold” of meanings and objects of consciousness
defines the structure of intersubjectivity, on the proposed reconstruction
of Husserl’s model of intersubjectivity. (Husserl’s notion of a manifold, a
complex structured whole, plays a recurrent role in my reconstruction of
Husserl’s system in Husserl, D. W. Smith 2013; I assume the outlines of
this notion as we proceed.)

1. The Interdependence of Subjectivity,

Intersubjectivity, and Objectivity
There is a Eucalyptus tree across the street. The tree is there, in the world.
It is there for me, as I look at it. It is there for you, as you look at it. It
is there for us, for anyone, should she or he or we look at it, and so it is
there for everyone, experienceable by one and all. Indeed, it is available
to our collective perception, as several of us may look upon the same
object in a group.
These phenomena of being-there, being-there-for-me, being-there-for-
you, and being-there-for-everyone are interdependent, or mutually
dependent. Arguably, the three phenomena form what Husserl would call
a precise (prägnant) whole, that is, a unity in which each part depends
on each other part. This interdependence defines our being together in
the world—the tree and you and I, together in the world, in our common
surrounding world, or Umwelt.
There is thus an interdependence among the sense of “I,” the sense
of “other I” i.e. “you” or “she” or “he,” and the sense of “this object”
e.g. “this tree.” This structure of interdependent meanings defines a
certain formation: <subjectivity, intersubjectivity, objectivity>. In Hus-
serlian idiom, the “constitution” of self and other and surrounding
world forms a holistic phenomenological structure, a pattern of mean-
ing. This pattern is formed at the level of acts of consciousness, the
level of noematic meanings, and the level of essences of beings in the
To parody a familiar refrain, the “I see” can and does inform every
conscious visual representation (say) of “this tree”: in Husserlian terms,
the noematic structure of my experience is not a bald noematic sense
“this tree,” but rather a thetically modified form in “I see this tree.” Fur-
ther, the “you see” can empathically parallel every “I see,” and vice versa:
in principle, where “I see this tree,” I take it “you too can see this tree.”
And, accordingly, the “we see” can empathically inform every “I see.”
Hence, everything presented in my experience as (say) “this tree” is pre-
sented as “there for everyone”—for anyone to see and thus corroborate
its objective existence. And everything presented in my experience as
“there for everyone” is presented as “there for me” and “there for you.”
Of course, in my visual experience of “this tree,” the object is presented
as “there,” in the world, in the Umwelt.
116  David Woodruff Smith
All this obtains by the very sense of things: this tree is “there” (= objec-
tivity), is “there for me” (= subjectivity), and is “there for everyone”
(= intersubjectivity). Each of these three forms of meaning or noematic
sense implicates each of the others. Thus, Husserl sometimes speaks of
a “pairing” of the sense “I” and the sense “other I.” Following Husserl,
Edith Stein elaborates more pointedly on this structure of “I” and “other
I,” as the heart of empathy (Einfühlung), wherein I apprehend another
and her/his form of experience as she/he lives it. Furthermore, the sense
of an object extant in the world, “this tree” as “there for everyone” with
perceptual “evidence” of its actuality, is part of a unified configuration
of meaning or sense: <“I,” “other I,” “this [objectively existing] tree”>.
The phenomena of subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and objectivity—in
the form of being there-for-me, being there-for-everyone, and being there
simpliciter—are thus interdependent: bound together by virtue of the
noematic sense of things. That circle of interdependence is what we shall
explore here. Husserl’s texts suggest this interdependence, we shall see,
albeit in dense and rather cryptic prose. . . . By the way, all “science” is
practiced intersubjectively, and phenomenology is a “science,” the sci-
ence of consciousness as lived. So the phenomenon of intersubjectivity
already informs the very practice of phenomenology.
However, we must distinguish two such circles or spheres of depend-
ence. On the side of phenomenology, there are the three forms of experi-
ence: my sense of the tree’s being there simpliciter, my sense of the tree’s
being there for me (being the object of my visual consciousness as I look
up on it), and my sense of the tree’s being there for you and for every
other subject (being the actual or potential object of another subject’s
visual consciousness as she or he looks upon the same tree). On the side
of ontology, by contrast, there are three forms of being: the tree’s being
there, simpliciter, independently of its being actually veridically intended
in anyone’s consciousness; the tree’s being there for me, in veridical inten-
tional relation to my visual consciousness; and the same tree’s being there
for everyone, potentially in intentional relation to others’ experience as
well. Accordingly, intentional relations to objects such as the tree—actual
or potential relations of intentionality—take their place in the Umwelt,
with mutual dependencies among them. And so we find aspects of inter-
subjectivity both within consciousness (as appraised in phenomenology)
and within the network of objects and subjects in our surrounding world
(as appraised in ontology).
Husserl’s methodology of epoché or bracketing involves a movement
back and forth between the ontological and the phenomenological:
between the Umwelt and its “constitution” in consciousness—its subjec-
tive and intersubjective modes of “constitution.” Husserl occasionally
speaks of a “zigzag” (Zickzack) methodology, a kind of methodologi-
cal “circle” as we seek to analyze the intentional interrelation between
our world and our consciousness of things in our world. (See Husserl
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 117
1935–1938/1970, Crisis, § 9 (l), p. 58.) This zigzag has the flavor of a
Gestalt shift back and forth between the natural attitude (focused on
things in the world) and the phenomenological attitude (focused on our
consciousness of things in the world). (This shift arises similarly in a
Tarskian theory of truth: see D. W. Smith 2013, 261ff, 2016a, 2016c.
Also, this shift is comparable to the pattern of justification whereby we
move back and forth between a claim about the world and the varying
experiences that afford evidence for the truth of the claim: see Føllesdal
1988 on the pattern of “reflective equilibrium” sought between varying
evidence from different perspectives.)
In Husserl’s account of intersubjectivity, then, we encounter the vex-
ing issue of the relation between consciousness and its objects, especially
things in nature. This is the problem of how objectivity relates to subjec-
tivity and intersubjectivity—the problematic of “transcendental idealism”
and even “transcendental solipsism.” Attention to issues of ontological
dependence, I believe, offers a solution to these worries, on the heels
of attention to the (ontological) interdependence among experiences
of objectivity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity. In a world where con-
sciousness and objects in nature co-mingle, in nature or in our natural-
and-cultural Umwelt, there may be relations of dependence among you
and me and the tree, though our consciousness of the tree does not
“make” it exist. (See D. W. Smith 2013, 168ff on what I call “transcen-
dental relativity” as opposed to “transcendental idealism.”) Here, in any
event, we shall focus on the phenomenological circle of dependence.
Husserl’s three-dimensional focus on subjectivity, intersubjectivity,
and objectivity is brought out in my recent book, Husserl (2013). Here
I want to pursue the principle of their interdependence. In retrospect,
Husserl interpretation aside, these phenomena and their “semantic”
interdependence were key to my earlier book, The Circle of Acquaint-
ance: Perception, Consciousness, and Empathy (1989). Here we dig into
the phenomenological details charted especially in Husserl’s Ideas, Book
Two, which rests on Ideas, Book One: known as Ideas I and Ideas II.
Ideas I develops Husserl’s mature theory of intentionality: featuring the
noematic content, or ideal meaning (Sinn), of an act of consciousness,
which “predelineates” a horizon of further “motivated possibilities” of
meaning regarding the intended object of consciousness. Ideas II ampli-
fies the structures of meaning that define intersubjectivity. Thus, in the
reconstruction to follow, we explore ways in which the sense of self as
“I” both implicates and is implicated by the sense of other as “other I.”
(See Smith and McIntyre 1982 and D.W. Smith 2013 on Husserl’s model
of noematic sense and horizon. Compare Walsh 2016 on the role of
“motivation” in Husserl’s developing phenomenology, as the phenomena
of subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and objectivity are mutually “motivat-
ing.” It is fascinating to observe “the triangle composed of a person, his
society, and the shared environment” emerging—from the phenomena
118  David Woodruff Smith
themselves s’il vous plait—also in Donald Davidson’s essays in Davidson
2001, Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective, the phrase quoted from p.

2. The Emergence of Intersubjectivity

in Husserl’s Philosophy
Husserl’s concern with objectivity is evident in virtually all of his writ-
ings. In the Logical Investigations (1900–1901, revised 1913, 1920:
Husserl 2001), Husserl develops a complex system integrating principles
in logic, ontology, phenomenology, and epistemology. Subjectivity is of
course the theme of phenomenology, addressing consciousness and its
intentionality. The Investigations culminate in an analysis of the phenom-
enological features of objective knowledge, notably, the evidential char-
acter of “fulfillment” in perception and judgment. Intersubjectivity plays
an implicit role in that any well-formed, evidence-based judgment that
I can make is of a type that could be repeated by others: this repeatabil-
ity is but an eidetic variation on the essence of objectivity in judgment.
The structure of Husserl’s system in the Investigations carries forward
throughout his later writings (so I argue in D. W. Smith 2013). However,
the defining features of intersubjectivity—framing the objectivity of the
objects of subjective experience—Husserl elaborated explicitly only in
writings beginning around 1905 and leading up to Ideas I, II, and III (all
composed in 1912, Ideas I published in 1913, Ideas II and III published
only posthumously: see citations in Bibliography below). It is helpful to
trace the developing issues as we prepare to turn to Ideas II, where Hus-
serl evokes the pattern of interdependence specified above: among the
senses of objectivity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity. We note that Hus-
serl wrote extensively on intersubjectivity in texts ranging from 1905 to
1935 (gathered and edited by Iso Kern in three large volumes, Hua XIII-
XV; see Iso Kern 2018, this volume, for commentary).
In On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time
(1893–1917) (Husserl 1991), Husserl parses the temporal flow of expe-
rience, especially a sequence of perceptions in the stream of conscious-
ness. When I hear a simple melody, Husserl finds, my current perceptual
experience consists in sensory impressions of the current tone joined
with retentions of just-past phases of hearing just-past tones and proten-
tions of upcoming phases of hearing imminent tones. The object of my
perception, the melody, is thus “constituted” in a complex structure of
passing experience, within my stream of consciousness. My experience
presents an objectively given object, the melody, as something I experi-
ence in a sequence of distinct experiences. In the Lectures of 1905 on
time-consciousness, other I’s and intersubjectivity make no appearance.
In the Supplementary Texts, though, in a text from about 1907 on “Lev-
els of Objectivity” (No. 40, p. 298), Husserl simply notes, as if for further
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 119
study: “Supervention of empathy in physical things taken as bodies. Body
and psyche (mind). My own I—the other I.” (here putting “I” for “Ego”
in the translation). The phenomenology should find that I experience the
time of physical things as objective and intersubjective, whereas the time
of my flowing experiences I experience as subjective, ordering experiences
in my own stream of consciousness. Husserl does not explicitly observe
this intersubjectivity of time in nature. However, this experienced charac-
ter of intersubjectivity emerges sharply in Husserl’s analysis of coordinate
structures in the consciousness of things in space. And, we know, the
structure of space and time characterize things in nature.
In lectures gathered as Thing and Space (1907: Husserl 1997), Husserl
emphasizes the way in which the same object, say, this tree, is presented
from different sides as I move around it. In successive phases of my
continuing visual perception the same object is presented with different
“appearances.” The tree is given objectively in this experience in that my
successive experiences present the same object with different appearances
from different spatial perspectives; each phase carries evidence, and each
fulfills expectations I have about how the tree will look as I walk around
it. “Other I’s” are mentioned briefly at the beginning of the space lectures
(p. 3): I find in the world other I’s, who could look upon the same things
I look upon—presumably confirming my perceptions, should we commu-
nicate about what the other I and I both see. Yet the full role of the “other
I’s” in my experience of objects in the Umwelt awaits further analysis.
At about this time Husserl folds into his system the “transcendental”
themes of “constitution.” In lectures forming The Idea of Phenomenol-
ogy (1907: Husserl 1999), Husserl overviews his new discovery of “phe-
nomenological reduction,” the technique of epoché or “bracketing,”
presented as a methodology for “transcendental phenomenology.” Here
Husserl again aims at objectivity in “the problems of the constitution of
objectivities of every kind within knowledge” (p. 69). Intersubjectivity is
on Husserl’s horizon here, as he begins to take notice of empathy (Ein-
fühlung). “In inner perception, in reflection in Locke’s sense, [perceptions
of a physical thing] are originarily given; in ‘acts of empathy’ in the mat-
ter of ‘noting’ such lived-processes in the external state of another, . . .
they are not given in an originary manner but rather in the manner of
presentiations . . .” (i.e. given as if originarily “present”) (p. 34). Empa-
thy has arrived on Husserl’s scene. And, indeed, the full force of empa-
thy in the intersubjective constitution of things in our common Umwelt
emerges in subsequent lectures.
In The Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1910–1911: Husserl 2006),
still more introductory lectures on the nature of phenomenology, we find
intersubjectivity at the fore, tying together detailed results on conscious-
ness of time, space, and now other I’s. The lectures begin with Husserl’s
account of “the I,” the lived body (Leib), its spatial-temporal surround-
ing world, and “the other I” given in empathy (§§1–4, pp. 1–5). In my
120  David Woodruff Smith
Umwelt, Husserl notes, I “see” other I’s “in the manner of empathy”
(p. 5). I see the other I as a center of orientation on the world, just as I, in
my lived body, am a center of orientation for my perceptual experience of
things in space around me. Thus, “All I’s apprehend themselves as relative
middle points [of orientation] of one and the same spatial-temporal world
that in its indeterminate infinity is the total surrounding [world] [Umwelt]
of each I.” (p. 6). Thus, you and I see the same tree as oriented respectively
toward me and toward you, toward me as presented in my visual expe-
rience and toward you as presented in your experience. In this way the
same object is presented subjectively to each I, and presented to each I as
intersubjectively available to other I’s. Further, I experience my lived body
as that through which by will I move about in the world, say, when I walk
around the tree to look at its backside; and I apprehend your lived body
similarly as your vehicle of willing perambulation. Here we see the core of
Husserl’s conception of intersubjectivity at the center of objectivity, that is,
the objectivity of things in nature as experienced in everyday perception.
Husserl often referred to this text, sometimes as “Lectures on Intersubjec-
tivity” or “Lectures on Empathy and Expanded Reduction” (as Iso Kern
has observed, so cited in the Translators’ Preface, p. XIII). These lectures
set the scene for Husserl’s second magnum opus: the Ideas, in three Books,
known now as Ideas I, Ideas II, and Ideas III (per Bibliography below).
The concerns of self and other and objectivity cum intersubjectivity
reappear—amidst deep methodological concerns—in Husserl’s late works,
Cartesian Meditations (1929, 1931: Husserl 1960) and The Crisis of Euro-
pean Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1935–1938: Husserl
1970). Husserl’s late writing is well grounded, I find, in the intricacies of
Ideas II. In these works we see Husserl’s analyses of how “we” together,
intersubjectively or communally, “constitute” things in the world around
us, our Umwelt or Lebenswelt. (See McIntyre 2012 on the “we-subject”
and how “we” together constitute things via our different perspectives.
McIntyre brings out these themes in Cartesian Meditations, together with
Ideas II and the Crisis, in ways resonant with the account I’ll bring out
from Ideas II. See the several essays in Fricke and Føllesdal, eds., 2012).
Beyond the texts gathered in Ideas II are the three large volumes of
Husserl’s writings on intersubjectivity (in Hua XIII-XV), edited by Iso
Kern. Husserl’s ramified analyses of intersubjectivity are detailed in notes
prepared by Iso Kern in “Husserl’s Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity”
(Kern 2018, this volume). My reconstruction of themes in Ideas II ampli-
fies the logic—or “semantics” as I see it—in the phenomenology of the
sense of “I,” of “other I,” of “we,” and of “our Umwelt.”

3.  Intersubjectivity through Empathy

Books One, Two, and Three of Ideas were written together (in the
summer of 1912). Husserl released only Ideas I for publication (1913:
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 121
Husserl 2014), but he had his Assistants revise Ideas II in some three
revisions over more than a decade, never releasing it for publication.
Withholding publication was unfortunate. For, whereas Ideas I outlines
Husserl’s grand vision for phenomenology, emphasizing his methodol-
ogy of “epoché,” the rich and detailed analyses in Ideas II ground the
higher-level claims of Ideas I—and, by my lights, block the impression
of a neo-Berkeleyan subjective idealism that has long afflicted the recep-
tion of Husserl’s phenomenology. In particular, intersubjectivity is clear
in Ideas I but is given proper analysis only in Ideas II, and the details
themselves are fascinating. There, I propose, we find a sharp if cryptic
statement of the interdependence in our experiences of objectivity, sub-
jectivity, and intersubjectivity. (Bibliography details are below for Ideas
I (1913: Husserl 2014), Ideas II (1912: Husserl 1989), Ideas III (1912:
Husserl 1980).)
We turn to Ideas II, noting the full title:

Ideas toward a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philos-

ophy: Phenomenological Investigations of Constitution.

The title was proposed by Edith Stein, the first of Husserl’s Assistants
to work on forming Husserl’s text into an edited version. Indeed, Stein
wrote her doctoral dissertation, On the Problem of Empathy (1916, pub-
lished 1917: Stein 1989), under Husserl’s direction. There we find a par-
ticularly sharp formulation of empathy as an intuitive apprehension of an
“other I” ’s experience. It is helpful to read Ideas II after reading Stein’s
own succinct analysis in Husserl’s wake. The notion of “constitution”
is key. As I understand it, the constitution of X (whatever sort of entity
that may be) is best defined as the formation of the complex structure or
“manifold” of meanings through which X is intended in various actual
or possible experiences. The phenomena of objectivity, subjectivity, and
intersubjectivity take their place, then, in a manifold of noematic mean-
ings. (See D. W. Smith 2013 for a detailed explication of this conception
of constitution. My conception of constitution follows a “semantic” con-
ception of intentionality. See D. W. Smith 2016a, 2016c for an interpreta-
tion of Husserl’s conception of intentionality vis-à-vis Tarski’s conception
of truth-conditions.)
In Husserl’s phenomenological analysis, in Ideas II (building on the
1910–1911 lectures), the Leib is the central player in the structure
of intersubjectivity. My Leib is my “lived” body, as distinct from my
Körper, my physical or physiological body. To be precise, there is here
only one being: me or I. Thus, I am an embodied subject, a being with
distinguishable aspects or “moments.” As “pure I” (Ich), or subject of
consciousness, I experience or “live” acts of consciousness. As “soul” or
“psyche” (Seele), I have an ensouled or “animate” (beseelter) Körper. As
“man” or “human” (Mensch), I perceive and act in the world, through
122  David Woodruff Smith
my Leib. Thus am “I” an animate psychophysical being in nature, an
embodied, perceiving, acting subject. And as a “person” (Person) or
“spiritual I” (geistige Ich), I am a member of a cultural or “spiritual”
community, in which I interact with others, communicating through
speech, a social being in our communal culture or Geist. Accordingly,
the phenomenological method of epoché focuses on the aspect of “I” as
subject of consciousness, abstracting away from the “bracketed” aspects
of “I” as physiological, as psychological, as social, etc. (See Ideas II,
§§ 21 on “I as man,” 27–28 on “the pure I,” §§ 35–41 on Leib as “organ
of the will” and “center of orientation,” §§ 50–51, 55–59 on the “per-
sonal I” or “spiritual I.” D. W. Smith 1995 offers a detailed account of
these different aspects of “the I,” distinguishing phenomenological and
ontological forms at stake in Husserl’s full analysis.)
We say I have a body, or Leib. But we may just as well say I am my
body, or Leib, for I “live,” perceiving and acting, as this embodied sub-
ject in this surrounding world of nature. My Leib plays two fundamental
roles in my Umwelt, my “life-world” or Lebenswelt (as Husserl would
later call it). First, my Leib is the “center of orientation” in my percep-
tion of things around me, in that all things I perceive are perceived as in
spatial relation to me, “here,” where my Leib resides. Second, my Leib
is my “organ of will,” in that I move bodily by will, for example, as
I willingly walk to my right: as Leib I so perambulate. (See again Ideas II,
§§ 35–41.)
Importantly, we are here talking phenomenology: I experience the
world visually as centered on my body, my Leib, and I experience myself
kinesthetically as moving willfully when I walk, my body, my Leib, mov-
ing by my own free will. There is no malin genie in charge of my physical
movements, nor is there a disembodied mental ego who takes charge of a
separate physical thing, my Körper. Rather, “I” simply so move, I walk,
by my own will. Thus, my Leib is constituted in my stream of conscious-
ness as the center of orientation in my perceptual experience and as the
center of willed action in my bodily behavior. My experience of my Leib,
of myself as Leib, is so informed by such phenomenological noematic
meanings: “I,” “this body,” “my body,” given as located and moving
willingly about in space and in time, “here” and “now.” We stress this
phenomenology in order to forestall any suggestion that, on the Husser-
lian account, there are in the world several distinct individuals (or Aris-
totelian substances) called the “pure I,” the “soul,” the natural “body,”
the cultural or geistig “person.” Instead, on the Husserlian ontology of
self, there are distinguishable aspects or “moments” of the self, of me, the
being “I” am, moments that are prescribed by these forms of meaning or
sense. But here our focus is on the forms of experience of self and Leib.
(See D. W. Smith 1995 on the ontology of the I and the distinct moments
of the one I. On the semantic model of Husserl’s theory of intentionality,
a noematic sense prescribes, or if successful is satisfied by, an appropriate
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 123
object, in accord with certain conditions of veridicality: see Smith and
McIntyre 1982 for details, and compare D. W. Smith 2016a, 2016c on
truth-conditions in relation to epoché.)
Now, what goes for me goes for you: this reciprocity I understand
through empathy, wherein I experience you as “another I.” Things
around us in nature are there for me, living in or as my Leib, and they are
similarly there for you, living in or as your Leib. On Husserl’s account,
empathy begins fundamentally with experience of the lived body, my
experience of my Leib and my cognate experience of your Leib. Here
Husserl finds the heart of inter-subjectivity, in the form of the “lived”
body. We should find utterly familiar this phenomenological structure, as
we observe this parallel sensibility in the spatio-temporal situation where
you and I confront things around us in nature. But, as we are about to
see, Husserl finds here something less familiar: the interdependence of
my sense of my self (in my Leib) and my sense of the other’s self (in the
other’s Leib).
Though we are currently focusing on the Leib, we should keep in mind
that, in Husserl’s phenomenology of self and other, I am also a “person”:
a subject or “pure I,” embodied as a “man,” and also encultured as a
“person,” i.e. a social being, a member of a community. Thus, I experi-
ence myself as a “person” when I act in social interactions with other
persons; and through empathy I experience others not only as fellow
“men,” but also as fellow “persons”—not least when you and I talk with
one another. Our Umwelt is experienced intersubjectively as not only a
context of spatiotemporal things in nature, but also a context of social
interactions. We come back to this point below.

4.  The Pivotal Experience of Bodily Empathy

Consider empathy, Einfühlung: the intuitive apprehension of another’s
experience—literally, “feeling” one’s way “into” the other’s experience,
as if “in” the other’s place. Although the term “empathy” is familiar in
everyday English today, its history lies in philosophical theory. Following
David Hume, Adam Smith used the English term “sympathy” presciently
in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1st edition, 1759; 6th edition, 1790:
A. Smith 2002). His discussions mix together what we today call sympa-
thy and what we today call empathy. His characterizations, in fact, quite
clearly identify these distinct forms of experience: “fellow feeling,” feel-
ing sorry for the other, and fellow-comprehension, feeling as if what the
other is feeling. (See pp. 11–20.) Subsequently, in the mid-nineteenth cen-
tury the German philosopher Hermann Lotze and others used the term
“Einfühlung” in aesthetic theory. Thus, to understand a work of art one
must “feel” one’s way “into” the work of art—and presumably into the
artist’s vision. Later, as empirical psychology developed, following Bren-
tano et al., Einfühlung was studied by Theodor Lipps in a work of 1912.
124  David Woodruff Smith
(The English word “empathy” does not appear in the Oxford English
Dictionary, as published in 1933; it is added later in the Supplement,
with reference to Lipps’ 1912 work. The Online Etymology Dictionary,
2001–2010, cites Lotze as introducing the German “Einfühlung” and
cites 1903 for its translation into English as “empathy,” drawing on the
Greek roots.)
Enter phenomenology proper. By the time of the “Intersubjectivity Lec-
tures” (1910–1911), Husserl is explicitly analyzing the phenomenon of
empathy on the road to intersubjectivity. The scene was set in the lec-
tures Thing and Space (1907: Husserl 1997), where Husserl elaborates
on the experience of space as centered on the subject’s Leib, briefly noting
“other I’s” (p. 3). In Ideas II Husserl then amplifies the role of empathy in
the “constitution” of self and other and the intersubjective Umwelt. The
details inform and are framed by Husserl’s conception of phenomenology
set out in Ideas I. Edith Stein’s dissertation on Einfühlung (Stein 1989),
we noted, was completed in 1916, published in 1917, including critique
of Lipps’ appraisal of Einfühlung and Scheler’s of Sympathie. (See the
essays in Fricke and Føllesdal, eds., 2012, on relations between Husserl’s
theory of intersubjectivity and predecessor ideas in Adam Smith.)
We shall look into some remarkable texts in Ideas II. But first let us
overview Husserl’s analysis of empathy and its role in intersubjectiv-
ity. Interestingly, Husserl’s analysis of linguistic communication, in the
First of the Logical Investigations, foreshadows his subsequent analysis
of empathy. Thus, in Ideas II Husserl holds that understanding another
person’s speech—a form of bodily action—is a special form of empa-
thy, where the other’s speech act is intuitively, empathically, grasped as
an embodied expression of the speaker’s thought, of the content of the
speaker’s consciousness in so speaking. Expression and empathy thus go
hand in hand. (See Ideas II, §56 h.)
Husserl’s phenomenology of empathy features the experience of locali-
zation and movement in space, in consciously experiencing one’s own
lived body and, coordinately, in empathically experiencing another’s
lived body. Through empathy I see another as seeing an object from her
or his own perspective, seen as oriented to his Leib. For example, I see
this Eucalyptus tree, and I see that you see it too. I see it from my perspec-
tive, presented to me as appearing from a certain angle with respect to
me, to my Leib, and from a different angle as I walk around the tree. At
the same time, I apprehend you as seeing it too, as seeing the same tree
but from your perspective, presented to you as appearing to you from a
different angle in relation to you, to your Leib. And I see you walking
around the tree to get a better look at its backside (where a squirrel has
scurried out of view)—I see you moving by your own will (not mine).
This familiar form of empathy Husserl also calls empathic perception.
The phenomenology of empathy thus characterizes my experience as
presenting your experience, specifically, as if from your perspective. In my
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 125
own stream of consciousness I apprehend—or “appresent”—an experi-
ence in your stream of consciousness, as if from your position as subject.
This form of empathic apprehension is, like perception, a form of “intui-
tion”: my direct intuitive apprehension of another’s experience. Yet empa-
thy is a “non-primordial” form of intuition, as Edith Stein observes (Stein
1989, 7–9). For I experience you as another “I,” distinct from myself and
subject of your own experiences, which are distinct from mine. I myself
do not “feel” your experience as I “feel” my own. Whereas I feel my own
experience “primordially” in self-consciousness, I feel your experience
“nonprimordially” in empathy, as if I were feeling the experience you are
directly feeling. The contrast with sympathy follows: I do not literally
share the experience you are having, say, feeling sorrow when you do,
feeling your sorrow. Rather, I understand—immediately, empathically—
what you are experiencing.
Stein extends Husserl’s basic analysis of empathy, in her 1916 doc-
toral dissertation published as On the Problem of Empathy (Stein 1989).
Where Husserl draws the points almost in passing, his focus on intersub-
jectivity, Stein lays out, sharply and succinctly, the fundamental phenom-
enological structure of “I” vis-à-vis “you” and the “other I,” amplifying
the Husserlian distinctions of the “pure I,” the “soul,” and the “living
body” and the “will” (pp. 38–56ff). Importantly, Stein applies the analy-
sis of empathy to the phenomenon of apprehending emotional experi-
ences lived through by another “person” (pp. 96–108).
For Husserl, intersubjectivity is virtually defined by this configuration
of meaning whereby “I” meet the “other I,” as “my Leib” encounters
the “other Leib” in our common Umwelt, confronting the same objects
around us. What is remarkable, in the Husserlian analysis, is thus how
empathy is the heart of intersubjectivity. Especially intriguing, in Hus-
serl’s analysis, is how the Leib is the mediator of empathy. The Leib form
places me as embodied “I” in the surrounding world along with you and
others as fellow embodied “I”s. Thus, “I” apprehend “you” as I perceive
you, your body being “there” for me in spatial relation to me, to my
body, and reciprocally my body being “there” for you in spatial relation
to your body. Further, “this tree,” for example, is located “there” in our
common surrounding world in spatial relation to you and to me, the
same object as experienced respectively from our different perspectives,
in relation respectively to your body and to my body.
My sense of spatiality is thus defined by the potential transfer of the
sense “here” from my lived body to your lived body, and vice versa, and
onward as it were into “there” for the tree. Indeed, the objectivity of
space as I experience it is “constituted” by this interrelationship: by the
way in which I understand the transfer of the sense “here” among you
and me and accordingly “there” for the tree in our Umwelt. (Cartesian
geometry tracks this transfer as the origin of a Cartesian coordinate sys-
tem that can be transposed from one location to another.)
126  David Woodruff Smith
The sense of interdependence among “my Leib,” “your Leib,” and
“this tree” is palpable here. Palpable, as it were, insofar as I “feel”—I
experience as so given—the presence of the tree, the presence of you, and
the different perceptual orientations you and I have on the tree and on
one another, all as experienced, “felt,” from my own perspective centered
in my Leib. Strikingly, empathy ties together this complex of meaning,
according to Husserl (and Stein). Let us look into the details.

5. The Role of Empathy in the Constitution of Self and

Other and World
On Husserl’s analysis, in Ideas II, empathy grounds not only my experi-
ence of the other I, as another human being or man (Mensch), a subject
with a lived body (Leib), in my surrounding world (Umwelt). Strikingly,
empathy also grounds my experience of myself, as a human being, a
subject with a lived body, in our surrounding world, wherein you and
I encounter things such as this tree across the street. Here we see a recip-
rocal dependence among the sense of myself as embodied subject “I” and
the sense of another as embodied “other I”—and the sense of any thing in
nature, such as “this tree,” as being “there” before you and me.
By empathy, Husserl finds (arguing as usual by example), my sense
of “my body” transfers to my sense of “foreign bodies”—that is, living

In my physical surrounding world [Umwelt] I thus find before [me]

living bodies [Leiber], i.e. material things of the type of material
thing constituted in solipsistic experience [as] “my living body”, and
I grasp them as living bodies, that is, I empathically feel [fühle . . . ein]
in each of them an I-subject [Ichsubjekt], along with all that belongs
to it . . . Transferred thereby to the foreign living bodies [fremden
Leiber] is before all the same “localization” I accomplish in various
sense-fields . . . and sense-regions (sensations of movement) . . ., and
similarly my indirect localization of spiritual [geistiger, i.e. cultural]
(Ideas II, §45, p. 172; translation modified)

Interestingly, Husserl here goes on to talk of “dependencies” of my expe-

rienced sensory-kinesthetic localizations of my brain, though “the lobes
of my brain do not appear to me,” in the way that my hands appear
to me, say, when I grasp a ball. The other’s sensory-kinesthetic fields,
Husserl further observes, I experience in a “system of appresentations,”
or experienced “co-presence,” through “continuous experience of other
men [Menschen] already constituted through empathy.”
Thus, Husserl holds, through empathy there is transferred to the other
living body, the other embodied-ensouled subject “I,” or “man,” the same
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 127
phenomenal type of sensory-motor fields that I experience as localized in
my own living body and its Umwelt. In other words, the form of sensory-
kinesthetic experience I feel within my own body is transferred to the
other’s body, so that I “feel” the same form of sensory-motor fields as
if “in” the other I. That “feeling-in” the other’s experience—as if I were
there in the other’s place—is empathy.
Remarkably, Husserl finds (argues), this empathic transfer runs in
both directions: from myself to the other, and also from the other to
myself! Here is how Husserl puts the point, in a section (§46) titled
“The significance of empathy for the constitution of the reality ‘I—man’

We have thus under the title “other man [Mensch]” a lived body
[Leib] and this lived body in union with sensory fields and so to
speak psychic fields [soul-fields, Seelenfeldern], i.e. with a subject
of acts [Subjekt von Akten]. This conjunction [Zuhörigkeit] [of
lived body and soul] naturally obtains also for me myself . . . .
But now it could not at all occur to me in the position of “self-
experience” to “introject” into my lived body all my psychic
[fields], my I, my acts, also my appearances with their sense
data. . . . It is first with empathy and . . . empirical observation
of the psychic life [soul-life, Seelenleben] which is appresented
together with the foreign lived body [Leib] and which is objec-
tively taken together with that lived body, that the closed unity
man [Mensch] is constituted, and this [unity of lived body and
soul] I carry forward to me myself.
Concerning the experience of others, every man [Mensch], there
with his lived body, stands within a spatial connection, among things
[Dingen], and to every lived body for itself there belongs the totally
and determinately empathized [eingefühltes] psychic life, so that
therefore if the lived body moves and is at ever new places, its soul
[Seele] also as it were moves therewith: it is indeed ever one with the
lived body.
 . . . But the soul is nowhere, and its binding with the lived body
is founded only through functional contexts [Zusammenhänge]: the
lived body is “organ” of the subject. . .
(Ideas II, §46, my translation; compare pp. 175–176
in the English edition)

(See also Hua XIV, Intersubjektivität II, p. 418: “Der Andere ist der erste
Mensch, nicht ich,” i.e, “The other is the first man, not I.”—a passage
Christian Beyer pointed out to me.)
So, according to Husserl, by virtue of empathy the sense of “man” cum
“Leib” is transferred from the other embodied human being to myself.
And, as we saw above: vice versa! And so, we might say, empathy is the
128  David Woodruff Smith
highway along which the sense of self—as an embodied, human subject
“I”—is transferred back and forth between you and me.
Furthermore, as we travel that route, you and I together in the Umwelt,
we experience all things (Dingen) we encounter as “realities” in space-
time in nature. “Psychic realities” (seelischen Realität) are constituted in
our experiences of “my body” and “the other bodies,” in “things” con-
stituted not only as in space-time but as “psychic” or “soulful” (seelisch).
Mere physical things are constituted as in space-time but not as living,
animated, “ensouled” or “psychic” (seelisch). All are constituted as
things in nature (See §§ 35–46). And as you and I enter into social com-
munities, we experience one another furthermore as “persons” in a cul-
tural or “spiritual” world (geistigen Welt). (See §§ 48ff.) Physical things,
living bodies, and social persons are all constituted as there for anyone,
for any subject, any embodied, ensouled, encultured “I.” In that way
these things are all constituted as intersubjective and therewith as objec-
tive. This point is so basic to the course of Husserl’s analysis in Ideas II
that it goes almost without saying. In Ideas I, however, this point is set
out emphatically at the very beginning of Husserl’s turn to consciousness
as the theme of phenomenology (see Ideas I, §§ 30–33). Thus, he writes:
“we ourselves with our neighbors [Nebenmenschen, neighboring men]
together posit [hence constitute] an objective spatio-temporal actuality
as our surrounding world [Umwelt] there for all, to which we ourselves
still belong” (Ideas I, §29).
In the order of constitution, then, you and I and things in our sur-
rounding world are all constituted as “there” together, objectively there,
intersubjectively there, and for each of us subjectively there. And empa-
thy plays a crucial role in grounding the forms of experience wherein
you and I are constituted as embodied-ensouled-encultured subjects
encountering and dealing with things in this objective world, a world of
things subjectively and intersubjectively available. Whence you and I and
things around us appear in the world together, constituted as it were in
an ensemble of meaning.
This interdependence of sense—in the “constitution” of you and I as
animate-bodily beings amidst other things in nature—Husserl articulates
sharply in the Cartesian Mediations (1929: Husserl 1960), saying, “ego
and alter ego are always and necessarily given in an original ‘pairing’.”
(§51, p. 112: in the German Husserl uses the terms “ego” and “alter
ego”). Amplifying, Husserl says there is “a mutual transfer of sense”
(p. 113), that is, between ego and alter ego, between “I” and “other
I,” each with our own Leib. This pairing of sense is a form of “asso-
ciation,” an “associative constituting,” whereby I and other-I are “con-
stituted” together in a pair (Paar), a plurality (Mehrheit). As we might
put the point today, the sense “I” and the sense “other I”—“you” or
“she” or “he”—logically or semantically presuppose one another: the
one meaning cannot signify unless the other does. We might say the sense
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 129
“I” and the sense “you” join in an ordered pair < “I,” “you” >. Still bet-
ter, we might say these two interdependent senses are “moments” in a
sense “we” whose structure is that of a “manifold” (Mannigfaltigkeit),
or structured whole, comprising the sense “I” and the sense “you.” And
accordingly the sense “we” prescribes the actual pair We, a manifold
comprising you and I, in our Umwelt. (Compare McIntyre 2012, 74 ff.,
on Husserl’s notion of pairing and the constitution of you-and-I as a pair
“we”: drawing on the Cartesian Meditations together with Ideas II and
the Crisis.)
Accordingly, Husserl’s doctrine of intersubjectivity, founded on empa-
thy, entails that the sense “this tree” (for example) joins with the sense
“I” and the sense “other I” in a unified plurality or “manifold” of mean-
ings, wherein each mutually implicates or presupposes the other. Here
bear in mind Husserl’s life-long emphasis on pluralities, including struc-
tured wholes called “manifolds,” Mannigfaltigkeiten, and note the role
of such manifolds in the “constitution” of an object. (See D. W. Smith
2013, Chapter Six.) We return to this interdependence below, looking
toward the proper “semantics” of the contents “this” and “I” and “other
I.” (The semantics I envision, as in D. W. Smith 1989, goes beyond Hus-
serl’s limited writings about indexical expressions and their meanings; in
the present discussion I would draw out the interdependencies of sense
I see in Husserl’s analyses.)

6. The Constitution of Other Persons in the

Social-Cultural World
I experience you empathically not only as a fellow lived body or Leib,
an animate physical being in nature, in short an “animal.” I experience
you also as a fellow “person” in our socio-cultural milieu, our sphere
of historico-cultural Geist. Empathy thereby pairs you and me within
our common culture. Here we find a further element of constitution in
the meanings “I” and “other I.” In Husserl’s parlance, a “person” is an
encultured-ensouled-embodied-subject, that is, a being with distinguish-
able aspects or “moments” of being: a subject of consciousness, with a
physical body (Körper), animated by a psyche or soul (Seele), forming a
lived body (Leib), perceiving and acting within a culture (Geist). In our
everyday experience, on Husserl’s appraisal, a “person” is immediately,
implicitly, empathically experienced and so constituted as such a multi-
faceted being.
Thus, Husserl holds, lived-body and cultural-spirit, Leib and Geist, are
constituted as a “comprehensive unity”: a “body-spirit” or “Leib-Geist”
that forms an “encultured” object (“begeistete” Objekt) (Ideas II, §56
h)). A “person” (Person), as so constituted, is such a unity. Importantly,
in human culture language plays an especially important role, in commu-
nication through speech. And our interplay in speech, Husserl holds, is
130  David Woodruff Smith
grounded in a special form of empathy. Of course, we also communicate
in many nonlinguistic ways, as through looks or body language, with
forms of Leib and Geist at work in fundamental ways.
So writes Husserl:

The thoroughly intuitive unity offered where we grasp a person [Per-

son] as such (for example, speaking as person to person, or hearing
their speech, working together with them, seeing their action) is the
unity of “expression” and “expressed” that belongs to the essence of
all [such] comprehensive unities.
(Ideas II, §56 h, p. 248, translation modified)

Moreover, cultural artifacts as well as persons are encultured-embodied

objects—each is a Leib-Geist. This sort of unity, Husserl then observes, is
also constituted in experiencing a book (p. 248). When I read a book, the
culturally formed meaning expressed by the words I see is immediately,
intuitively given. Again, when I converse with you, I hear immediately
what you are saying. Where I am fluent in the language we are speaking,
I do not focus on the words you utter, as physical signs or “expressions”;
I immediately hear the meaning “expressed.” And when I read another’s
book, I intuitively grasp—“read”—the meaning expressed by the words
I am reading. Husserl here extends his prior account of language and
meaning (detailed in the First of the Logical Investigations). But here
Husserl specifies the role of empathy in such communal understanding,
between person and person.
Specifically, Husserl writes:

 . . . with respect to the unity of the spirit [Geist], which makes up
the “sense” [“Sinn”] of the lived body [Leib], we have to note the
following in the case of an individual man [Menschen]:
Empathy into persons is nothing other than that apprehension
which precisely understands the sense [Sinn], i.e. which grasps the
lived-body in its sense and in the unity of sense it shall bear.
(Ideas II, §56 h, pp. 255–256,
translation modified)

So the sense of the other’s lived body, Husserl finds, I apprehend intu-
itively, empathically, where I experience the other as a person, where
I experience the other as speaking, as working with me, or as acting, say,
in pruning a rose bush. Through empathy I experience the other Leib
as “expressing” sense and therewith forming an encultured-lived-body,
a Leib-Geist. When I hear the other speak, I hear her speech as bearing
sense: I immediately experience the acoustic vibration as joined by mean-
ing or sense [Sinn] in a cultural unity. And when I see the other pruning
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 131
that rose bush, I see her action as meaningful, as bearing sense: I immedi-
ately, intuitively experience her action as a cultural form of pruning roses.
Similarly, at another point in the Ideas trilogy, Husserl speaks of empa-
thy as an “interpretation” of the other’s psychic life:

In “empathy” [Einfühlung] or interpretation [Eindeutung] [the ani-

mate organism] is understood as animate organism, at first simply
as carrier of something psychic and therewith not merely as car-
rier of sensations, but also as carrier of “acts,” of intentional lived-
processes. . . . This pure I has its surrounding world [Umwelt], has
its Here and Now in relation to which its physicalness is oriented. . .,
i.e. its animate organism, in a way similar to that in which my Here
and Now is related to my animate organism.
(Ideas III, p. 94: Supplement from the first
draft of Ideas II of 1912)

On Husserl’s account, then, the social or cultural dimension of a

human “person” is normally fused with the “animal” dimension of this
human “man.” These aspects or “moments” of the individual are unified
in the essence of the individual, and are so experienced. Accordingly,
you and I are constituted in our experience as persons: as encultured,
ensouled (animate), embodied subjects of acts of consciousness. And, to
return to intersubjectivity, you and I as persons encounter things around
us as being there for other persons to experience, to deal with and to
talk about. These things include physical things, and animate physical
beings, and encultured animate physical beings—the latter including you
and me—and therewith also books and cars and gardens and cathedrals.
When we experience cultural things such as books, trains, symphony
performances, and so on, we experience such things through forms of
meaning or sense that have a communal history or genesis. In the Cri-
sis Husserl analyzed the genetic character of such meanings, including
everyday geometrical concepts such as “line” or “circle.” These con-
cepts are themselves dependent on a history of intersubjective cultural
Moreover, we experience things in the world around us as having val-
ues: from actions bearing moral values (taken as good or bad, right or
wrong) to works of art or architecture bearing aesthetic values (given as
beautiful or inspiring or ugly or disgusting). And the values things have
for us, as properties of things we experience, are largely “constituted”
through intersubjective practices of forming values for various types of
things. (See D. W. Smith 2014.)
We experience stones, trees, animals, and people or persons in many
different ways. But we experience each as intersubjectively available. And
it is through empathy that you or I experience another being as a fellow
132  David Woodruff Smith
embodied Leib, or further, and also through empathy, as a fellow encul-
tured person. All within our Umwelt, our Lebenswelt.
Intriguingly, Husserl foresaw a role for the “lived body” not only in
the individual subject, and in empathy among individuals, but also in the
“we”-subject of communal activities. For Husserl’s conception of Leib-
lichkeit seems to allow for a form of social embodiment (as David Carr
has argued in Carr 2018, this volume). When we perform together in
a dance or a team sport or a marching drill, we act as a “we”-subject
of our collective intentional action. In such activity, Husserl held, “we”
form a “personality” of a higher order, in a higher form of intersubjectiv-
ity. Moreover, Husserl observed, this “we” has “something like corpo-
rality [Leiblichkeit]”: a collective “lived-bodilyness.” On this account,
when you and I perform a dance movement, “we” experience a pattern
of movement wherein your Leib and my Leib move together in this par-
ticular pas de deux. We move then as a pair. (See Carr’s discussion in
Carr 2018 of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, section 56 of the Fifth
Meditation. And recall McIntyre’s emphasis, noted above, on the pair
“constituted” as a we-subject: see McIntyre 2012).
Evidently, the phenomenology of such a “we” action does not require
an ontology positing, say, an embodied “group mind” or “body politic”
realized in a fusion of two lived bodies (as Carr charitably observes). And
yet, I would note, Husserl’s conception of a “manifold” allows for a bod-
ily configuration of your Leib and my Leib that would satisfy Husserl’s
phenomenology of “something like Leiblichkeit” in our joint movement.
A manifold is precisely a whole comprising dependent parts. So when we
are moving together, our movements form a pattern of which my bod-
ily, leibliche, movement and yours are dependent parts: in our collective
action we are thereby a leiblich pair. And when we part, after our pas de
deux, my leiblich movement goes its way with my Leib and yours goes
another way with your Leib.

7. The Interdependence of the Senses “I” and

“You” and “This”
It is plausible that we human beings develop the concepts of self and other
in tandem amidst our interaction with physical things around us. As the
young emerging ego leaves behind its narcissistic sense of world-as-me
and comes to recognize “you” along with “me,” amidst other “things,”
the “I” takes on its proper sense of itself as subject among others in the
surrounding world. And of course the infant learns the sense of self and
the sense of other in the context of perception and action dealing with
what it and its nurturers perceive, where each “I” sees and acts on things
from its own spatiotemporal perspective. But all this belongs to empiri-
cal developmental psychology. Our concern in phenomenology, as Hus-
serl tirelessly emphasized, is with the ideal structures of consciousness:
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 133
here, the ideal meanings “I” and “other I” and “things” as these contents
address our surroundings.
Why do we say, in phenomenological analysis, that these three forms
of meaning—defining ideal forms of experience—are interdependent? By
virtue of intentional significance, we claim, these three forms of phenom-
enological content presuppose one another. Why, exactly?
Husserl’s analysis of the constitution of self and other and things in
the world is a story of how the noematic meanings of these things work,
of how they work and hang together. If we focus more pointedly on the
logic or “semantics” of such meanings, on their role in intentionality and
their satisfaction conditions, we can see how the relevant contents work
together: how the senses “this” and “I” and “other I” (“you” or “she” or
“he”) work as a team. To this end, we turn now from Husserl interpre-
tation to the phenomena themselves, to a contemporary perspective on
these indexical contents. The semantics of these contents frames the rich
phenomenological detail we have drawn from Husserl’s own texts. (See:
D. W. Smith 2013, 286 ff, on constitution in Husserlian phenomenology;
D. W. Smith 1989 on a “semantic” model of how such indexical senses
work in relevant contexts; D. W. Smith 2004, 2012, 2016 on the “modal
model” of self-consciousness featuring different roles for these indexical
senses. See D. W. Smith 2016a on the semantic conception of intentional-
ity itself.)
You and I and this tree are here—“there”—in our surrounding world.
This world is the context in which we live, perceive, and act: the context
in which things exist along with us and available to our experience. This
Umwelt, or a proximate part thereof, is the context of evaluation for the
intentional contents “I” and “you” and “this tree.” These indexical con-
tents define our familiar forms of experience of self and other and things
nearby. Each indexical content semantically prescribes, or is satisfied by,
the object appropriately situated in the relevant context of the experience
in which the content inheres. In the picture we are exploring, these
contents—“I” and “you” and “this”—are interactive, interrelated in
their intentional force. For each implicitly presupposes each of the others.
That is: the contents “this” and “I” and “you” cannot be satisfied, or
successful in my experience in the actual context of experience, unless
jointly satisfied respectively by this tree and myself and yourself. “This”
cannot be appropriately satisfied unless “I” and “you” are appropriately
satisfied; “I” cannot be, unless “this” and “you” are; “you” cannot be,
unless “this” and “I” are. The intentional force of these contents, we are
claiming, is such that, in a given perceptual context, they work together
in this way.
Why? Starkly: because my experience says so! That is: because the
“horizon,” or pattern of background assumptions, of my experience in
this presumed context “constitutes” the situation as such that the tree
is before you and me and is so seen in our respective visual experiences.
134  David Woodruff Smith
My experience presents this situation in ensemble: the tree and you and
I so related.
Consider specifically how these contents work in a given context of
perception—“I” signifying myself, “you” signifying my fellow subject,
“this” signifying a particular thing before me and available to you on
that occasion.
Well, I see “this tree,” that is, “there,” or “actually now here before
me,” and thus “there for you (to see),” “you” as another potential “I.”
The content “this tree,” “actually now here before me,” in my visual
experience in this context is satisfied by that particular tree in that con-
text if and only if, in fact, that spatiotemporal arboreal thing is appro-
priately located in the immediate context of my experience. That is: in
the circumstance wherein my Leib is situated along with the tree, light
reflecting from the tree onto my retinas, stimulating my ocular-neural
system, registering in the visual cortex of my brain, as I am ready to walk
around the tree, my visual experience depending or supervening on this
physiological process. The implicit content “before me” articulates the
prescribed spatiotemporal-causal relation to “me,” i.e., to “embodied I,”
“my Leib.” (D. W. Smith 1989 develops the case for the content “actually
now here before me” implicit in the visual content “this.”)
Now, you are standing alongside me, looking at the same tree. In your
experience from your perspective, you too see “this tree,” “actually now
here before me.” The object of your visual experience in this context is
the same tree, where that particular tree satisfies the content “this tree”
in your experience in that context if and only if that arboreal thing is
appropriately located in the context of your experience. That is: in the
circumstance wherein your Leib is situated along with the tree, light stim-
ulating your ocular-neural system, etc. In your experience, as in mine,
“this tree” is presented as “there,” “actually now here before me,” so
presented from your perspective.
And so: the content “this tree” is satisfied by a particular tree in the
spatiotemporal-causal context of my visual experience, and the same con-
tent is satisfied by that same tree in the spatiotemporal-causal context of
your visual experience—where, by hypothesis, you and I are confronting
the same tree in our common Umwelt. Whence the same tree is “there”
for you, in relation to your body, and “there” for me, in relation to my
body. To that extent the tree is experienced intersubjectively. Specifically,
the content “this tree (actually now here before me)” is, as it were, trans-
ferable between your visual experience and mine within our Umwelt.
Yet there is more to the experience of intersubjectivity. The role of subject,
enacted by you or I bearing the content “I,” needs further explication—
a role crucial in the empathic transfer of sense between your and my
In the case at hand, not only do I see “this tree,” from my bodily per-
spective, i.e., “actually now here before me.” I also see that “you see ‘this
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 135
tree’,” observing the same object from your bodily perspective. Through
empathy I apprehend the way you experience the same tree. I understand
that your visual experience is, like mine, informed by the content “this
tree,” i.e., “actually now here before me”: your experience is similar to
mine in content, but presenting the tree as oriented with respect to you
(= your Leib) rather than to me (= my Leib).
Where I see that “you see ‘this tree’,” my perception ascribes to you the
structure “you see. . . . ” I understand, empathically, that this is the same
form of experience I have with the structure “I see. . . . ” Here by virtue of
empathy, Husserl would find, the sense “man” is constituted and trans-
ferred from the other to myself: “The other is the first man [Mensch],
not I,” Husserl observed (Hua XIV, Intersubjektivität II, p. 418: cited
earlier). Thus, I see the other seeing this tree, where the other is a “lived
body” with a “psychic field.” And by virtue of empathy my own experi-
ence embodies the content “I see this tree.” In that way the content “this
tree,” more fully “I see this tree (actually now here before me),” is trans-
ferred between my experience and yours—or vice versa.
Here we observe that the content “I see this tree” is transferred between
you and me by empathy. In more colloquial terms: I know what your
experience is like because it has the same content as mine, “I see this tree
(actually now here before me).” We are homing in on the further content
“I see.”
Note the role of bodies in the scenario: your Leib and my Leib and
the tree. Indeed, I experience you and myself and this tree as all “bod-
ily” present in this circumstance. Within this circumstance I experience
my Leib and I empathically apprehend you experiencing your Leib. Spe-
cifically, the content “I” in my perception in this context prescribes me
within this context, and the same content “I” in your perception in this
context prescribes you within this context. As I see and walk around
the tree, I experience my Leib, myself as Leib, in my sensory-kinesthetic
experience. As you see and walk around the tree, you experience your
Leib, your self as Leib, in your sensory-kinesthetic experience. As I see
you inspecting the tree as you walk around it, I empathically see you as
another walking-and-seeing Leib, a “man.” In that way, by empathy, the
content “I,” understood as “embodied I” (“I qua Leib”), is transferred
between my experience and yours, all within the same context. And if
you and I are examining the tree and talking about it as we walk around
it, then, by empathy, the content “I,” understood as “personal I” (“I qua
person”), is transferred between my experience and yours.
But how exactly does the subject-content “I” enter into my experi-
ence?—transferable by empathy between your experience and mine.
Well, not only do I experience the object before me as “this tree (. . .).”
In the structure of my lived visual experience, I experience myself as sub-
ject of consciousness: “I see this tree (actually now here before me).” And
by empathy I see you as another subject, where your experience carries
136  David Woodruff Smith
the content “I see this tree (actually now here before me)” . . . . The point
is not that along with my seeing “this tree (. . .),” I also observe that
“I see this tree (. . .).” No, the “I see” is part of a pre-reflective, immedi-
ate awareness of my experience. And by empathy I understand that your
experience shares that subject-oriented feature.
The role of the first-person content “I” in experience is central to our
story. Yet its exact place in the phenomenological structure of an experi-
ence, specifying the role of subject, is not yet well specified. Let us look
more closely at the role of the subject-content “I” in the overall structure
of consciousness. (Here we follow my model of consciousness developed
in D. W. Smith 1989, 1995, 2004, 2012, 2016).
The phenomenological structure of my seeing the tree may be more
fully elaborated as the content:

(*) “Phenomenally in this very experience I now here see this tree.”

Within this structure, we factor out several aspects of consciousness.

The sense “this tree” carries the mode of presentation of the object of
consciousness, whereas the remaining content carries the modality of
presentation in the experience. The modality includes several characters
modifying the presentation of the object:

1. “phenomenally” carries the so-called phenomenal character of the

experience, its character of what it is like;
2. “in this very experience” carries the character of reflexive inner
awareness of the experience;
3. “I” carries the egocentric character of the experience, its character of
being lived by me, by the subject “I” ’;
4. “now” carries the character of the experience as occurring in the
temporal flow in my stream of consciousness;
5. “here” carries the character of the experience as occurring in a spa-
tial environment—centered, per Husserl, on my lived body;
6. “see” carries the character of the experience as visual—a richly struc-
tured character tying into my sense of time and space, much as char-
acterized above.

With an eye to our discussion above, we note the roles of the senses “I,”
“now,” and “here” in the structure of my experience of seeing “this tree.”
The sense of inner awareness “in this very experience” is here distin-
guished from the sense of self-awareness “I” and the more complex sense
of embodied-spatiotemporal self-awareness “I now here.” (Compare the
analyses of self-consciousness in D. W. Smith 2016b and Zahavi and
Kriegel 2016. Zahavi and Kriegel in effect let “for-me-ness” do the work
of the more complex sense “phenomenally in this very experience I now
here” that I have articulated in the full modality of presentation. I would
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 137
emphasize that the full modality of presentation is “pre-reflective,”
that is, at work prior to any turn to phenomenological reflection on an
act with this full phenomenological structure.)
I call this model the modal model of consciousness. On this model,
the modal characters define the way the experience is lived or executed,
rather than the way the object is presented. These features of the expe-
rience are not part of what I see; they are part of my seeing. Husserl
distinguished the “I-pole” and the “object-pole” in the structure of inten-
tionality. In that spirit, we find, the mode of presentation concerns the
ways of the object, whereas the modality of presentation concerns the
ways of the subject.
Assuming this modal model of consciousness, we can characterize
empathy more precisely as involving a transfer of the subject-sense “I.”
My inner awareness of myself as subject of perception is articulated in the
role of the content “I” in the modality of presentation (per (*)). Further,
my immediate awareness of my temporal and spatial localization in see-
ing the tree is articulated in the role of the contents “now” and “here”
in the modality of presentation. My immediate awareness of myself as
embodied in space and time is then articulated in the role of the content
“I now here” in the modality of presentation. There we find the form of
my immediate sense of self as Leib (whence, à la Husserl, as Mensch and
further as Person). From there we note the transfer of the sense “I now
here” from me to you as you and I look upon the tree—and, per Husserl,
vice versa.
In neo-Husserlian terms, the content “I” captures my sense of myself as
pure subject, whereas the content “I now here” captures my sense of myself
as embodied subject, localized in space and time. Given the role of bodily
empathy, in empathic perception, we find that the mutual transfer of the
sense “I” between me and you is part of the transfer of the sense “I now
here”: the pure I goes along for the ride with the embodied I. . . . In fact, the
content “now here” seems to modify both “I” and “see” in the structure
“I now here see.” That is how it should be. For the self is intimately bound
into the act of consciousness, and vice versa. My sense of myself is thus part
and parcel of my sense of my seeing something. (Compare Galen Straw-
son’s phenomenology of the minimal self or “sesmet”: Strawson 2009).
When I see that “you see ‘this tree’,” then, I understand the content of
your experience in seeing the tree to be of the same form as mine where
I see the tree. That is, I immediately, empathically grasp the structure of
your experience as the same as mine, the structure spelled out in (*). So
I take your immediate self-awareness, like mine, to be that articulated in
the role of the sense “I now here,” but in your consciousness rather than
mine, and your visual presentation of the tree to be articulated in the role
of the sense “this tree,” implicitly “actually now here before me,” in your
experience. The tree’s “now here” is oriented to the subject’s “now here,”
as indicated in (*).
138  David Woodruff Smith
In short, through empathy the full content “Phenomenally in this very
experience I now here see this tree (actually now here before me)” is
transferred between my perceptual experience and yours. That is simply
to say that the same content inheres in my experience and in yours, and
that I understand its significance in the context of my experience and in
the context of your experience. The role of “I” or “I now here” in the
modality of experience is to prescribe the subject of that very experience.
In my experience or in yours, the subject-content “I,” or the embodied-
subject content “I now here,” prescribes the embodied subject in each
case: myself in my experience, yourself in yours. In Husserlian terms:
I am immediately aware of myself as embodied subject “I now here,” and
when I see you seeing the tree, I immediately understand your awareness
of yourself as embodied subject “I now here.”
You and I understand the experiential force of these indexical forms of
experience, the intentional force of their content or sense. It is an exercise
in empathy as I recognize in you as in me what each of these forms of
experiences is like, within the context of our intermingling with the tree.
More simply: Where you and I confront yonder tree, each of the con-
tents “this tree” and “you” and “I” can prescribe what it does in that
context, in the experiences indicated, if and only if each of the others
prescribes what it does in the relevant experience in that context. You
and I understand how these contents work in context, how they translate
from one such experience to another, from one subject to another, in rela-
tion to the tree confronted.
In other words: The intentional contents “I” and “you” and “this”
form a mutually implicative semantic network. That network defines the
interdependent forms of experience we may call the circle of subjectivity,
intersubjectivity, and objectivity.

Coda: The Intentional Semantics of “I” and “you”

and “this thing”
Long before I studied Ideas II, I carved out an analysis of the “semantics”
of these indexical contents, mapping out the conditions of satisfaction
for these contents as realized in concrete experiences situated in concrete
contexts. That was the project of my book, The Circle of Acquaintance:
Perception, Consciousness, and Empathy (1989). The framework laid
out there, amplified in subsequent works (including D. W. Smith 2004,
2012, 2016a, 2016b, 2016c), guides the sketch above of how the con-
tents “I” and “you” and “this tree” work as they inhere in concrete expe-
riences in an appropriate context or Umwelt. The “logic” or “semantics”
of these contents can be used to articulate more formally the phenom-
enological results explored in this essay. Conversely, the phenomenologi-
cal details here drawn from reflections on Husserl’s phenomenology of
Intersubjectivity: In Virtue of Noema 139
Leib and empathy and intersubjectivity can be used to ground the formal
structures outlined in the “logic” of indexical contents in consciousness.
In the Prolegomena of the Logical Investigations Husserl outlined a
conception of “pure logic” that can be seen developing after his day in
model-theoretic semantics in the style of Alfred Tarski’s work. Even the
term “semantics” had not yet settled into the logical theory of Husserl’s
day. Nonetheless, in the Investigations Husserl sketched the beginnings
of a semantics for indexical expressions such as “this,” “I,” etc. These
terms Husserl called “essentially occasional expressions.” He assumed
that these terms bring to linguistic expression forms of sense (Sinn) that
are at work in acts of consciousness including perception. In familiar acts
of consciousness such as seeing “this black bird,” perception is focused
on the “occasion” of experience, and that contextual dependence is essen-
tial to the experience and to the speaker’s expression in talking about the
object of perception. (See D. W. Smith 1982 on Husserl’s theory of demon-
strative sense in perception and demonstrative reference. On subsequent
development of model theory, and links between Husserl’s philosophy and
Tarski’s conception of semantics, see D. W. Smith 2016a, 2016c).

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4 On Husserl’s Genetic Method
of Constitutive Deconstruction
and Its Application in Acts
of Modified Empathy into
Children’s Minds
Eduard Marbach

It is obvious that, if one wants to have an idea of a thinking being, one

must put oneself in its place and thus subordinate one’s own subjectivity
to the object which one wanted to consider (which is not the case in any
other kind of investigation).
—Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781, A353–4)

From about 1916 on, Husserl views subjectivity no longer as a mere
static ‘system’ of a multiplicity of conscious experiences, subjectively
polarized, ‘unified,’ in the pure a-temporal I, and constituting a multi-
plicity of objectively synthesized unities (‘things,’ ‘the world’). The very
elucidation of the correlational a priori of constitution led him to deepen
the phenomenological analysis by taking into account the genetic point
of view concerning the origin and development of constitution itself. The
life of consciousness, unified as it is in the pure I-identity, is also the life
of this I as a “personal I”; the pure I is necessarily always also a personal
I (i.e., an I of “habitualities,” “abilities,” “convictions,” having its “char-
acter,” etc). This personal I is “a unity of incessant genesis.” Subjectivity,
concretely viewed, has “necessarily the form of a unity of becoming”
(Werdenseinheit). Correlatively, on this view, there is the genesis of the
ambient worlds (Umwelten) and of the world at large through the “his-
tory of apperceptions.”1
The title apperception refers to the phenomenon that consciousness
intends beyond itself (über sich hinausmeinend), beyond that which
in itself is genuinely present (Hua XI, 337, note 1). This phenomenon
obtains already from the viewpoint of static analysis, but now Husserl
requires “with it” (dazu) “a universal theory of the genesis” (Hua XI,
340) of these apperceptions.
Husserl does not, however, intend this “ ‘history’ of consciousness (the
history of all possible apperceptions)” to be an elucidation of the factual
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 143
genesis in a factual stream of consciousness, hence to be concerned with
a fact like “the development of species of plants and animals.” Rather, he
wants to uncover the history of consciousness as to its “universal genetic
form” or type that he considers to have its a priori, “essential laws of
egological-temporal coexistence and succession,” forming not causal, but
motivational connections within the life of consciousness (Hua XI, 339,
345; also Hua I, §§36–37).
Whereas static, descriptive phenomenology is an analysis of the pos-
sible essential forms in pure consciousness regardless of the way they
have become what they are (“Phänomenologie der möglichen, wie immer
gewordenen Wesensgestalten im reinen Bewusstsein”), and of their tele-
ological order in the realm of possible reason, genetic analysis, on the
other hand, aims at being “ ‘explanatory’ phenomenology” (‘erklärende’
Phänomenologie) of the “lawful genesis” at work in the concrete correla-
tion ‘personal I ˗ ambient world’ (personales Ich - Umwelt), egologically
as well as intersubjectively (Hua XI, 340).
It is impossible to do justice to all the aspects of the difficult methodo-
logical status of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology here. It obviously has
been conceived as a very vast enterprise—to be pursued over generations!
In what follows, I deliberately focus on a cluster of problems, indicated in
the title above, where, on the one hand, phenomenology is able to bring
to bear genuine results from static phenomenological analysis, but where,
on the other hand, it is led to the limits of what can soundly be dealt with
on the basis of reflective-eidetic methods alone. Actually, Husserl himself
clearly expressed awareness of such limits, delineating the method to be
used for approaching the genetic problems in question. Indeed, without
taking into account empirical results, neither Husserl himself nor any
other phenomenologist would escape the danger of non-intuitively (i.e.,
regressively) constructing transcendental subjectivity and intersubjectiv-
ity or, at least, the danger of merely remaining at the level of “empty gen-
erality” and only “vague determination.” At this juncture, then, recourse
to empirical developmental psychology obtrudes itself. But empirical psy-
chology, in this context, would take on transcendental significance within
the Husserlian project, as I will briefly point out in the conclusion (IV).
Let me elaborate a bit more on this cluster of problems arising on the
basis of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology that I consider to be relevant
to the argument of cooperation with empirical developmental psychol-
ogy. Generally speaking, the genetic correlation “personal I—ambient
world(s)” can probably be said with good reasons to be among the ‘cen-
tral problems’ of the later Husserl. It leads, in one of its various aspects,
to the task of determining the a priori conditions of the possibility of
ambient worlds of different kinds, of different ontological structures,
each such world forming a relative unity, in correlation with personal
subjects of different kinds. In this respect, Husserl had mainly in view the
144  Eduard Marbach
phenomenological determination of specifically human ambient worlds
in their differences from the worlds of lower and higher animals. Among
the human worlds he was more particularly concerned with distinctions
such as the world of the “fully developed,” “mature,” “normal” person;
the world of the physically or mentally “abnormal” person, as well as
of the “sick” person; the world of the so-called “primitives” (of whose
‘mentality’ he knew mainly through the works of Lucien Lévy-Bruhl),
and the worlds of “childhood” and “early childhood” (infancy, Früh-
kindlichkeit), of the “neonate” and of its development prior to birth.2
The general question Husserl was asking referred to the “problem of
transcendental constitution of the world out of normality” (von der Nor-
malität aus). He aimed at the elucidation of the constitutive contributions
of all those different kinds of subjects to “the one world of experience,”
“the world for all” whose “being is constantly continuing constitution
in always novel performance of constitutive subjectivity” (ihr Sein ist
ständiges sich in immer neuer Leistung der konstituierenden Subjektiv-
ität Fortkonstituieren).3 In a consistently phenomenologically subjective
analysis—starting at the level of the “mature,” and with respect to this
level “normal,” person (as a matter of fact, from Edmund Husserl “in the
factual presence of the 20th century” (Hua XV, 161))—elucidating the
different constitutive contributions is a question concerning “problems
of intentional modifications in which to all these subjects of conscious-
ness < . . . > their manner of transcendentality can and must be attributed,
namely as ‘analogies’ of us” (Hua VI, 191).
The question of the contribution of all these relatively normal and
abnormal subjects to world-constitution or world-validity involves,
therefore, “at the same time problems of ‘empathy’ ” of essentially differ-
ent types, depending on what kind of subject is taken into consideration
(Hua XV, 172). Essentially there is empathy in subjects whose psychic
life is intuitively understandable (anschaulich nachverstehbar) as against
modified empathy (abgewandelte Einfühlung) which, first of all, yields
analogues of the mature person. But then we are faced with the general
problem of modification or variation of interpretation based on empathy
with its degrees of determination and indeterminacy. In particular, there
is modified empathy concerning levels of development from childhood
through maturity, levels of early childhood, then species of animal being
(tierisches Sein) with their levels of mature-animal normal world (reif-
tierische normale Welt) and its corresponding sublevels of childhood and
early childhood for each species in the universe of animals “which still
are psychophysical analogues of human beings.” And then there is the
question of the “limit of modification” and the inevitability of “recon-
structing symbolically,” i.e. no more intuitively, levels of development.
On the one hand, Husserl is thinking here of human fetal infancy, of
“the unborn child, its psychic genesis until the moment of birth,” of
the fact, e.g., that “the child in the womb already has kinesthesia and
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 145
has, kinesthetically movable, its ‘things’,” thus that it is already building
up “experiential acquisitions” (Erfahrungserwerbe) prior to birth. On
the other hand, Husserl also has in mind the realm of lower animals,
asking, e.g., “Are unicellular organisms not also psychophysical, do they
not also have their bodies as organs of their ‘I-pole’? But here the analogy
ends in the limes.”4 From the phenomenological point of view, “the
limit of the animal (as a being which can still be experienced through
empathy as a being with a lived body (als Leibwesen),” lies in the fact
“that some analogy with our bodily existence (Leiblichkeit) is still apper-
ceptively effective,” if only, e.g., “an analogy with a skin sensitivity and
with movements of reaction” (Hua XIV, 118). This view is intimately
connected with the fact that, from the point of view of phenomenological
epistemology, “that which I can follow and understand (nachverste-
hen), to what extent I can empathize, is, precisely, determined by the ideal
modifications of the original type human being” (Urtypus Mensch). Ulti-
mately, “my lived body (Leib) in the ‘internal experience’ (Innen-
erfahrung) < . . . > is the original apperception (Urapperzeption) and
constitutes the necessary norm. Everything else is modification (varia-
tion, Abwandlung) of this norm” (Hua XIV, 126). With respect to all the
problems of modified empathy related to the question of the constitu-
tive contributions to the one world of experience, some aspects of which
I have just sketched, Husserl points out: “And all this <is> included in
my, the ego’s world constitution. Development of species, protocells etc.”
(Hua XV, 172).
Let me now delineate the method Husserl proposed in order to sub-
stantiate his transcendental view of intersubjective world constitution,
rooted in the primal fact that “I am. < . . . >” and that, reflectively think-
ing about myself, “I always already have pre-given world” (dass ich
immer schon vorgegebene Welt habe).5 Husserl consistently points out
the extreme difficulty of systematically and concretely determining this
genesis in all its levels back to the “generative origins” of the ego, to
its “primal constitution.”6 Clearly, within the scope of this presentation,
Husserl’s many attempts at working out the details of such an encom-
passing project cannot be spelled out.
The central methodical idea, however, is the following. Correspond-
ing to the view of the “course of experience” (Gang der Erfahrung) as
“constitutive construction” (konstitutiver Aufbau), Husserl conceives of
the method of “constitutive deconstruction” (konstitutiver Abbau) in
order to unravel the history of apperceptions from the point of view of
mature normal apperception.7 In itself this method has not directly to do
with factually given anomalies and factual development, e.g., through
childhood or the realm of animal species. In the first place the idea of
“constitutive deconstruction” is the phenomenological-genetic extension
of static “eidetic variation.” Therefore, first of all, the method is con-
cerned with the “system of possible modifications” and with levels of
146  Eduard Marbach
apperception, such as the phenomenologist’s attempts to establish some-
thing through imaginary variations.
However, in our context, its interest lies with its application in acts
of modified empathy which alone give phenomenological access to the
constitutive contributions of the different kinds of relatively ‘abnormal’
subjects. In this constitutive view children and animals in particular are
seen “in a certain sense” as an “ ‘anomaly’, and yet again belonging to the
system of normal world” (Hua XIV, 120).
It may be appropriate at this point to emphasize with Husserl himself
that “a priori nobody, no species can be said to have in its system of
experience the optimal experience in which all physical-thing properties
(Dingeigenschaften) are represented.” Nobody would affirm that there is
“as idea a kind of subjectivity as absolutely normal, related to a kind of
lived body which experiences the world in the ultimately perfect manner
as absolutely true” (schlechthin wahre). There “may be ‘higher’ beings
< . . . > which perhaps as infinitely higher beings descend to us in unilat-
eral empathy the way we descend to the animals.” No system of reference
is “in itself more true, although there are differences of richness” regard-
ing the really given properties of things. As Husserl puts it, “The human
being experiences more <properties> of the things than a jelly-fish”! But
he is also interested in understanding what the experience of the world
would be like “if I were a jelly-fish.”8
In a more complete account, the difference regarding the apperceptive
type of human as against animal lived body or bodily existence (Leib,
Leiblichkeit) that Husserl carefully takes into consideration when deal-
ing with the application of “constitutive deconstruction” in modified
empathy would have to be discussed. Since empathy is indeed essentially
founded in the apprehension of the lived body, we can “legitimately”
(rechtmässig) only empathize in such a way that, based on “the indica-
tions which we have,” we attribute to an organic individual that level of
apperception “which corresponds to the modification of its bodily exist-
ence as against ours.”9
At this point, however, I must confine myself to indicating what
I consider to be the real potential of “constitutive deconstruction” as a
method for concretely determining genetic transcendental intersubjectiv-
ity, whether it is applied in empathy based on a “lived body of identically
the same type, of the same organic ‘species’ ” (Hua XIV, 117), as in the
case of human beings, or whether it is applied to the realm of higher and
especially of lower animals whose lived bodies allow for an “extraordi-
narily vague” empathy only.
The crucial point of the method is summarized by Husserl after hav-
ing discussed more particularly the case of the lower animals, though
also hinting at the case of “my embryonic or childhood development”
(Hua XIV, 115). In essence, Husserl proposes the view that “the creation
of an elaborate apperception” in modified empathy must rely on both
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 147
imaginary variations in the method of deconstruction and on experience.
It cannot take place through advances in “mere experience,” for that
would imply “that a true apperception in original production (ursprüngli-
cher Zeugung) is attained” (Hua XIV, 119). Rather, the apperception
takes place “through a construction in the method of intuitive ‘decon-
struction’ of our own lived body-ambient world-apperception” (durch
eine Konstruktion in der Methode des anschaulichen ‘Abbaus’ unserer
eigenen Leib-Umwelt-Apperzeption) (Hua XIV, 19). This deconstruc-
tion, when applied to modified empathy, is, however, “not mere imagina-
tion” (nicht blosse Phantasie). We do not simply think about, e.g., “how
perception with respect to its horizons would have to be determined if we
were to exclude certain experiences from the genesis, thus assuming that
certain groups of experiences would never have been possible” (Hua XIV,
115). Yet to have such a possibility of imaginarily varying our factual
experience—that “we can in a certain sense systematically deconstruct
our full experience” (ibid., 115)—is a precondition for a more ade-
quate subjective understanding of factually given modifications of lived
body-ambient world-apperceptions. In this case, as Husserl states, the
imaginary variations of deconstruction have to conform to the empiri-
cal indications. The “supports given in experience” (erfahrene Anhalte)
delineate the deconstruction, no longer merely within imagination but
based on ‘belief’ in the empirically given indications or clues. In order
to reach “scientific determination, as far as it is possible” in the inter-
pretation of the constitutive contributions of factually given subjects of
different kinds, phenomenology must rely on imaginary variation of our
own ‘normal’ apperception, but this variation has to be carried out under
empirical control: “Through elimination of motivations of our appercep-
tion for which support in experience is missing (für die in der Erfahrung
der Anhalt fehlt), a modification of our system of motivation is produced
< . . . > and in this manner the unity of the stunted (verkümmerten)
system of motivation is intuitively (well, to the extent that we succeed)
constructed” (Hua XIV, 119; also Beilage XIII).
So far I have delineated Husserl’s itinerary within phenomenological
epistemology, in which—unlike what in Husserl’s view was the case with
Kant10—recourse to ‘psychology’ plays a crucial role, trying to bring into
sight that, with genetic questions concerning cognition, to which Hus-
serl was led for his own reasons, phenomenological “working problems”
should be formulated by having recourse to empirical developmental

To give at least some examples to be found in Husserl’s texts calling
for more elaborate empirical supports: In imaginary variations Husserl
thinks about how the ‘world’ would look like to a being which, e.g., has
148  Eduard Marbach
no walking-kinesthesia (Gehkinästhese), that therefore it was never able
to come toward or to step back from an object and had optically only
an “oculomotor world of things.” He then turns to the empirical side,
referring to some factually given lived body that indeed has no such kin-
esthesia at the time of observation. Of this being, e.g. an infant, Husserl
writes: “The child sees the same things perhaps as I do, but it has not
yet the completely formed apperception of them, it is still missing the
higher horizons, its experiences could not yet be so organized and take up
such-and-such new motives through which the child sees the things in
question as what we see them.” And he adds, “likewise with respect to
the lower animals” (Hua XIV, 115–116).
Or, to cite another example, Husserl reflects extensively about the nec-
essary co-presence of the lived body (Dabeisein des Leibes) in all external
experience: about the manner in which constitution of the lived body
and constitution of external things are closely connected. Again he varies
imaginarily the conditions, e.g., with respect to movement and rest, or
with respect to various forms of kinesthesia, to haptic aspects, to the sta-
tus of a thing as close by (Nahding) or far away (Fernding), pointing out
among other things the fact of ‘reversibility’ as constitutive in the process
of the structuring of the “unity of the thing.” In an empirical turn, he
then talks about the child that has, e.g., “already built up the constitution
of graspable proximity” (Konstitution der greifbaren Nähe), and is now
“grasping after the farther removed which, in the way of its appearing, is
perhaps removed out of the graspable proximity, showing thereby modi-
fications of appearance which are continuous and similar to those occur-
ring within that narrowest proximity”; “but grasping after it,” Husserl
notes, the child “will be disappointed” and will gradually have to ‘learn’
“in the course of experience (as constitutive construction)” (konstitutiver
Aufbau) that, through a certain perspectival enlargement, by being car-
ried over there or by going there oneself, graspableness (Greifbarkeit) can
be restituted again, etc.11
Or, finally, there are reflections in a text from 1934, in which Husserl
approaches the determination of the early development of the human
infant precisely in terms of acts of presentification (Gegenwärtigung) and
representification (Vergegenwärtigung), which in my view exemplify par-
ticularly strikingly the kind of analysis phenomenology contributes to the
subjective a priori of world-constitution. Husserl seems to put forward
the view that the specifically human development, as distinct from non-
human animals, is dependent on the activity of representification as an
ability of repetition (Vermögen der Wiederholung), enabling the infant
to transcend the ‘here and now’ of the activities of presentification. Rep-
resentification is thus seen as a condition of possibility for constituting a
sameness (Selbigkeit) of things, not only in the form of primary recogni-
tion, which as such does not require returning to the past in an act of
remembering (as perceiving-again as it were), but a sameness in the form of
identifying temporal and local positions, which first of all makes possible
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 149
the individuality of existing things. With respect to animals, on the other
hand, Husserl asks in this text: “Do animals < . . . > have genuine remem-
berings (eigentliche Wiedererinnerungen), intuitively repeating ones, and
do they have intuitive imaginations (anschauliche Phantasievorstellungen)
in the same sense as we do?” Excluding from animals such genuinely rep-
resentifying activities, Husserl observes “Animals thus don’t know any-
thing of the ambient world < scil. as objectively existing> which we ascribe
to them in naive empathy? < . . . > The animal does not have the ability
through which it could have consciousness of, knowledge of, an existing
world, a world of permanent objects, permanent through time, through
transformations, causality of transformations depending on circumstances
etc. < . . . >, possibility of identification with respect to temporal and local
positions, to the past and anticipatively-representified future < . . . >.” And
Husserl asks: “Is original temporalization in the period of infancy of the
human being (Urkindlichkeit des Menschen) precisely of this kind, this
animal <kind>? < . . . > Is it, with the infant (Urkind), already a genuine
temporalization—of something existent (von Seienden)?”12
Evidently, I think, such examples show that empirical developmental
studies on the sensorimotor period of human infancy up to the transition
to representifying intelligence—such as for example already presented in
part during Husserl’s lifetime in Piaget’s pioneering trilogy (1936, 1937,
1945)—would have to be carefully taken into account as a clue (Leit-
faden) to ‘construct’ as intuitively as possible a modified apperception that
is applicable to world-constitution in human infancy, thereby overcom-
ing empty generalities and unnecessary indeterminacy of which Husserl
himself was aware. Constitutive deconstruction (Abbau) is dependent on
knowledge about which aspects, precisely, of our ‘normal’ apperception
do not find support in experience and must, therefore, be ‘deconstructed’
in order to get at an appropriate interpretation of the transcendentality
of the lived bodies during the period in question, that is, an understand-
ing of the subjective conditions of the possibility of their actually given
world. In its endeavor transcendentally to interpret the factually given
forms of lived body-ambient world-apperception, phenomenology can-
not afford to be dependent on just occasional observations or more or
less anecdotal evidence about childhood development. In order to be able
to make reliable interpretative statements it must, on the contrary, try to
rely on empirical evidence which is as solidly established as possible.13
Evidently too, on the other hand, this empirically oriented project is to
be carried out as an interpretation, presupposing the specifically phenom-
enological point of view, the reflectively eidetically elucidated “phenom-
enology of the subjective” (Hua XV, 606). This phenomenology of the
subjective a priori “must be elaborated” in the first place and it constitutes
the intrinsic, fundamental clue for the properly transcendental interpreta-
tion of the empirical evidence. As Husserl puts it in 1921: “The empiri-
cally given must be brought under the eidetic magnifier” (Hua XIV, 136).
150  Eduard Marbach
Exploratory studies are important.
—David Marr

The argument in favor of cooperation between genetic phenomenology

and empirical developmental psychology that I have sketched so far was
connected with Husserl’s ideas on constitutive deconstruction and the
internal limitations of its application in acts of modified empathy (sec-
tion I). And the need for cooperation with empirical research in order
to overcome empty generalities in one’s phenomenological interpretation
of observable behavior was further illustrated with a couple of Husserl’s
own examples of combining imaginary variations of a creature’s cogni-
tive competence with empirical observations (section II). For the purpose
of expanding and more concretely illustrating the argument, I would like
presently to give you an idea of the spirit in which I had envisaged a phe-
nomenologically inspired exploratory developmental study with children
between the age of 3 and 10 years and of the way in which I then tried
to make it amenable to empirical investigation. In this study, I wanted
concretely to apply “the eidetic magnifier” that is required for phenom-
enologically interpreting empirically given behavior that is indicative of
acts of imagination (phantasy), i.e., of one kind of (perhaps uniquely
human) activities of intuitive representification (anschauliche Vergegen-
wärtigung) (Hua XV, see above II; Beilage X 1934, 183f). My aim was to
contribute a modest piece to what Husserl intended, but never developed
himself, as “second philosophy,” also using the titles “empirical phenom-
enology” or “applied phenomenology,” as against “a priori first philoso-
phy,” in explicit analogy to the application of pure a priori mathematics
to the empirical physical sciences.14 This second philosophy or applied
phenomenology was conceived as a “transcendental science of facts” in
the sense of a “phenomenological transformation” (phänomenologische
Umwendung) or a “phenomenological interpretation” of the ordinary
sciences of facts, a transformation made possible by eidetic, i.e. a priori
phenomenology (Hua III/1, 134; Hua VII, 188; Hua VIII, 361).
More specifically now, the methodological idea at work in the explor-
atory study was based on the following view: Knowledge of the eidetic
phenomenological kind about what there possibly is regarding conscious
experiences of representifying something (etwas vergegenwärtigen) can,
and ought to, be brought to bear in interpreting actually given behavior of
children at different ages. The reasoning was that the actual case is apt to
be interpreted as a case of what, in the realm of its essential possibilities, is
defined as such and such an eidetic form of conscious experience, because
what actually, really occurs is a fortiori possible. In other words, the actual
empirical case can be made intelligible as an instance of the eidetic form of
such and such a possible conscious experience of something representified.
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 151
In a nutshell, then, I made use of the reflective-eidetic phenomenologi-
cal clarifications of the concept of imagination to be found in Husserl’s
analyses15 as a clue for establishing a set of problems to be investigated
with methods of empirical psychology. The central assumption, that is,
the one with the greatest impact on the set-up of the empirical work,
consists in the view that there is an intrinsic relationship between imagi-
nation and so-called picture perception or image consciousness. They
both are kinds of intuitive representification (anschauliche Vergegenwär-
tigung), and as such they both intentionally imply and thereby radically
modify the basic intuitive act of perceiving something. With the help
of a notation of the eidetic structures or forms of the act of imagining
something, IMA x, and the act of viewing something in a picture, PIC x,
respectively, this inner connectedness of the two kinds of intuitive rep-
resentifications as modifications of the basic perceptual presentification
can, I think, most readily be captured and, so to speak, be made visible
in the following way:16

Actually imagining, i.e., visualizing, object x: (IMA) x reflectively ana-

lyzed, yields

(1) i ______ ( REP – [PER ]) |− / − x

(PRE) s
i.e., some real or fictional object x
is given to me or appears to me
in my actually representifying x
by means of a reproductively modified
neutralized perceiving of x
while at the same time my surroundings s
are actually presentified through my bodily presence.
Viewing a picture of object x, or having an image consciousness of x:
(PIC) x reflectively analyzed, yields

(REP – [PER ]) x
(2) i − |− / − x
(PRE) s (PER) p

i.e., some real or fictional object x is given to me,

or appears to me, in my actually representifying x
by means of a reproductively modified
neutralized perceiving of x
in so far as x, taken for unreal,
appears in the picture p that I actually perceive
152  Eduard Marbach
while at the same time my surroundings s
are actually presentified through my bodily presence.
The reflective finding that at any given moment of a genuine act of pic-
ture viewing there is involved a mental activity of imagining as represen-
tification (Vergegenwärtigung) of something that does not appear itself
(the depicted object) in that which appears, i.e. in the picture, but then
precisely at the cost of its real presence, enables us to use pictures in
order to study certain aspects of imagination. It is precisely this seemingly
trivial, if not negligible, fact that there is something unreal about pictures
which calls for the underlying activity of imagination in the act of picture
viewing. For it is strictly impossible to encounter anything unreal on the
basis of perceptual processes alone which are constitutive for the present
actuality only.
Moreover, with regard to empirical work, using a pictorial display has
the advantage of providing us with an external, publicly available ‘stimu-
lation’ of imaginative activities so that at least with respect to the object
or correlate of those inner activities we dispose of a controllable consist-
ency. It has, on the other hand, the inconvenience of confronting us with
certain problems that are proper to the activity of picture viewing and
not to imagining as such. Still, in a study with children as subjects, this
mainly interpretative difficulty seemed to me less discouraging than the
prospect of relying exclusively on children’s verbal reports about their
‘purely imagined,’ invisible ‘scenes’ (objects, events).
In the most general terms, the problems to be addressed with children
turned upon the various relations between imaginary (representified)
worlds and the real world. I have tried to approach this most complex
topic under a very limited angle. I have designed a series of pictures in
such a way that they all contain at least one other pictorial view of a
scene. Here, I can only report on one of these pictures (see Figure 4.1).
The idea behind this kind of pictorial display can briefly be described
as follows. Assuming the validity of the view that picture viewing is
closely related to imagination, the type of a reiterative pictorial display
seemed to me to be particularly apt for eliciting mental activities of a
certain variety and complexity that would in some way be externalized,
namely made explicit, i.e. become observable and thus comparable from
child to child. More concretely, I have in mind the following. Normally, a
pictorially given ‘world’ (object, event etc.), just like any purely internally
imagined world, appears in a space-time of its own, with no direct rela-
tion to the actual surroundings.17 That is to say, the visually given con-
nection between the pictorial world and its actual surroundings divides,
in the act of picture viewing, into connections that are distinct from one
another according to their actuality-value (Wirklichkeitswert). Now,
in the present display, using pictures within pictures, this phenomenon
obtains again on a ‘higher level’ as it were: the visually given connection
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 153

Figure 4.1 “This is very interesting. I like this because it’s a painting of a painting
of a man painting a painting.” Jonah (8:8)
(Illustration made by the author.)

of the first-order picture—showing the living room with a person called

Jim in the interview—divides into the quasi-actuality of that room and a
merely pictorial world, namely the one shown in the picture on the wall
to the left side of the living room. (And so forth, in principle. Mutatis
mutandis, think of cases of remembering or internally imagining seeing
a picture that contains another picture, etc., all intentional complexities
that Husserl liked to analyze in detail!).18
Thus, given such a reiterative display, what on the one hand can sim-
ply be taken for a picture (“the whole thing,” i.e. the first-order pictorial
space, S), namely relative to the actual surroundings, can on the other
hand be modified into a quasi-actuality, relative to which a second-order
world is then taken for “just a picture” (the second-order pictorial space,
S’—etc.). It is mainly this fact of allowing for somehow ‘externalized’
shifts in one’s point of view, in one’s attention and ‘belief’-attitude with
regard to the world which, in my view, makes this reiterative display a
useful device for exploring some cognitive developmental aspects regard-
ing the differentiation between imaginary worlds and the real world.
154  Eduard Marbach
Now, I should mention one more very important way in which imagi-
nation can function with respect to pictures. Namely, instead of simply
looking at the pictorially appearing worlds, one can always—given a suit-
able motivation—imaginatively ‘enter’ those worlds and somewhat freely
transform the depicted scenes, although, in the present task, in close con-
nection to the pictorially delineated world, so as not to lose control!
In the work with children, I emphasized a set of questions that are con-
cerned with possibilities of movement of the different depicted persons
(in the full-color original, Jim in the living room, a man in a blue shirt
outside the window (MB), a man in a yellow shirt seen in the picture on
the wall of the living room (MY)), thus possibilities of movement within
S, within S’, and across S—S’ or, much more rarely, into the actual world
shared with the child during the interview. I have thus crucially relied
on the possibility of ‘entering imaginatively’ into the pictorial world and
even into the pictorial world shown in the picture within the picture. Note
that I am not saying that I have any control of ‘how vividly’ the children
might imagine all of this. My point is simply that without any underlying
activity of imagination—thus, if the display were simply taken as a cor-
relate of a perception of what is in front of the children—the questions
about people and people moving around etc. would not make any sense
to them. There would just be shapes and colors of different sizes and
orientations etc. on a flat surface. However, despite the clumsiness of the
pictorial work, the partly almost ridiculous proportions, the awkward
rendering of depth etc., the children on the whole clearly see at once the
depicted scene, accepting transformations in it, and are, at the same time,
more or less implicitly aware of the fact that what presently, visually
appears is not ‘really real.’
There is indeed on the one hand evidence that children, early on, seem
to be clearly aware of ‘levels of actuality’ as they are involved in the pic-
torial display. They take some things to be ‘more real’ than others, mak-
ing distinctions like “this is really real,” “this is supposed to be real,” and
“this is just a picture” with regard to the ‘room here and now’ where the
interview takes place, the first-order picture (the “whole thing”), and the
‘picture within the picture,’ respectively.
On the other hand, however, there is the more deeply rooted question
of knowing to what extent children are also clearly aware of the intrinsic
correlation between ‘some place real’ and the potentially given possibil-
ity of a spatiotemporal continuity between that place and ‘another place
real,’ as against the discontinuity with respect to ‘some place unreal,
imaginary.’ So, a whole network of spatiotemporal relations within and
across the orders of the pictorially appearing spaces has been brought
into play in the course of the dialogue such that the children’s answers
can be analyzed in terms of logical coherence (or incoherence) relative to
the situation initially established by the children’s answer to the question
whether Jim, that is, the man in the living room, could go over to the
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 155
book on the table in the living room. After a ‘yes’-answer, questions have
subsequently been raised such as: Could Jim also go somewhere else so
that you could see him again (in the whole picture)? If Jim goes over to
the man in the blue shirt (MB, outside the window), does he also meet
the man in the yellow shirt (MY, on the path in the second-order picture
on the wall)? Could the man in the yellow shirt (MY) go closer to the
artist painter and look at what he is doing (inside the second-order pic-
ture on the wall)? If the man in the yellow shirt goes to the artist painter,
could he also walk further and meet Jim (in the living room of the first-
order picture)? Etc. In this connection, decisions had also to be made
by the children regarding the question of where, in which place (real or
imaginary), and when the imagined events talked about are supposed to
happen. Other possible situations in the sense of imaginative transforma-
tions of the given display depend on any such supposedly real or merely
imaginary situation.
Now, if a child’s talk is to be logically acceptable, he/she must answer
in certain ways regarding those possible situations. For example, an
answer to the effect that Jim meets the man in the blue shirt (MB, out-
side the window in the first-order picture) would seem to be acceptable,
precisely because it is coherent, or fitting, that the space-time of the living
room be brought into a continuous connection with the “world” out-
side the window of the living room, or vice versa. Phenomenologically
speaking, this continuity can be established because a unifying activity
of intuitive representification is readily possible. Namely, it is possible
continuously to connect in one’s imagination the space indoors and the
space outdoors, relative to one single quasi-perceptual, i.e. representified
point of view, either from Jim to the man in the blue shirt (MB), or the
other way around.
With the findings collected in the exploratory study from about 150
children between 3 and 10 years (in Oxford, Berkeley, New York, and
Switzerland), a start in view of exploring such relations has been made
by asking questions about possibilities of movement (unpublished; also
see Marbach 1996). From the phenomenological point of view, con-
cerned with analyzing conscious experiences and the modes of givenness
of their intentional correlates, such questions with reference to a picture
showing people (or animals, as in the picture used with 3- and 4-year
old children) bring acutely into play an ambiguity obtaining through-
out the dialogue, namely with regard to the intentional force prevailing
in image consciousness either with reference to the depicted objects or
with reference to the image of the objects as they appear in the physi-
cal picture. Moreover, problems of spatiotemporal individuation that are
ultimately decisive for differentiating the world of actuality from imagi-
nary worlds19 become also prominent. In the latter respect, I suggest that
the correct solutions concerning possibilities or impossibilities of rela-
tions in the spatial organization of the entire pictorial display shown to
156  Eduard Marbach
the children do depend on an understanding of the actuality-values with
respect to the spatiotemporal individuation, or vice versa: the two aspects
refer to the same problem of distinguishing between reality (actuality)
and imagination.
To give you at least an inkling of how such questions clearly came up
in the course of the interviews, see Appendix II for a few excerpts from
a long dialogue with Stefan, age nine years and nine months, originally
conducted in Swiss German.

To conclude, let me return to some methodological aspects of the enter-
prise of empirical or applied phenomenology. There is evidence in the
exploratory study that, on the basis of what for the observer—interviewer
or child—looks like the very same presently given visual input or stimu-
lus, the intended object of the viewer’s activity referred to in his/her talk
about the picture turns out to be one way or another for the viewer.
This difference with regard to what is given to a viewer, I would claim,
is best understood in terms of what differs from the point of view of his/
her conscious experiences in correlation with the intended objects: the
physical picture in its present surroundings, the pictorial object or image,
the depicted object, etc. Therefore, reflection-based phenomenological
knowledge about the pre-reflectively undergone conscious experiences
of differences regarding one’s presentifying and representifying aware-
ness (gegenwärtigendes, vergegenwärtigendes Bewusstsein) can guide the
interpretation of factual, developmental data in terms of possible forms
of consciously experiencing something objective in one way or another.
As can be gathered from the dialogues with the children (see, e.g.,
Appendix II), as a matter of fact, there are from early on possibilities
of shifting one’s attention from something given in its presence to some-
thing merely appearing as it were in a picture etc., of becoming alert
to ambiguities with regard to pictorially appearing things, later on also
of reflecting upon one or another aspect of one’s conscious experiences
and their intentional referring to something. Findings such as these pro-
vide the necessary “supports given in experience” that are required for
a plausible phenomenological interpretation in modified empathy based
on imaginary variations of deconstruction.20 In these and other respects,
to be found out and documented by empirical research, I see the pos-
sibility of a gradual progression in human beings’ life of consciousness,
especially of the multiple forms of representifying consciousness with its
combinations and iterations in the course of time, i.e., with more life-
experience, including especially social interaction with the already more
advanced.21 Again, I would maintain that to be able to interpret such
data as data concerning consciousness, phenomenological analysis of
invariable forms of conscious experience with the help of “the eidetic
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 157
magnifier” is required in the first place. In other words, to interpret (and
perhaps even to collect) data in this way, as data of the representifying
mind, phenomenologically understood, a theory of forms of conscious
experiences is needed such as Husserlian phenomenology has provided
(see above, section II).
The resulting phenomenological interpretation of the data so far can
be seen as a properly phenomenological-psychological interpretation of
actual matters of fact that takes consciousness into account; namely an
interpretation based on empathy and displacement into the point of view
of the other by way of realistically attributing a conscious experience
of one kind or another as an actually instantiated case which phenom-
enology studies with respect to its very possibility. I am speaking here
of realism about conscious experiences because I take these conscious
experiences to be really, actually involved in the observable behavior of
the children’s looking in diverse ways at the pictorial display. To me it
makes sense to say that a child’s really experiencing an instance of one or
another form of consciousness—say, experiencing an instance of viewing
something as it appears in a picture, or experiencing an instance of view-
ing something as it appears in a picture within another picture, etc.—
helps to understand, and in this sense it phenomenologically explains,
his/her verbally and otherwise observable behavior in relation to the pic-
torial display in its surroundings. To be sure, errors of attribution are in
principle always possible. To be a realist about conscious experiences
in interpreting others’ behavior, and even one’s own behavior, does of
course not preclude us from making false attributions in given cases.
As regards a properly transcendental interpretation of the empirical
developmental data in the context of Husserl’s philosophical project
of elaborating the correlational a priori of the constitution of “the one
world of experience,” “the world for all,” on the basis of a genetic phe-
nomenology that takes into account the constitutive contributions of all
relatively normal and abnormal subjects by means of constitutive decon-
struction and modified empathy (see section I), even trying to sketch how
one would have to proceed would go beyond the scope of this paper.22

1. See, e.g., Hua XIV, 42 sq., Beilage II (1921), Zum Begriff der “Monade.”
<Die Konkretion des Ich>; Hua XI, 336sq. (1921), Statische und genetische
phänomenologische Methode.
2. See, e.g., Hua XV, No. 10, No. 11, No. 35; Beilagen VII,IX,X,XI,XIII; Hua
XIV, No. 6, Beilagen XII-XIV.
3. Hua XV, No. 11, 148sq. (1930 or 1931); Beilage IX, 172 (1931), “Wichtige
Betrachtung über konstitutive Genesis”.
4. See, e.g, Hua XV, Beilage IX, 172sq.; Beilage XLV, 605.
5. Hua XV, No. 38; also, e.g., No. 10, No. 11, 149.
6. Hua XV, e.g., No. 10, No. 11, No. 35; Beilage XLV.
158  Eduard Marbach
7. Hua XV, Beilage XVIII (1931), 307; see also references in note 2.
8. See, e.g., Hua XIV, No. 6 (1921). —I cannot resist referring the reader to
the very thoughtful article “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” by Thomas Nagel
(first published in The Philosophical Review, vol. 83, no. 4, 1974, 435–450).
Nagel addresses the question as follows: “We must consider whether any
method will permit us to extrapolate to the inner life of the bat from our
own case, and if not, what alternative methods there may be for understand-
ing the notion” (438). In comparison to Husserl, the particularly interesting
point is that Nagel elaborates the problem in terms, not of “what it would
be like for me to behave as a bat behaves”—“that is not the question,” Nagel
writes ˗ but: “I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat” (439). He
then continues to argue in a manner which strikes me as very close to what
Husserl termed “constitutive deconstruction,” but an adequate comment on
Nagel’s paper is beyond the limits of this paper.
9. Hua XIV, No. 6 <Unterschiede in der ontologischen Struktur der Umwelten
verschiedener Subjekte. Einfühlung in Kinder und Tiere als Interpretation
durch Abbau> (1921), 116.
10. Hua VI, §§ 30, 31 and 57, in particular.
11. Hua XV, Beilage XVIII (1931), 295sq., 307; also Hua XIV, Nos. 34–36
12. Hua XV, Beilage X (1934), 183sq. See also Beilage XLV (1935), 605 where
Husserl writes about the “neonate” who, in comparison to “the child in the
womb” (das mutterleibliche Kind), “is already experiencing I of a higher
level < . . . > already I of higher habitualities but without reflection on itself,
without formed (ausgebildet) temporality, without available rememberings,
flowing presence with retention and protention. Constitution of primordial
‘things’, constitution of the primordial lived body (Leib), individual sepa-
rated organs at a time, kinesthetically movable. The mother as primordial
bodily unity? But this is going too fast < . . . >”.
13. See already Hua V, Ideas III, 40sq., §8. Rational Psychology and Phenom-
enology ˗ Experimental Psychology (1912).
14. In Marbach (1988), the analogy, viewed as an analogy of proportionality
in the traditional sense, is explored in detail, arguing for a likeness between
relations—‘mathematics to physics’ and ‘phenomenology to psychology’,
respectively—without having to assert any direct likeness between the par-
ticular terms involved—‘mathematics’ and ‘phenomenology’, and ‘physics’
and ‘psychology’, respectively.
15. See, in particular, Hua XXIII (1980), texts from the time of the Logical
Investigations up to the early 1920s.
16. For a more extensive presentation of the aim and scientific legitimation of a
phenomenological notation, its symbols and its application to scientific stud-
ies of consciousness, see Marbach (1993) and (2010). For a reader unfamiliar
with, or not interested in, the notation, the linguistic rendering of the meaning
of the formulae —i.e. . . . .— should suffice to follow the subsequent line of
17. See, e.g., Hua XXIII (1980), Beilage L: 480. See also Hua XXXIII (2001), No.
19 and No. 20, for a more general discussion of the opposition between the
real world and fictional worlds. Parts of these texts were used in Erfahrung
und Urteil, §§38–40 and §91.
18. See, for example, Ideas I, among the examples, the well-known one of the
Dresden Gallery (Hua III/1, §100, §112; or Hua XXIII, Beilage XVIII).
19. With this view, I am endorsing a Husserlian “theory of worldbound indi-
viduals,” as proposed by J.N. Mohanty (1982).
On Husserl’s Genetic Method 159
20. See above, section I, the discussion of the crucial point of Husserl’s genetic
method of “constitutive deconstruction” (konstitutiver Abbau).
21. See also Iso Kern and Eduard Marbach, “Understanding the Representa-
tional Mind: A Prerequisite for Intersubjectivity.” In Evan Thompson, ed.,
Between Ourselves. Second-Person Issues in the Study of Consciousness.
Imprint Academic, 2001, 69–82.
22. It is my pleasure cordially to thank Christel Fricke who had kindly invited
me to participate in the meeting on aspects of Husserl’s philosophy of inter-
subjectivity that was held in the beautiful summer resort Rosendal, South of
Bergen (Norway) in June 2016. I also wish to thank an anonymous referee
for his or her felicitous suggestions for improving my text. Last but not least,
I also cordially thank the editors Frode Kjosavik and Christian Beyer for
their untiringly kind collaboration. It goes without saying that remaining
obscurities in the text are entirely my responsibility.

Kern, Iso and Eduard Marbach. “Understanding the Representational Mind:
A Prerequisite for Intersubjectivity.” In: Evan Thompson, ed., Between Our-
selves: Second-Person Issues in the Study of Consciousness. For Francisco J.
Varela 1946–2001. In Memoriam, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 69–82,
U.K.: Imprint Academic, 2001.
Marbach, Eduard. “How to Study Consciousness Phenomenologically or Quite
a Lot Comes to Mind.” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 19/3
(1988), 252–268.
Marbach, Eduard. Mental Representation and Consciousness: Towards a Phe-
nomenological Theory of Representation and Reference. Dordrecht, Boston
and London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993.
Marbach, Eduard. “Understanding the Representational Mind: A Phenomeno-
logical Perspective.” Human Studies 19 (1996), 137–152.
Marbach, Eduard. “Towards a Formalism for Expressing Structures of Con-
sciousness.” In: S. Gallagher and D. Schmicking, eds., Handbook of Phenom-
enology and Cognitive Science. Dordrecht: Springer, 2010, 57–81.
Mohanty, J. N. “Intentionality and Possible Worlds: Husserl and Hintikka.” In:
H. L. Dreyfus, ed., Husserl, Intentionality and Cognitive Science. Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 1982, 233–251.
Nagel, Thomas. “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” The Philosophical Review 83/4
(1974), 435–450.
Piaget, Jean. La naissance de l’intelligence. Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé,
Piaget, Jean. La construction du réel. Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1937.
Piaget, Jean. La formation du symbole: Imitation, jeu et rêve, image et représen-
tation. Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1945.
Appendix I
Phenomenological Terminology in
English Translation

Vorstellen to present, presenting
Vorgestellt presented
gegenwärtigen to presentify
vergegenwärtigen to representify
vergegenwärtigend Representifying
vergegenwärtigt Representified
darstellen to represent
Bildbewusstsein image consciousness, picture
Bild (ambiguous term) image; picture
Bildding, physisches Bild physical image, picture
Bildobjekt, repräsentierendes B. image object, representing
or depicting object, also:
pictorial object
Bildsujet depicted object, sujet
Appendix II

EM Stefan, aged nine years and nine months

(interview originally made in

Swiss German)

< . . . > Could Jim here <in the Yes

living room> go to this table
and read in this book?
< . . . > if Jim goes over to the
MB <man in blue >
(could he) meet the MY <man
in yellow>?
No, huhn <neg.>. But if somebody has copied
this from out there < . . . > then maybe
< . . . > Jim can also meet < . . . > the MY
and the painter. But well, this is almost not
possible < . . . > because it has certainly
been a long time ago when the picture was
painted, or not? < . . . > and one could now
no more see it, namely really.

< . . . > Could the MY also

go closer to the painter and
look at what he’s painting? Well now, really or in this picture? < . . .>
he can’t do that, he cannot go over to the
painter, on this picture in any case.

 . . . > And . . . Jim, he could

go and read the book and Yah < . . . > huh, this is indeed, huhm yah the
go out the door. . .? whole yah that’s also a . . . picture, that is
true indeed, but, but if this now were real
then he could go over there, but well as
such on a picture of course neither. And
there <second-order picture: pwp> it’s about
the same. < . . . > if this now were true,
the picture <pwp>, if this is not simply an
imaginary picture but copied from, well yah
from a place, then it can well be the case . . .
that this man <MY> meets with the painter,
really . . . not otherwise though.
EM (cont.) STEFAN 9;9 (cont.)

<. . .> you say if it were true,

then he <MY> could go
too . . . could he then also
go a little farther, on this
road, and could he meet
<. . .> Well I think, I am not sure, well
that is now difficult, huhm. . . <. . .>
If it is a true picture and no imaginary
one . . . then he could perhaps, but one
doesn’t know whether <the second-order
picture> is from very far away, from e.g.,
if this now <first-order picture> were in
Switzerland, that <S’, i.e. second-order
picture> had been painted in America . . .
or in Africa, ha!
<. . .> if that were an
imaginary picture, what do
you mean then. . .?
Well . . . if I now painted . . . simply an
imaginary hen, then this hen cannot meet
with me either, actually, the imaginary hen.
<. . .> Where is the hen
then. . .?
Where? Well on the picture, that is on the,
on this, yah, on the sheet where I then
draw, there is the hen then . . . evidently! If
it’s an imaginary hen.
Part II

Particular Others and

Open Intersubjectivity
5 On Knowing the Other’s
Leila Haaparanta

1. Introduction
There are two basic types of theories of emotions that have been dis-
cussed for a few decades. Some philosophers argue that emotions are
cognitive, while others hold the view that they are affects, hence, some-
thing that remains beyond the reach of our concepts. If emotions were
cognitive in the sense of the so-called judgment theory of emotions, they
would be judgments about the world, and their validity could be evalu-
ated by considering the chains of arguments to which they are linked.
The two types of theories focus on one person’s point of view, hence not
on the relations between persons. There is another discussion which con-
cerns empathy and sympathy, that is, our relations to the other person’s
emotions. However, the two discussions seldom meet. The present paper
seeks to combine the question concerning what emotions are with the
question concerning how we are related to other persons’ emotions. It
begins with a brief overview of theories of emotions. It then character-
izes the concepts of empathy and sympathy and discusses the question
concerning the possibility of empathy when emotions are construed as
a) judgments, b) construals of the situation or of the surrounding world,
and c) affects. In contemporary research, empathy is usually regarded as
involving knowledge of the other’s emotions, and possibly having emo-
tions which that knowledge arouses. This paper argues that if empathy is
taken to be cognitive, one who supports the judgment theory must con-
strue it as interpretive reasoning; it is revealing the other’s judgments and
the argumentative chains which the other assumes to support those judg-
ments. The paper discusses problems which arise in that kind of theory.
A few remarks are also made on the type of theory in which emotions
are regarded as construals. It is argued that the combination of the affect
theory and empathy is not without problems, either, if the supporter of
the affect theory regards empathy as knowledge of the other’s affects. At
the end of the paper an analysis of empathy is proposed that partially
relies on Edith Stein’s and Edmund Husserl’s views. Paradoxically, the
present paper regards an agnostic attitude toward empathetic knowledge
166  Leila Haaparanta
as a condition of such knowledge. It is argued that the proposed analysis
of empathy helps to avoid the problems that were found in the cognitive
and affect theories. The paper is not so much a scholarly paper on what
Stein or Husserl meant by empathy; it rather seeks to pay attention to one
feature in empathetic encounters, often ignored in analyses of empathy,
that is essential to empathy in real life situations. Extreme cases, such as
encounters with the dying in hospices, may teach us something of what
is required of an empathetic attitude. A nurse working in a hospice may
be empathetic, even if it would not even be proper of her to claim to
have knowledge of what it is like to be the dying patient. In this paper,
the word “empathy” is used in a limited sense, which differs from the
use of Husserl, Stein, and their predecessors and contemporaries; in their
vocabulary, “empathy” means knowledge of the other’s mind, not merely
of the other’s emotions. Despite a few differences, the proposed theory
comes close to Husserl’s and Stein’s views on intersubjective experience,
as it emphasizes the connection between empathy and the view of phi-
losophy as never-ending questioning. At the end of the paper it is argued
that the concept of agnosticism understood as the suspension of judg-
ment or belief is essential to empathy if and only if it is understood as a
prevailing attitude toward the other.

2.  On Theories of Emotions

In the contemporary literature William James’s early theory of emotions
is usually taken to be a prime example of a non-cognitive view and called
an affect theory. Jesse Prinz calls it a perceptual theory of emotions,
according to which emotions are perceptions of patterned changes in the
body.1 In his article titled “What is an Emotion?” (1884) James writes:

Our natural way of thinking about these standard emotions is that

the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called
the emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bod-
ily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes
follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our
feeling of the same changes as they occur IS the emotion.
(James 1969, 247)

In the second half of the twentieth century a few philosophers adopted

a cognitivist perspective on emotions, both in the methodological sense
that the study of the mental field became largely independent of the study
of overt behavior, and in the sense that the proposed theory of emotions
was cognitive. In the philosophy of emotions a cognitive theory was the
view that emotions are not, or at least not primarily, affects, but that
they are in one way or other related to cognitive processes, that is, with
the processes in which psychologists and philosophers became interested
On Knowing the Other’s Emotions 167
when behaviorism lost its power. Robert Solomon (1980) and Martha
Nussbaum (1990, 1994), for example, presented cognitive views of
emotions. Solomon was influenced by Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul
Sartre, while Martha Nussbaum was inspired by ancient philosophers.
For Solomon, emotions are rational and purposive and like actions, and
we choose an emotion as we choose a course of action (Solomon 1980,
251–252). He also argued that emotions are normative judgments and
that “since normative judgments can be changed through influence, argu-
ment, and evidence, and since I can go about on my own seeking influ-
ence, provoking argument, and looking for evidence, I am responsible for
my emotions as I am for the judgments I make” (ibid., 261). In Solomon’s
view, emotions are something I do, but something I do in haste (ibid.,
262). As a supporter of the Stoic theory, Martha Nussbaum takes an
emotion to be the full acceptance of, or recognition of, a belief. However,
she does not ignore the feeling or affect component, which she regards as
an important source of information (Nussbaum 1990, 40).
At the end of the twentieth century many philosophers proposed com-
ponential views.2 After the rise of cognitive theories, some theorists, Peter
Goldie (2000) for example, have criticized philosophers’ tendency to
overintellectualize emotions and defended the irreducibility of each per-
son’s positive or negative feelings. New types of cognitive theories have
been developed, such as that of Robert C. Roberts (2002). In his theory
emotions are taken to be a special type of “seeings as,” namely, concern-
based construals of the situation that cannot be reduced to judgments.
Roberts does not translate “seeings as” into judgments. I agree that my
seeing a person as frightening or admirable cannot be translated into
my judgment—not even into a mental or inner judgment that I make to
myself—that the person is frightening or admirable. This explains, partly
at least, why prejudices cannot be easily changed by means of arguments.
A prejudiced person is tied to her emotions, which according to Roberts’s
theory are construals of the world, and it is often very difficult for her
to get rid of them. Arguments against the construals hardly make them
disappear, and it may not be easy to free oneself from them, even if one so
wanted for moral reasons, for example. They can be changed by produc-
ing new construals that differ from the earlier ones. It may thus require
other, contrary emotions, before the person’s “seeings as” are changed.
Still, she may be obliged or she may oblige herself to refrain from mak-
ing the corresponding judgment; she may follow the norm that she ought
not to judge, not even to herself, that the other person has a specific
feature. For example, regardless of how she sees the other person, she
may suspend the judgment that the other person who belongs to a dif-
ferent ethnic group is frightening. Suspending a judgment is easier than
suspending a construal; it also means giving up arguing for the emotional
attitude and thus giving up showing that there are chains of judgments
that support the corresponding judgment. The prejudiced person may
168  Leila Haaparanta
agree that unlike the emotion of fear, for example, the judgment that the
other person is frightening must be embedded in a chain of reasoning. It
is true that in some cases a person’s unwillingness to make the judgment
publicly may also be a sign of her willingness to escape the obligation to
give arguments for her emotional judgments.

3.  The Concept of Empathy

What has been said above has to do with a person’s own emotional life.
No perspective on the other’s mental field has been taken so far. In what
follows, I will turn to the problem of knowing the other’s emotions.
In the analytic philosophy of mind there has been much discussion
on simulation and projection, which are regarded as ways of knowing
the other mind, including the other’s emotions. Some philosophers have
shown similarities between the simulation theory and Husserl’s view
on empathy.3 This paper will not take a stand on those debates. There
are different uses of the concepts of empathy and sympathy both in the
philosophical tradition and in contemporary discussion.4 Peter Lamarque
describes empathy as realizing by living through, as imagining what it is
like to be the other (Lamarque 2009, 244), while Suzanne Keen tells us
that empathy is to feel what the other feels and sympathy is a feeling that
supports the feeling of the other, for example, pity (Keen 2007, 4–5).
In Lamarque’s terminology, empathy is a cognitive notion. In his Game
Theory and the Social Contract, Vol. I: Playing Fair (1994) Ken Binmore,
for his part, writes as follows:

A loan shark might attend a movie and succeed in identifying with

an old lady that the story-line plunges into deep distress. But nothing
then prevents his wiping the tears from his eyes on leaving the theater
and proceeding to use the insights gained in watching the movie in
gouging the next elderly widow to come his way. Such empathizing is
about as far from being sympathetic as it is possible to get.
(Binmore 1994, 28)

Binmore argues that the word “sympathy” is linked to situations where

human beings have altruistic preferences, while empathy is a process
via which we imagine ourselves being in the other’s position and seeing
things from her point of view; that process is regarded as purely cogni-
tive, that is, as not having influence on our own preferences.
At the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twen-
tieth century empathy understood as knowledge of other minds was
discussed by several phenomenologists, primarily Edith Stein in her Zur
Problem der Einfühlung (1917) and Edmund Husserl in various texts,
such as the second volume of the Ideen and the Cartesianische Medi-
tationen. Edith Stein distinguished between empathy (“Einfühlung”),
On Knowing the Other’s Emotions 169
for example, knowing the other’s joy, and sympathy (“Mitfühlen”),
for example, feeling joy for the same thing as the other or sharing feel-
ings. For Stein, there are three levels or modalities in empathy; first, the
emergence of experience, that is, of the experience of the other as having
experience, second, the fulfilling explication, and third, the comprehen-
sive objectification of the explained experience. She claims that on the
first and the third level the empathizer’s representation exhibits the non-
primordial parallel to perception, while on the second level it exhibits the
non-primordial parallel to the having of the experience the other has. If
the other’s experiences are emotions, the empathizer goes through quasi-
emotions, which are emotions as if they were the empathizer’s emotions
(Stein 1917, 10). On the first level, empathy is for Stein the experience of
foreign consciousness in general. If we combine the second and the third
level and primarily think of emotions, we may say that Stein regards
empathy as the abstract understanding of the inner feelings of another
consciousness without experiencing them at that moment, for example,
knowing a friend’s grief but not being involved emotionally in grieving.
Sympathy, by contrast, is sharing feelings or having corresponding feel-
ings. In Stein’s analysis, via the level on which quasi-emotions arise, the
experiences of the other become part of the intentional experiences of the
one who feels empathy in a curious way. They are not the empathizer’s
primordial experiences; instead, they are knowledge of what it is like to
be the other in that situation. Empathy is not mystic experience for Stein;
unlike empathy, mystic experience is dominated by the other. Stein thinks
that there are feelings involved in empathy, but the essential thing is that
the empathetic grasp of other selves is a cognitive process.5

4.  The Theories of Emotion and Empathy

I will now discuss three alternatives: what is empathy, understood as
a cognitive concept, (1) if emotions are judgments, (2) if emotions are
“seeing as” or concern-based construals of the world, as Roberts would
say, and (3) if emotions are affects? If we think that the cognitive theory
of emotions which regards emotions as judgments is the correct theory
and empathy is knowledge of the other’s emotions, empathy must be
construed as interpretive reasoning. It is revealing the other’s emotive
judgments and the argumentative chains that seem to support those judg-
ments. The interpreter may rely on the model of theoretical rationality
and try to reconstruct the argumentative structure to which a particular
emotion, understood as a judgment, belongs. Like the interpreter of a
philosophical text, the interpreter of another person may form hypoth-
eses concerning that structure. She may also regard the model of practical
inference as her guide and be interested in the other person’s ends and
beliefs concerning what actions are necessary for attaining the ends; emo-
tions would then play a role in such considerations.
170  Leila Haaparanta
Under more careful consideration it turns out, however, that if empathy
is construed as knowledge of the other’s emotions which are embedded
in chains of reasoning, the alleged empathizer cannot have that knowl-
edge, unless she draws the same conclusion, that is, unless she shares the
other’s judgment. If we exclude the possible chains of reasoning and only
consider the emotion, the judgment, it is conceivable that the interpreter
understands the propositional content of the judgment, but does not make
the judgment herself. It may even be the case that she finds a mistake in
the “reasoning” of the one who has the emotion; that is in fact what the
Stoics tried to do in their therapy. However, if we do not make the same
judgment as the other, we do not know what it is like to make the judg-
ment. If we rely on the cognitive theory which regards emotions as con-
struals or “seeings as,” we are not in any better position. We may doubt
whether we are ever able to see things in the way the other sees them;
hence, whether we can really construe the world in the way the other
does. Following Husserl, we could suggest that we form quasi-judgments,
that we do quasi-actions and that we have quasi-perceptions (Hua II,
263). Husserl’s idea of quasi-doings comes close to Stein’s idea of the
second level of empathy. One could suggest that making quasi-judgments
or having quasi-perceptions corresponds to what happens in Goldman’s
simulation phase. Husserl also relies on the distinction between doing
and quasi-doing when he tries to explain away the contradiction in a case
in which one can represent to oneself that one would commit a murder,
and yet one cannot represent to oneself that one would do so (Hua II,
265). In his Ideen II he first refers to his earlier view in the Logische
Untersuchungen and distinguishes between authenticity and inauthentic-
ity in doxastic position-takings. His example is the distinction between
his representing that he judges authentically or intuitively that 2 x 2 = 5
and his representing that he judges inauthentically or “confusedly” that
2 x 2 = 5. Unlike the latter, the former representing is impossible (Hua II,
264). The antinomy he brings out in his murder example needs further
analysis. Husserl distinguishes between the neutrality modification of the
action and the practical possibility derived from that modification, and
the person’s original consciousness of what she is able to do; hence, con-
sciousness of what kind of person she is. The problem is now whether
she, as the kind of person she is conscious of herself, could have the
needed motivation for the given action. (Hua II, 265–266). This distinc-
tion also brings out the limit which empathy as cognition cannot exceed.
Knowledge of the other’s emotions is not within our reach in any easier
way even if the affect theory happened to be the correct view. An affect
theorist may try to consider types of affects and argue that we are able
to know what it is to have an emotion of the same type as the other
person has; still, she does not know what it is to have the emotion-token
the other has. There is no guarantee that the other person constructs
emotion-types in the same way as we do. Similar worries concerning our
On Knowing the Other’s Emotions 171
cognitive capacities have been discussed by Peter Goldie, who emphasizes
that empathy is not catching the other’s emotion, but “piecing together”
and “filling in gaps” in the person’s narrative (Goldie 2000, 177). He
also points out that there are degrees of success in the empathetic process
(ibid., 203).
If we assume for the sake of argument that both the cognitive theory
and the affect theory are compatible with the possibility of empathy
understood as knowledge of the other’s emotions, we may come up
with a few ethical worries. If the cognitive theory is correct and the
interpreter reconstructs the web of beliefs of the other person as judg-
ments, the interpreter may be tempted to think that she is able to know
the argumentative processes of the other and as a rational being she
is able to control those processes. The affect theory may also be ethi-
cally problematic, if its supporter thinks that in empathy she has a
peculiar type of knowledge of the other’s affects on the basis of her
earlier memories or on the basis of imagination, and if she thinks that
such knowledge gives her power over the other. The recognition of the
otherness of the other, which is essential to an ethical attitude toward
the other, must be presupposed in the construal of empathy. It thus
seems that there is a necessary connection between empathy and moral-
ity. An ethical attitude is a precondition of empathy, as I will claim in
this paper; however, I do not argue that empathy is a precondition for
moral judgments. Jesse Prinz (2011) rejects the Humean thesis which is
precisely that empathy, or sympathy in Hume’s terms, is a precondition
for moral judgments. He also argues that empathy may be even bad
in view of morality. Instead, Prinz emphasizes that moral judgments
involve emotions, such as anger, disgust, guilt, and admiration, and
these provide the sentimental foundation for morality. I wish to pay
attention to certain aspects of empathy that are often ignored, but I do
not intend to break the link between empathy and morality, quite the
contrary. What I wish to argue is that an empathetic attitude in the way
I will construe it in this paper is, or it at least presupposes, an ethical
attitude toward the other.
Ethical questions concerning the cognitive understandings of empathy
have also been raised by Peter Goldie (2000, 2011) and Jan Slaby (2014).
They have argued that there is an ethical problem in empathy: empathy
is making our perspective into your perspective; it is forcing my point of
view upon you. The reason for this is that we cannot be different from
what we are; stepping outside our own perspective and varying perspec-
tives are not possible for us. A human being is not a container who can
freely change her perspectives, feelings, desires, and thoughts. However,
Goldie and Slaby have also interestingly shown the reason for the prob-
lem. It is caused by the very fact of what we are and what we ought to
be. We are and we ought to be autonomous subjects, conscious and self-
conscious agents; to be a full-blooded agent is a moral requirement set
172  Leila Haaparanta
upon us. It thus seems that one who realizes this end cannot be an empty
container with varying contents.
There is a problem, but there are also ways out. Two questions must be
raised: First, in what sense are we conscious and self-conscious subjects
and agents? Are we atoms among other atoms? Second, what is the moral
theory that we should praise? Is it individualistic or rather a more inter-
active, social, or communitarian view of morality? If we are not autono-
mous subjects in the sense of atoms, then we may think, following Slaby,
that interaction with others is there already, it is presupposed in what
it is to be a human agent; therefore, empathy is made possible before
we even notice the problem concerning our knowledge of other persons’
emotions. Another and somewhat related way of understanding human
agency is to consider it in terms of the existential situation shared by
human beings—an approach that is developed by Achim Stephan (2012),
for example. If we focus on ethics, we might return to Aristotelian virtue
ethics and put less emphasis on individual moral agents. That would also
make a change in how we understand agency and subjectivity and how
we understand adopting the other’s perspective. My conclusion from the
ethical worries caused by empathetic knowledge is in line with those pre-
sented by Goldie and Slaby. However, my main thesis concerning what
makes empathy possible does not depend on how we understand person-
hood or agency. This paper studies the special moments of encountering
between two persons. Its conclusion concerning the empathetic attitude
does not stand or fall with what features of persons are emphasized,
hence, whether they are primarily autonomous individuals or more inter-
active and social agents. Still, as I already mentioned, the message of
this paper is not less ethical. John Drummond has, for his part, argued
that the account of empathy is a necessary part of an account of moral
respect. He claims that experience of the other as the other requires the
basic form of empathy, hence, that in order to respect the other, we must
experience the other as one fit for moral attention and appraisal, as hav-
ing autonomy that we should not cancel. For him, the focus is always on
the other whom I experience and not in the situation in which she is and
which I try to imagine.6 Drummond thus emphasizes what Stein takes to
be the first level of empathy.
If we argue that acts of judging, “seeings as,” and affects are all beyond
the empathizer’s reach and that in some situations it is even ethically
problematic to claim that they could be within her reach, that seems
to mean that empathy as cognition is impossible. What I wish to show,
however, is that Stein’s and Husserl’s theories give us tools for developing
an analysis of empathy that both makes empathy possible in terms of the
theories discussed above and simultaneously avoids the ethical problems
caused by the theories. The solution which I propose is the following:
We can distinguish between two steps. It is one thing to see the other as
a person who has emotions and another thing to know what it is like
On Knowing the Other’s Emotions 173
to have those very emotions. The first step means that we see a living
being as one of our kind, namely, as one who has emotions just as we
have. Why would we think in addition that empathy is possible only if
we know how the other feels? My thesis is that empathy as a cognitively
adequate act is possible only if we hesitate to take the second step. The
view proposed does not deny that we can be true empathizers even if we
claim to have abstract knowledge of what the other feels. We normally
make idealizations about other people in everyday life. We rely on gen-
eral types of joy, fear etc., even if we do not get to the states of the other
in their full concreteness. Our understanding is what Husserl would call
the general type (“allgemeintypisches”) in contrast to the individual type
(“individualtypisches”) of understanding persons (Hua II, 270–271).
Edith Stein’s analysis is close to the proposed view; the main difference is
that unlike Stein, it is here required that one acknowledges the abstract-
ness of one’s knowledge of the other’s emotions. Empathy should be
regarded as experience of the other as a person who has emotions and
as doubting that one knows what it is like to have those very emotions
the other has. The proposed analysis requires that one who empathizes
is skeptical about one’s faculty of knowledge. In a real life situation that
means that the empathizer who is not in the same position as the other
person but who believes that she knows what it is like to be in that posi-
tion is less empathetic than the empathizer who doubts whether she has
such knowledge. Empathy should thus be regarded a special experience
of the subject; there the subject sees the other as a person who has emo-
tions, but doubts whether she knows or whether it is even possible for
her to know what it is like to have those emotions the other has. On this
analysis, the acknowledgment of the limit of knowledge is a condition of
empathy, not the denial of its possibility.

5.  Remarks on Husserl and the Skeptical Attitude

In his Cartesianische Meditationen Husserl posed the question “How is
empathy possible?” There has been a debate on whether his argument
for the possibility of our knowledge of other minds is an argument from
analogy. It has been convincingly shown that Husserl does not derive the
being of the other mind via the being of my mind, my body, and the other
body; hence that Husserl’s argument for the possibility of empathy is not
an argument from analogy as that argument is traditionally formulated.7
Instead, his argument for the possibility of empathy relies on the ideas of
apperception and pairing (“Paarung”), which, briefly stated, is seeing the
other as an embodied mind. Husserl first performs a reduction to the first
person’s own field, ownness. He then asks what brings us to the other
self. He notes that we apperceive ourselves as psychophysical organisms
(Hua I, § 44). We are conscious of ourselves as bodily agents, and we
also see the other’s actions. We see the other as a lived body (“Leib”), like
174  Leila Haaparanta
ourselves. Husserl’s pairing is not reasoning in the sense that we would
infer the presence of another mind on the basis of the presence of our
own mind and body (“Körper”) and the other body (“Körper”).
Husserl’s position leaves room for an analysis in which empathy is con-
strued as a general attitude in which the other person is seen as similar to
us; Husserl does not presuppose that one ought to have an access to the
very emotions the other is going through. On the other hand, he does not
emphasize that one ought to doubt the possibility of such an access; in
the analysis of the present paper the very act of doubting is presupposed
if we wish to call the act an act of empathy.
Even if Husserl does not emphasize the skeptical attitude in his
account of empathy, there are important features in his approach that
come close to the view proposed in the present paper. In order to show
the connections and the possible differences, two aspects of Husserl’s
phenomenology and the thesis proposed in this paper need to be elabo-
rated. First, Husserl’s analysis of intentional acts and meaning-intention
needs to be discussed in more detail, because it can serve as a basis for
the kind of account of empathy that is argued for in this paper. Second,
those features of Husserl’s phenomenology must be studied which con-
stitute his construal of Cartesian doubt. Finally, the thesis that agnosti-
cism must be a prevailing attitude in connection with empathy must be
emphasized; it also brings to light interesting connections between the
empathetic attitude and Jane Friedman’s analysis of the suspension of
That Husserl’s distinction between authentic and inauthentic repre-
senting is related to the distinction between original emotions and quasi-
emotions was already mentioned above. Another, but related analysis
proposes itself, if we pay attention to Husserl’s view of intentional acts.
The meaning-intention (“Bedeutungsintention”) of a proposition can
be fulfilled (“erfüllt”) by a proof or a perception. We then say that
the proposition, say, p, holds. If not-p holds, that is the case of disap-
pointment or frustration (“Enttäuschung”). Husserl also uses the terms
“Aufhebung” (“annulment”) and “(partielle) Durchstreichung” (“(par-
tial) cancellation”) (Husserl 1964, § 21a). The meaning-intention of a
proposition may also lack fulfillment, which is the case of non-fulfilment
In his posthumous Erfahrung und Urteil Husserl states that the basis of
negation does not lie in a predicative judgment but its origin can already
be found in pre-predicative experience, hence, in the act of conscious-
ness (Husserl 1964, § 21). A judgment, for example, “This ball is red,”
expresses an anticipating intention, in Husserl’s view. Husserl argues that
if the intention is canceled, if there is frustration, the judgment “This
ball is not red” preserves its old positing, as negation presupposes the
normal, original constitution of an object (ibid., § 72). On his view,
On Knowing the Other’s Emotions 175
theoretical judgments are not negative; instead, at one time they con-
firm a being-thus and at another time they confirm a being-not-thus. In
his phenomenological study the distinction between the fulfillment of a
meaning-intention and its disappointment is acknowledged, but in both
cases something cognitively significant happens. If a meaning-intention is
not fulfilled, there is nothing that is given authentically or intuitively. It
is this non-fulfilment that seems to characterize empathetic acts. Those
acts remain open and non-positing, in the sense that nothing is proved or
immediately perceived of the content of the other’s mental life.
In what Husserl calls the natural attitude, we posit concrete objects
and values as present and as being on hand (vorhanden). By contrast,
one who has a philosophical attitude parenthesizes all positings. She
refrains from spatiotemporal judgments which have to do with the exist-
ence of objects (Hua III, pp. 64–66). The suspension of judgment is not
denying what is posited in the natural attitude. It is continuous striv-
ing for consciousess of the various layers and commitments of everyday
thought and science. In Husserl’s phenomenology, the revealing of pure
consciousness or the form of the stream of experiences is presented as
the end-state of parenthesizings. The parenthesizings are steps from the
natural attitude of everyday thought and science to the radically tran-
scendental attitude. They form a process in which one becomes con-
scious of the nature of the beliefs to which one is tied in everyday thought
and science. (Hua III, 40–44). Even if Husserl cannot be described as a
skeptic, his project presupposes an attitude where nothing is taken for
granted and fixed. However, even if the positings of everyday thought
and science are left behind, new positings, which are authentic or intui-
tive, will arise.
The agnosticism or the skeptical attitude that I regard as a precondi-
tion of empathy is not an attitude that is first taken and then overcome;
on the contrary, it is an attitude that we must take again and again, that
we must remember in order to be empathetic persons. The metacognitive
account of the suspension of judgment that Jane Friedman argues for is a
way of characterizing the skepticism that I am after. In Husserl’s vocabu-
lary, this is the idea of the openness of an intentional act, which is not
fulfilled and which cannot be fulfilled and which the empathizer must see
as unfulfillable. In that sense, the feature of empathy that was emphasized
in this paper, the skeptical attitude, is something that fits in well with
the phenomenological project as a new way of understanding Cartesian
doubt, namely, as never-ending philosophical questioning. What I wanted
to argue for is that empathy understood in the way I suggested is a truly
philosophical endeavor. What matters, however, is that the agnosticism in
the empathetic attitude is a prevailing attitude. The two parties, the empa-
thizer and her other, are in a concrete situation, and the agnostic attitude
must be present and remembered in that very moment of life.
176  Leila Haaparanta
* I am very grateful to the editors and the anonymous reviewers for useful
1. See Prinz (2006, 137).
2. See, e.g., Gordon (1987), Greenspan (1988), and Green (1992). Edmund Hus-
serl’s view on emotions is balanced in the sense that it allows for both their
cognitive and their feeling component. See Haaparanta (2010). The present
paper contains extracts from that article.
3. See, e.g., Currie and Ravenscroft (2002) and Goldman (2006). For arguments
in favor of the simulation theory and against the so-called theory-theory, see
Ravenscroft (1998), Wringe (2003), and Beyer (2005).
4. For terminological problems, also see Morton (2013), 101–107.
5. See Stein (1917), 10–11 and 14–17.
6. See Drummond (2009) and Drummond (2012), 133–134.
7. See Williams (1989), Zahavi (2010), and Beyer (2012).
8. See Friedman (2013). For the analysis of judgment and assertion in the phe-
nomenological tradition, see, for example, Mulligan (2013).

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6 What Is Empathy?
Søren Overgaard

Philosophers and cognitive scientists have recently devoted much atten-

tion to empathy. Broadly speaking, there are two sorts of reasons for
this renewed interest in empathy. On the one hand, moral philosophers
have inquired whether empathy could play an important role in motivat-
ing pro-social or altruistic behavior (e.g., Darwall 1998; Maibom 2007).
On the other hand, social cognition researchers have hypothesized that
empathy may hold the key to important and foundational issues in inter-
personal understanding, in particular with respect to our understanding
of the emotions of other people (Goldie 1999; Goldman 2006; Decety
and Ickes 2009; Stueber 2006). Theorists whose interest in empathy is
of the latter sort have generally been concerned to distinguish empathy
from related phenomena such as so-called “emotional contagion” (where
you might “catch” someone else’s emotion without even being aware
that the other person feels the emotion) and “sympathy” (understood as
feelings of care or concern for another person’s plight, which need not
involve an understanding of the other person as herself troubled by her
situation).1 In this chapter, I approach empathy from the perspective of
social understanding.
Everyone agrees that empathy is “other-directed” or “other-centered”
(de Vignemont 2009). That is, I cannot empathize with a stone, or with
the event of a door being locked. I can only empathize with other subjects
and their mental states and episodes—including their emotional reactions
to such things as doors being locked.23 Beyond this innocuous point,
there is little agreement on how to characterize empathy. In the growing
literature on empathy, a certain assumption is very widespread. I call it
the ‘similarity assumption’:4

Similarity assumption: For one person (“the empathizer”) to empa-

thize with another person’s (“the target’s”) emotional (or sensory)
state, the empathizer must currently be in an emotional (or sensory)
state of the same type as the one the target is currently in.

Call accounts of empathy that accept the similarity assumption ‘similarity

based accounts.’ Such accounts are widespread, though not universally
What Is Empathy? 179
accepted. Husserl and Stein—and their phenomenological heirs5—stand
out by their firm rejection of the similarity assumption. And, as I suggest
in this paper, the sorts of worries they have about that assumption seem
well-founded, at least as far as certain recent similarity-based accounts of
empathy are concerned. In particular, I shall criticize a group of closely
related definitions of empathy recently proposed by Nancy Snow and
Frédérique de Vignemont. I argue that these definitions implausibly count
certain cases of emotional contagion as cases of empathy. Toward the end,
I raise the question whether it really is the similarity assumption that is
responsible for the problems with those definitions, and I discuss whether
the standard Husserlian alternative constitutes much of an improvement.
I also—very tentatively—suggest that there may be resources in Husserl
for an account of empathy somewhat different from the standard one.
The structure of the paper is as follows. I first provide a brief outline of
the standard Husserlian take on empathy, which I also attribute to Stein.
Then, in section 2, I discuss a simple similarity-based account loosely based
on Nancy Snow’s (2000) definition of empathy, and argue that it faces insu-
perable problems. Section 3 considers more sophisticated versions, includ-
ing Snow’s actual account, and an account defended by de Vignemont and
Singer (2006). I argue that, although the latter do resolve some of the prob-
lems facing the simple definition, the accounts are still faced with decisive
objections. In Section 4, I discuss an even more complex definition proposed
by de Vignemont and Jacob (2012) and argue that it, too, has problems.
By way of concluding, section 5 considers whether the standard Husserlian
alternative of dropping the similarity assumption is the best way forward.

1. The Standard Husserlian Account:

Empathy Without Similarity
Despite occasionally expressing misgivings concerning the term ‘empa-
thy’ (Einfühlung) (Hua VIII, 69; Hua XIII, 335, 338), Husserl generally
adopts it, and uses it to designate the sorts of experiences in which other
minds or subjects, and their mental states and episodes, are presented or
represented to us.

In empathy, the empathizing I experiences [erfährt] the inner life

[Seelenleben] or, to be more precise, the consciousness of the other I.
He experiences the other I, but no one will say he lives [erlebt] it and
perceives it in inner perception, in a Lockean reflection, just like his
own consciousness.
(Hua XIII, 187; Husserl 2006, 82–83)

That intentionality within my own ego, which leads into the foreign
ego, is what is known as empathy. [Die Intentionalität im eigenen
Ich, die in das fremde Ich hineinführt, ist die sogenannte Einfühlung]
(Hua IX, 321)
180  Søren Overgaard
Just as eidetic intuition (Wesenserschauung) presents essential matters as
immediately as can be, and ‘outer’ perception presents spatiotemporal
things and events as immediately and originally as can be, so empathic
experiences present other subjects (and their experiences) as originally
and immediately as can be. Empathy is, in Stein’s words, “a kind of act
of perceiving [erfahrender Akte] sui generis” (Stein 1917, 10, 1989, 11).6
Indeed, Husserl sometimes seems happy to speak of empathy simply as
a perception of other subjects (Fremdwahrnehmung; e.g. Hua XV, 86).
But specifically when it comes to the mentality (Psychisches) of the other
person, the term “perception,” Husserl thinks, is inappropriate (Hua
XV, 84). And thus he mostly distinguishes sharply between perception
and empathy,7 emphasizing that while the spatiotemporal object given
in perception has no sides or aspects that are in principle inaccessible
to direct presentation, the target of empathy—the other subjectivity—is
characterized by an in-principle inaccessibility (Hua XV, 84).8 Being the
sort of experience that makes “accessible” to me strictly inaccessible oth-
ers (Hua I, 144), Husserl can also say that empathy is what first takes
me beyond my primordial sphere, and that it is “the true and genuine
transcendence” (Hua XIV, 442).
Given Husserl’s broad understanding of empathy, it is already clear
that he must reject the similarity assumption.9 After all, it does seem
possible for me to experience another person as angry without feeling
angry myself. And obviously, I can see that someone writhing in agony is
feeling pain without having to feel anything even remotely similar myself.
Indeed, not only can I do this; Husserl apparently denies that it is gener-
ally the case that, in empathy, I feel what the other is feeling:

 . . . when I feel empathy with your anger, I am myself not angry, not
at all. Just as I am not angry when I imagine anger or merely recall
it—unless, in the latter case, I become angry once again.
(Hua XIII, 188; Husserl 2006, 83)

Stein makes a similar point:

The subject of the empathized experience, however, is not the subject

empathizing, but another. . . . And while I am living in the other’s
joy, I do not feel primordial joy. It does not issue live from my “I.”
(Stein 1989, 11)

Interpreted as claims about what generally or mostly happens in empa-

thy, these pronouncements are of course compatible with the idea that
such similarity or emotional matching is characteristic of a sub-set of
empathic acts—perhaps acts, where for some reason, I am motivated
to probe deeper into what the other person is experiencing. However,
at least Edith Stein goes a step further in suggesting that the similarity
What Is Empathy? 181
assumption might in fact be in some sort of tension with the very notion
of empathy. As I mentioned in the introduction, it is agreed on (virtu-
ally) all hands that empathy—whatever else we want to say about it—
is “other-directed” or “other-centered.” That is to say, the intentional
objects of empathic acts are other subjects and/or their experiences and
other mental states and episodes. And, as Stein suggests, it is not clear
how my own feeling of sadness would, in and of itself, make me aware
of another person’s sadness. It is much more likely, it seems, that it would
lead my focus away from the other and instead home in on my own
situation. The point here is even clearer if we consider sensations. To
the extent that the other’s excruciating agony was mirrored by a similar
pain in me, it is plausible that I would lose sight of the other’s plight
altogether, being fully preoccupied by my own predicament. As Stein
remarks, by such means “I do not arrive at the phenomenon of foreign
experience, but at an experience of my own that is aroused in me by the
foreign gestures witnessed” (Stein 1989, 23).10 It is not clear that Husserl
ever explicitly makes a similar point, although he frequently denies that
empathy involves my having a feeling or an emotion that somehow mir-
rors or depicts the target’s feeling, or which is projected into the target
(Hua XIII, 188, 335; Hua XIV, 162–164).
At first blush, the Husserlian—or perhaps better: Steinian—suspicion
against similarity-based accounts of empathy seems only confirmed if
we consider certain recent, similarity-based accounts of empathy. The
accounts in question, as I will now argue, have difficulties capturing the
essential other-centeredness of empathy. The Husserlian account, by
stark contrast, has other-centeredness built in.

2.  A Simple Proposal

I start by considering a fairly simple definition of empathy. After point-
ing out some problems with it, we will explore some more sophisticated
definitions that may be regarded as modifications of the simple definition.
Nancy Snow defines empathy as follows:

S empathizes with O’s experience of emotion E if and only if: (a) O

feels E; (b) S feels E because O feels E; and (c) S knows or under-
stands that O feels E.
(Snow 2000, 68)11

An immediate worry about this definition is that Snow seems to rule out
empathizing with past, future, or fictional emotions. This might strike
someone as odd. Surely, if the sadness we feel when we experience a
friend as sad counts as empathy, then the sadness we feel when char-
acters in movies are unhappy should be classed in the same way, some
might think. Also, suppose I know that my friend is about to receive
182  Søren Overgaard
a distressing phone call, and this makes me feel sad. If Snow’s defini-
tion is accepted, it seems we have to say that this only becomes a case
of empathizing the moment the other person has become upset by the
bad news. Although this aspect of Snow’s definition might be considered
problematic (see Maibom 2007), I shall not pursue the matter here. I am
interested in discussing an altogether different problem.
Suppose for now—and, as we shall see shortly, contrary to Snow’s
intentions—that S and O feel E if they feel an emotion of the same generic
type (e.g. sadness, anger). In other words, sameness of generic type—or,
to employ a more precise term, of intentional mode12—is sufficient for
sameness of emotion in the sense relevant for the proposed definition. If
such a reading were right, it seems fairly obvious that Snow’s definition
could not distinguish empathy from emotional contagion. To see this,
consider the following case. After a hard day at work, Jack enters a half-
empty pub. Though somewhat absentminded and preoccupied with his
own affairs, he can’t help but notice that all the other patrons are in high
spirits. Soon the general cheerfulness starts to affect Jack himself. Suppose
that the other patrons are happy because the local soccer team has won
an important match. Jack, who has no interest in soccer, is oblivious of
this fact, and he simply starts to feel good about his career, his marriage,
or his life in general. Does Jack empathize with the other pub-goers? If we
accept the current reading of Snow’s definition of empathy, we would have
to say that he does: the other pub-goers are cheerful; Jack knows that they
are; and Jack is cheerful because the others are. But classifying the case in
this way seems wrong. He catches their visible and audible cheerfulness,
but beyond that, he is in no way concerned with their emotions—he is
concerned exclusively with his own affairs. His cheerfulness is triggered
by the cheerfulness of the other patrons, which in turn was caused by the
soccer result, so indirectly, Jack’s high spirits have also been triggered by
the soccer result. But while the other pub-goers are happy about just this
result, Jack has no knowledge of the result or the fact that it is what the
others are happy about. Nor is he interested in any of this; he feels merry
about something altogether different. Indeed, we may suppose that he has
no idea that his own high spirits have anything to do with the jolly mood
of the other people in the pub. The case, it seems to me, is obviously one
of emotional contagion, rather than empathy.13

3.  Snow’s and de Vignemont’s Accounts

The simple definition is not actually Snow’s definition, however. For she
believes that empathy should be “characterized as feeling an emotion
with someone” (p. 66), where “feeling with” is supposed to involve feel-
ing similar emotions “about the same fact” (ibid.). That is to say, for
Snow, I do not match another’s emotion E simply in virtue of having an
emotion with the same intentional mode: the contents have to match too.
What Is Empathy? 183
This takes care of Jack’s case. Since Jack doesn’t match the other pub-
goers’ emotions, the case does not meet Snow’s conditions on empathy,
and so it does not constitute a counter-example to Snow’s definition.
So far, so good. However, it is clear that an additional matching of
contents would not make Jack any more other-directed than he was in
the original example. Consider that whenever I am happy about a soccer
win—which sadly, due to the generally poor performance of my favorite
team, is a rare event—thousands of other people are happy about that
very same thing. But that obviously does not entail that I am directed
at those other people, most of whom I have never met. I am, of course,
directed at the soccer result. We can imagine a situation—perhaps resem-
bling the case of Jack—in which I become happy about the soccer victory
as a result of encountering others who happen to be happy about the
very same thing. Perhaps their joy takes my mind off that recent rejection
of a research grant proposal, and my mind wanders off to more positive
matters. This does not entail that I am now concerned with those other
people and their feelings. Rather, as before, it is the soccer result I am
happy about; that my joy was triggered by those other people and their
emotions does not change that fact.14 Perhaps I’ve not given any thought
to what they were feeling, beyond simply registering (in a split-second)
their cheerfulness about the result. This surely does not make me other-
centered in any robust sense.
Snow considers a possible further condition on empathy: “(d) S under-
stands that S feels E because O feels E” (68). But she argues that this
condition “is neither necessary nor sufficient for empathy, but indicates a
cognitively sophisticated form of empathy” (ibid.). Her reasoning is that
to meet this condition one needs self-reflective abilities that children and
retarded people might not have, and thus to regard this condition as nec-
essary is to deny that such subjects can experience empathy. One might
think, however, that adding this condition is precisely what needs to be
done in order to address cases such as the ones I have canvassed. Perhaps
it is my ignorance of the fact that my cheerfulness is triggered by that of
the people around me that makes mine a case of contagion, rather than
empathy. A number of recent accounts of empathy have modified what
is essentially Snow’s definition of empathy in such a way as to include
something like her condition (d). The reasoning is precisely that this con-
dition is required to distinguish empathy from emotional contagion.
Frédérique de Vignemont and Tania Singer define empathy as follows:

There is empathy if: (i) one is in an affective state; (ii) this state is
isomorphic to another person’s state;15 (iii) this state is elicited by the
observation or imagination of another person’s affective state; (iv)
one knows that the other person is the source of one’s own affective
(de Vignemont and Singer 2006, 435)
184  Søren Overgaard
They are explicit that, in order to ‘enable precise claims to be made
about the nature of empathy,’ we need a definition that distinguishes
clearly between empathy and phenomena such as sympathy and emo-
tional contagion (de Vignemont and Singer 2006, 435). Loosely put, the
main point of their first condition is to set empathy apart from more
theoretical, detached or “colder” ways of working out what another per-
son is feeling. The second condition is supposed to distinguish empathy
from sympathy, while the function of the fourth condition is to distin-
guish empathy from emotional contagion (de Vignemont 2009). One
slightly odd thing about this definition is that it only seems to give us
collectively sufficient conditions for empathy, whereas we would expect a
definition to provide necessary and sufficient conditions.16 That the latter
is indeed what de Vignemont and Singer intended to give is, however, at
least implicitly confirmed by the fact that in another paper, de Vignemont
offers essentially the same definition, but now implying that it gives nec-
essary (but not sufficient) conditions.17
An immediate problem with this definition, however, is that it is unclear
whether it really does take care of problematic cases such as my soccer
example. Consider the case of Jackie, who is slightly more reflective than
I am, but whose story is otherwise identical to mine. That is, Jackie enters
the bar preoccupied with somewhat gloomy thoughts about her career
prospects. She notices the high spirits of the other pub-goers as well as
the soccer win they are so happy about, and little by little she catches the
cheerfulness and has pleasant thoughts about the soccer result. Being the
self-reflective person she is, however, she is aware that it is the joy of
the other patrons that is responsible for her own emotional change. It
seems Jackie satisfies all de Vignemont and Singer’s conditions for empa-
thizing. And yet, again, it seems wrong to classify her case in this way.
For she is no more concerned with the other pub-goers’ emotions than
I was. Just like me, she is experiencing emotional contagion. The fact
that, in addition to being happy about the same thing the other pub-goers
are happy about, she knows that her high spirits are triggered by those
of the people around her surely does not make her case any less of a case
of emotional contagion. Jackie is every bit as “self-centered”—or rather
“soccer-centered”—as I was.
Perhaps a somewhat different example, taken from de Vignemont
and Jacob (2012), may help to make this point clearer. They consider
empathic and contagious responses to someone else’s feeling of pain.
Suppose a screaming infant is injected with a painful vaccine in a hospi-
tal ward, and his six-year-old sister, witnessing the event, “tenses up and
shrinks as if she were anticipating the pain caused by the needle in her
own shoulder” (de Vignemont and Jacob 2012, 296). This response, de
Vignemont and Jacob note,18 is an example of contagion. Now, of course,
this sort of contagion is not just something to which young children are
prone—adults sometimes react like this as well. The difference is that,
What Is Empathy? 185
whereas a six-year-old may not realize that the other’s pain is the source
of her own wincing and tensing up, adults may be fully aware that this is
what is going on. But, crucially, this hardly changes the fact that what we
have here is a case of contagion. It obviously remains a case of contagion,
for just like the six-year-old, we adults may be exclusively concerned with
how unpleasant it is for us to anticipate the needle penetrating our own
skin. Our knowledge that the other’s pain is the source of our wincing
does nothing to change the fact that we are (in this case) self-centered.

4.  The “Caring Condition”

Perhaps partly in an attempt to handle cases like these, de Vignemont and
Jacob (2012, 307) impose a further requirement on empathy:

v) Caring condition: X must care about Y’s affective life.

Perhaps the caring condition yields the “other-centeredness” everyone

agrees must be central to empathy. Of course, if that is part of the fifth
condition’s job description, it raises the question of what the point is
of condition (iv). In all de Vignemont’s publications on this issue, she
emphasizes that the point of condition (iv) is to distinguish empathy from
emotional contagion; but if I am right, condition (iv) precisely cannot do
this. Perhaps at this point—if not before—one starts to wonder whether
de Vignemont and Singer’s original four-part definition of empathy—
which was after all supposed to have secured the other-centeredness—
should not be rethought altogether, rather than patched up with further
conditions that do the work the original definition was unable to do.
However that may be, the key question here is of course whether the
caring condition can give us the robust other-centeredness we are still
looking for. Now, on the face of it, Jackie fails to meet the caring condi-
tion, as do I in my own little moment of soccer bliss. But what if Jackie’s
case is revised so that she meets the caring condition? It seems that, judg-
ing from the way de Vignemont and Jacob unpack the caring condition,
the latter concerns the “stance” or “attitude” one has toward another
person. As they write, “an egotist stance seems hardly compatible
with . . . empathy,” and they deny that one can empathize with another’s
pain “[I]f one is indifferent or has a negative attitude toward the per-
son in pain” (2012, 307).19 Now, there need not be anything excessively
self-absorbed about Jackie’s way of reacting to the other pub-goers—and
so her “stance” need not be understood as “egotistic,” as this term is
standardly used. In addition, it would not be too far-fetched to ascribe to
Jackie a positive overall attitude to the other pub-goers—who are, after
all, supporters of the same soccer team as she is. If such a generally posi-
tive attitude is sufficient for meeting the caring condition, then we can
suppose—without changing the example in any significant way—that
186  Søren Overgaard
Jackie does meet the caring condition. Yet she is still not other-centered
in any but the thinnest of senses. Jackie’s positive disposition toward
the other pub-goers does not make her more concerned with them or
their joy—it does not center Jackie’s overall mindset around them.20 So,
she now meets all five conditions on empathy, but still does not seem to
That de Vignemont and colleagues’ definitions are inadequate even
with the caring condition in place can be further underscored by consid-
ering yet another example. Suppose Sue is skiing off-piste with her friend
James. The avalanche risk is estimated to be at a record low and Sue and
James are avoiding steep slopes. Yet James can’t help feeling afraid they
might get caught in an avalanche. After a while James’ fear—manifested
in his trembling voice and hands and his constant talk about the ava-
lanche risk—grips Sue herself and she now starts feeling afraid. Sue, then,
is in an affective state (i); both as regards mode and content this state
is isomorphic to James’ state (ii); the state is elicited by observations of
James’ agitation (iii); Sue knows that James is the cause of her (irrational)
fear (iv); and, finally, I have stipulated that Sue and James are friends,
so the caring condition seems fulfilled. But it doesn’t seem right to say
that Sue empathizes with James. She is not properly speaking “other-
centered.” Rather, what she is preoccupied with is the risk of getting
caught in an avalanche. Again, what we have is a complex case of emo-
tional contagion that fails to meet the most basic and uncontroversial
requirement on empathy.
Perhaps de Vignemont and Jacob could make the caring condition
more demanding. Perhaps they could stipulate that one only cares if one
currently feels concern for another, or something along such lines. Then
Jackie and Sue certainly would not meet the condition. Moreover, meet-
ing it would ensure the other-centeredness we are looking for. In and of
itself this would surely be a massive improvement. While the caring con-
dition as it stands seems, as the saying goes, to be “too little, too late,”
this revised condition may be sufficient to allay the worries I have raised;
but it is hard to shake the impression that this final mending of the defini-
tion comes too late. Other-centeredness—the key feature of empathy—at
best looks like an afterthought.

5.  Back to Husserl?

If the foregoing critical discussion is on the right track, it would seem
that at least some recent accounts of empathy that stress the similarity
assumption run into difficulties when it comes to capturing the other-
centeredness everyone agrees is essential to empathy. At this point, the
standard Husserlian alternative may seem to offer a very attractive way
out. Since “empathy” is, for Husserl, simply a label for the manifold
intentional experiences that are of or about other subjects as such, any
What Is Empathy? 187
worry about other-centeredness must evaporate. If an experience is
directed at another subject as such, it is by definition an experience of
empathy, nor could there possibly be empathic experiences as understood
by Husserl that were not directed at other subjects.
Before we embrace the standard Husserlian account, however, we might
want to consider the following points. First, note that I have not posi-
tively shown that the similarity assumption is what is responsible for the
problems that (if I am right) de Vignemont and Snow run into. Indeed, it
does not seem plausible to think that emotional similarity between empa-
thizer and the person empathized with is somehow incompatible with the
former being other-centered. Perhaps there are ways of being concerned
with what another person is going through that involve somehow feeling
the same as they do. But if so, it seems the objections I have presented to
Snow’s and de Vignemont’s accounts target their overall accounts—not
the similarity assumption specifically.21
Secondly, note that, strictly speaking, one cannot agree with my treat-
ment of the cases in section 3 if one accepts a standard Husserlian account
of empathy. I have denied that, for instance, Jackie empathizes with the
other pub-goers, for the reason that she is not “centered” on them, but
on the soccer result. But it will not have escaped the attentive reader that,
insofar as Jackie realizes that the other pub-goers are happy about the
result, she does empathize with them, if we accept the standard Husser-
lian account of empathy. In fact, she empathizes with them merely by dint
of realizing that they are other subjects, as opposed to inanimate things.
At this juncture, we might start to wonder whether perhaps the stand-
ard Husserlian account casts a too wide net. Of course, if Husserl (and
Husserlians) choose to adopt a very broad use of the term “empathy,”
who is to stop them? However, we should not overlook the fact that such
a use has disadvantages. “Empathy” for Husserlians will then have very
little to do with empathy as the term is ordinarily used. I don’t—in the
ordinary sense of the term—empathize with people just by identifying
them as subjects or “egos,” or by detecting anger in their threatening
gestures. But in the standard Husserlian sense of the term, I do. Why
inflate the extension of the term “empathy” in such a dramatic—and
potentially bewildering22—way when we already have terms with some-
thing like the right extension—say, “social understanding”? And if the
available terms are not quite right, then we can introduce a technical
term, as the later Husserl does when he speaks of Fremderfahrung (Hua
I, Fifth Meditation).
Should we, then, look beyond Husserl in attempting to provide an
adequate account of empathy? Not necessarily. In this concluding sec-
tion, I have spoken critically of the “standard” Husserlian account. The
qualification is important. For Husserl sometimes distinguishes between
empathy in a loose or “inauthentic” (uneigentlich) sense and empathy in
a deeper, more strict or authentic (eigentlich) sense, which he associates
188  Søren Overgaard
with “living” or “feeling” “with” the other person (Hua XIII, 438–439,
455).23 In eigentliche Einfühlung, Husserl says, “I live, observe, think,
act, and feel ‘with’ [the other person]” (Hua XIII, 477).24 Again, “in
empathy lies . . . a doing-with, a living-with in perception, thought, feel-
ing, deciding” (Hua XIV, 188).25 Perhaps a careful unpacking of the latter
notion will set us on the right track in thinking about empathy, and per-
haps there is even a role for emotional similarity or resonance in such an
account. Indeed, read one way, the quotes adduced might seem to entail
a commitment to the similarity assumption. It is, however, also worth
highlighting that Husserl occasionally adds the qualifier “quasi” when
outlining his notion of “authentic” empathy. It involves, he says, a “quasi
living, quasi co-affected, thinking-with, doing-with, etc. in and with the
other” (Hua XIII, 438–439).26 This makes it unlikely that he considers
actual feeling-with to be a necessary condition for “authentic empathy.”
It is beyond the scope of the present chapter to fully develop and defend
a positive account of empathy, Husserlian-inspired or otherwise. How-
ever, I want to end by outlining a tentative proposal (without defending
it), which I believe is both attractive for systematic reasons, and may
perhaps be in line with Husserl’s thoughts on “authentic empathy.” The
proposal I have in mind avoids reading Husserl as being committed to the
similarity assumption, but is compatible with the idea that empathy may
occasionally involve emotional matching.
A empathizes with B if and only if:

i. A is in an intentional state . . .
• whose intentional mode is imagination
• whose intentional content is B’s experience as it is undergone or
‘lived’ from B’s point of view
ii. A does not confuse A’s identity with B’s identity.27

A couple of things here are worth highlighting. As mentioned, this defi-

nition is compatible with A having something like a vicarious feeling of
emotion of the same type as B’s emotion, if any. It just does not require
this to be the case. Nor does it require A to care about B’s emotional life.
On this account, then, I can empathize with people—come to understand
how the world looks from their perspective, how they feel about what
is happening—even if, on balance, I don’t much like them. Moreover,
I suggest we think of empathy as an act of imagination. This is my best
guess as to what Husserl means by mitfühlen, miterleben, and so on, if he
does not mean that I must strictly feel or experience what the target feels
or experiences. Although I may have feelings and other experiences that
match those of the target, these are not necessary conditions. What is
necessary—and here we turn to the content of the empathic imagination—
is only that I imagine what the other is going through from her point of
What Is Empathy? 189
view. This proposal also resonates with Husserl’s consistent rejection of
projection-based accounts of empathy. In empathy, I precisely must not
project myself into the other’s shoes (Hua XIII, 164, 188). The reason is
that doing so may not entail any sort of sensitivity to the other person
and her situation, feelings, etc. If someone else is scared of heights and
I am not, I will not be able to engage with what she is going through
when faced with the Grand Canyon Skywalk if I imagine myself in her
In evaluating this proposal, we must, of course, keep two questions
firmly apart. One question is whether the proposal is a plausible can-
didate for a definition of empathy that both secures the essential other-
centeredness and (contra the standard Husserlian account) retains a fairly
close connection with ordinary usage. Another question is whether the
proposed definition captures what Husserl has in mind when speaking of
eigentliche Einfühlung. I am very uncertain about the answer to the latter
question, but I am optimistic that the former may ultimately receive an
affirmative answer.28

1. I can feel sympathy for an old, poor person who still has to do hard manual
labor to make ends meet; but that person herself might not feel the least bit
sad about having to work hard. I can even be aware of this fact, and still feel
sorry for her (Maibom 2007, 164).
2. Presumably only conscious metal states or episodes are candidate objects of
empathy. If Sally is in no way conscious of desiring a leather jacket, I cannot
empathize with that desire of hers, or so it seems. Nothing in what follows
hangs on this assumption, however.
3. Can I empathize with myself? If so, that would have to involve some sort of dis-
tance or separation between myself as empathizer and myself as empathized-
with. So, perhaps I can empathize with my future self—e.g. the elderly per-
son I am not yet—and my past self—e.g. the rebellious teenager I no longer
am. I surely cannot empathize with myself as I am right now, no more than
I can envy myself (as I am right now). At any rate, the philosophers discussed
in the present paper all assume that empathy is necessarily other-directed.
I follow suit.
4. The similarity assumption goes back to Theodor Lipps’ (1900) classical
account of Einfühlung. Although the positions of Husserl and Stein are obvi-
ously in part critical reactions to Lipps’ account, I will not be concerned with
the historical discussion here (cf. Zahavi and Overgaard 2012).
5. See, in particular, Zahavi (2008, 2011); Zahavi and Overgaard (2012).
6. Note that Edith Stein’s “erfahrender” is broader than “perceptual.”
7. In Husserliana XV, for example, he writes: “Empathy cannot become per-
ception” (Einfühlung kann nicht Wahrnehmung werden) (Hua XV, 598).
8. So when I say that, for Husserl, empathy presents another subjectivity “as
originally and immediately as can be,” it must be added that it seems there
are severe limitations on the immediacy and originality Husserl considers
possible in this domain. When Husserl denies that it is possible to have direct
perceptual access to another person’s experiences, his worries are (in my
view) partly justified and partly misguided. First, Husserl thinks that if I had
190  Søren Overgaard
the very same access to another’s experience as she herself has, a problematic
fusion of subjectivities would result (Hua I, 139). I share Husserl’s intuitions
on this point. However, Husserl apparently takes it to follow from this that
we must deny that another’s experiences (Erlebnisse) themselves, or indeed
“anything else belonging to his own essence” can be “directly accessible”
(Hua I, 139; Husserl 1995, 109). This I don’t find convincing. If my access
to another person’s love or pain is perceptual—for instance, if I can see her
affection for her child in her facial and other gestures—my access is surely
not the same as her own primary access to her feelings of affection or pain.
It is thus possible to maintain that we can have direct perceptual access
to another person’s mental states without incurring commitment to any
problematic fusion of subjects. Merleau-Ponty seems to me to be someone
who defends a promising view along these lines (see Overgaard 2012 for
9. I say reasonably clear, because one may wonder to what extent Husserl
needs to oppose the idea that, contingently, as a matter of empirical fact,
all empathic experiences involve some sort of similarity or matching (as,
perhaps, a universal ‘simulation-theory’ might maintain) of states—perhaps
subpersonal states—in the empathizer and the person empathized with.
What Husserl definitely must reject, it seems to me, is only the claim that
similarity is built into the very concept of empathy.
10. I have corrected Waltraud Stein’s translation here. She writes “at an experi-
ence of my own that arouses in me the foreign gestures witnessed” (1989,
23), which hardly makes sense. Edith Stein writes: “zu einem eigenen Erleb-
nis, das die fremde gesehene Gebärde in mir wachruft” (Stein 1917, 24).
Here, as in numerous other places, Waltraud Stein’s faulty translation com-
pletely distorts the meaning of Edith Stein’s text.
11. ‘O’ here refers to another subject. And ‘E’ is the label of an emotion type,
not (of course) a token. Note also that for this definition to be non-circular,
Snow must operate with non-empathic ways of knowing or understanding
what others feel.
12. The distinction between intentional mode and intentional content is due to
Searle (1983, ch. 1). Husserl, of course, marked the same distinction in terms
of ‘act quality’ and ‘act matter’ (Aktqualität and Aktmaterie; Hua XIX/1,
13. Stein (1989, 23–24) discusses a very similar case of emotional contagion,
where I “seek out cheerful company to cheer me up.”
14. Indeed, another’s cheerfulness could influence me, and make me cheerful,
without my even noticing that they were cheerful. (Think, for example, of
cases involving subliminal priming. An emotion-laden stimulus can influence
my emotion without my even being aware of it.) This sort of case, of course,
would not meet Snow’s third condition on empathy.
15. Again, for such ‘isomorphism’ we need a matching in terms of content as
well as mode. This is made clear elsewhere, by de Vignemont and Jacob:
‘ . . . empathic responses . . . are vicarious experiences whose contents and
characters crucially depend on the contents and characters of the basic emo-
tions that cause the vicarious experiences’ (2012, 305).
16. Sufficient conditions alone do not generally yield very illuminating defi-
nitions. Consider, for instance, the following “definition” of a European:
something is a European if (i) it is a woman and (ii) it is Belgian.
17. ‘Individual X could not empathize with individual Y unless (i) X were in
some affective state or other; (ii) X’s affective state were isomorphic with Y’s
affective state (or target state) in some relevant aspects; (iii) X’s state were
What Is Empathy? 191
triggered by Y’s state; and (iv) X were aware that Y is the source of X’s own
affective state’ (de Vignemont 2009).
18. It is an experience of “contagious pain,” they say (2012, 296). Actually,
some may wish to classify this as a case of “personal distress.” However
that may be, de Vignemont and Jacob are clearly right in thinking of it is a
“contagion-like” phenomenon.
19. Here, of course, there does seem to be an important connection between
empathy (as understood by de Vignemont and colleagues) and pro-social
behavior (cf. the introduction). But this does not change the fact that our
interest in empathy here (and de Vignemont and Jacob’s interest in it) con-
cerns its possible social-cognitive role.
20. The case is arguably even clearer with regard to the example of the two
siblings considered in the previous section. It is overwhelmingly plausible to
assume that the sister meets the caring condition vis-à-vis her infant sibling.
Yet she is not other-centered.
21. As I will suggest shortly, the similarity assumption is too strong. But I believe
it is not responsible for the problems I have outlined.
22. Ordinary usage has a way of reasserting itself. In my experience, students
who clearly understand what Husserl and Stein mean by “empathy” will
frequently raise objections that are based on the ordinary usage.
23. There is, I take it, some overlap between Husserl’s ”eigentliche Einfühlung”
and Stein’s second level of empathy, involving a “non-primordial parallel
to the having of the experience” the other person has (Stein 1989, 10). But
what I find particularly interesting and promising about Husserl’s perspec-
tive here is the way it may be seen as restricting empathy (properly speaking)
to something like that level.
24. “Dann lebe ich, betrachte ich, denke ich, handle ich, fühle ich ‘mit’ ihm.”
25. “Aber in der Einfühlung . . . liegt . . . ein Mittun, Mitleben im Wahrnemen,
Denken, Fühlen, Sich-entscheiden.”
26. “das in und mit dem Anderen . . . quasi Leben, quasi mitaffiziert, mitden-
kend, mittuend etc.”
27. This proposal is inspired by the account articulated and defended by Peter
Goldie (1999).
28. This paper has a long pre-history. It goes back to some ideas that were
included in a paper jointly authored with Dan Zahavi, and I have presented
versions of it at various conferences and symposia, including in joint pres-
entations with John Michael. I must have incurred many debts along the
way, which unfortunately I can no longer recall. However, I wish to thank
the editors (Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Christel Fricke) and David
Cerbone for a number of helpful comments on the penultimate draft of the

Darwall, Stephen. “Empathy, Sympathy, Care.” Philosophical Studies 89 (1998),
Decety, Jean and William Ickes. Editors. The Social Neuroscience of Empathy.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.
de Vignemont, Frédérique. “Affective Mirroring: Emotional Contagion or
Empathy?” In: S. Nolen-Hoeksema, B. Fredrickson, G. R. Loftus and W. A.
Wagenaar, eds., Atkinson and Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology. 15th ed.
Florence, KY: Cengage Learning, 2009.
192  Søren Overgaard
de Vignemont, Frédérique and Pierre Jacob. “What Is It Like to Feel Another’s
Pain?” Philosophy of Science 79 (2012), 295–316.
de Vignemont, Frédérique and Tania Singer. “The Empathic Brain: How, When
and Why?” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (2006), 435–441.
Goldman, Alvin I. Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neurosci-
ence of Mindreading. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Goldie, Peter. “How We Think of Others’ Emotions.” Mind and Language 14
(1999), 394–423.
Husserl, Edmund. Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology.
Translated by D. Cairns. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995.
Husserl, Edmund. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. Translated by. I Farin
and J. G. Hart. Dordrecht: Springer, 2006.
Lipps, Theodor. “Ästhetische Einfühlung.” Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physi-
ologie der Sinnesorgane 22 (1900), 415–450.
Maibom, Heidi. “The Presence of Others.” Philosophical Studies 132 (2007),
Overgaard, Søren. “Other People.” In: D. Zahavi, ed., The Oxford Handbook
of Contemporary Phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012,
Searle, John R. Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Snow, Nancy. “Empathy.” American Philosophical Quarterly 37 (2000), 65–78.
Stein, Edith. Zum Problem der Einfühlung. Halle: Waisenhauses, 1917.
Stein, Edith. On the Problem of Empathy. Translated by W. Stein. Washington,
DC: ICS Publishers, 1989.
Stueber, Karsten R. Rediscovering Empathy: Agency, Folk Psychology, and the
Human Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.
Zahavi, Dan. “Simulation, Projection, and Empathy.” Consciousness and Cogni-
tion 17 (2008), 514–522.
Zahavi, Dan. “Empathy and Direct Social Perception: A Phenomenological Pro-
posal.” Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (2011), 541–558.
Zahavi, D. and S. Overgaard. “Empathy without Isomorphism: A Phenomeno-
logical Account.” In: J. Decety, ed., Empathy: From Bench to Bedside. Cam-
bridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012, 3–20.
7 Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’
The Associative Depths of
Open Intersubjectivity
Joona Taipale

Husserl’s philosophy contains various dynamically interrelated con-
cepts of intersubjectivity. (i) Already the horizontal structure of percep-
tion tacitly, even if emptily, implicates potential other perceivers, such
that the experiential environment appears as being there for “anyone.”
I have elsewhere called this apriori intersubjectivity (Taipale 2014). (ii)
In face-to-face encounters, singular others are present concretely, in the
flesh, and the environment accordingly appears as being there—not (just)
for anyone—but (also) more specifically for us. (iii) Through repeated
interactions, the structural intersubjectivity becomes sedimented and the
implicated others are increasingly specified as co-members of a “we.”
The resulting intergenerational we-intersubjectivity is expressed in the
fact that, not just our perceptual environment, but our familiar cultural
environment appears as being there for “anyone.” In comparison to the
apriori intersubjectivity, here the notion of “anyone” has a more limited
sense, covering not just anyone but any normal co-member of the com-
munity—“my normal ‘We’,” my “transcendental ‘We’ ” (transzendentale
‘Wir’), as Husserl puts it.1 In the latter, the implicated co-constituting oth-
ers are not just world-constituting but homeworld-constituting others,
namely potential others capable of experiencing not just the same spa-
tiotemporal environment (which is there for anyone in the wider sense),
but also the same familiar world of historical and cultural meanings.
What Husserl calls “open intersubjectivity” (e.g., Hua XIV, 51, 289;
Zahavi 2001b), covers the first and the third form—namely, both the
structural experiential referencing to possible co-perceivers and the con-
cretized experiential referencing of co-members of the respective “we”—
which is another way of saying that open intersubjectivity both precedes
and is transformed by relations of empathy. I have elsewhere underlined
the necessity of distinguishing these two aspects of open intersubjectivity
(Taipale 2014). It is worth noting that the three forms of intersubjectivity are
neither mutually exclusive nor do they necessarily overlap. In face-to-face
encounters others are introduced as particular and singular subjects, yet
194  Joona Taipale
they may simultaneously (more or less tacitly) appear as exemplars or
“tokens” of anyone, or as co-members of our community and tradition.
When having an intimate discussion with someone, for instance, we know
that the social setting is nonetheless perceivable to anybody and intelligible
to our cultural peers, and for this reason we are never altogether surprised
if someone tells us later on that she saw us chatting in private: the exclu-
sive social situation might not be fully graspable from the outside, yet both
the spatiotemporal setting (e.g., “there are two living beings together”)
and the typical-cultural indications (e.g., “they are having an intimate con-
versation”) are still graspable to any potential passer-by. Moreover, when
realizing that we ourselves are currently seen in a particular manner by
this singular other, with whom we are currently conversing, at the same
time we are (more or less implicitly) aware of ourselves as bodily beings
perceivable by anybody and as human beings whose actions are under-
standable by our communal co-members and peers. We are always open
to these possibilities; we know them in the back of our minds, as it were. It
is always possible that further perceivers show up, and it is this openness
that the concept of “open intersubjectivity” conveys.
In the present context, I won’t be going into the constitutional relations
between the different forms of intersubjectivity in more detail (see Taipale
2012, 2014, 2016a). Instead, I will focus on the central feature of open
intersubjectivity, namely the tacit referencing to potential others. More
specifically, I want to challenge the idea that these potential others, “co-
constitutors,” are altogether anonymous and non-particularized. What
I have in mind is not merely the well-documented and widely scrutinized
issue that in Husserl’s account the implicated others are also discussed in
terms of being co-members of one’s own community, “homecomrades,”
at different levels (see Steinbock 1995). Instead, my main point is that the
implicated others—be they co-perceivers or co-members—are not alto-
gether “faceless,” as it were, but specified associatively. Differently put,
I will argue that the people we have actually reciprocated and interacted
with play the part of “primal institutors” of the anyone. In short, as I will
claim, the way we co-posit others always echoes our past. This, I suggest,
questions the anonymity of the anyone.
The present article is divided into three sections. First, I will outline
the concept of open intersubjectivity. Second, I will examine the “spec-
ifications” of the implicated “anyone” that arise from our subjective-
experiential build-up, thereby highlighting both the asymmetric and the
embodied nature of open intersubjectivity. In the third section, I will
outline specifications of the implicated “anyone” that arise from our
previous interactive experiences. As I will show, the idea of completely
anonymous co-constitutors is an idealization. My aim lies not in an
attempt to refute the central transcendental nature of open intersubjec-
tivity, but rather in revealing novel aspects of the dynamic, temporal, and
sedimented nature of the latter. Importing insights from phenomenology,
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 195
developmental psychology, and psychoanalysis, I will discuss the asym-
metric structure of social perception and the sedimentation of experience,
and challenge the assumption of the anonymity of the “anyone.” I will
conclude by elaborating the sense in which our concrete relationships
with others, relations of empathy, amount to a fulfillment and unfulfil-
ment of open intersubjectivity. Let me begin by outlining the sense of
“open intersubjectivity.”

1.  Open Intersubjectivity: Structural Openness to Others

Already each of my perceptions constantly and inseparably includes oth-
ers as co-subjects, as co-constituting.
—(Hua Mat VIII, 394)

I do not have to search very far for others: I find them in my experience,
lodged in the hollows that show what they see and what I fail to see. Our
experiences thus have lateral relationships of truth: all together, each pos-
sessing clearly what is secret in the others, in our combined functioning
we form a totality which moves toward enlightenment and completion.
—(Merleau-Ponty 1973, 168–169)

Two tendencies are commonly distinguished with regard to Husserl’s

theory of intersubjectivity (see Merleau-Ponty 2001, 44−45; Zahavi
2001a, 155ff.; Zahavi 2001b, 52ff.). The better-known approach is
explicated in the Cartesian Meditations, which, for a long time, was
Husserl’s only published text concerning the problem of intersub-
jectivity. In this approach, Husserl starts from an abstract layer of
experience—the (in)famous “sphere of ownness” or Eigenheitssphäre—
attempting to clarify how the world thus conceived is precisely an
abstraction, thus aiming to show (ex negativo as it were) how intersub-
jectivity is actually there already. For a long time, this approach was
(mis)read as an explication of how our experience of others, empathy,
temporally emerges, thereby forgetting that the sphere of ownness is
an abstraction—a thought experiment designed to rule itself out, so to
speak. The other approach more directly promotes the transcendental
dimension of intersubjectivity, and explicitly argues that, constitution-
ally speaking, empathy is not the fundamental form of intersubjectivity.
Pursuing this approach, Husserl sets off from the horizontal structure of
experience, and views empathy—i.e., our actual experience of others—
as a “disclosing accomplishment” (enthüllendes Leisten),2 which builds
upon (and reveals) the underlying open intersubjectivity.
In the present context, I will discuss the latter approach exclusively.
As the above quotes illustrate, the starting point of Husserl’s phenom-
enological examination of intersubjectivity lies in the realization of the
196  Joona Taipale
fundamental openness of subjectivity. Instead of initially discovering oth-
ers “out there,” as it were, and then, ex nihilo, finding its way into their
experiences, subjectivity already harbors intentional implications to pos-
sible co-perceivers. As Husserl puts it:

Thus, subjectivity expands into intersubjectivity, or rather, more

precisely, it does not expand, but transcendental subjectivity under-
stands itself better. It understands itself as a primordial monad that
intentionally carries within itself other monads.
(Hua XV, 17; cf. 20, 69)

For Husserl, intersubjective self-constitution is not primarily a matter of

“expanding.” This would suggest that there is initially something like a
non-intersubjective subjectivity that gradually expands into something
more comprehensive—an interpretation that would coincide with the
classical (mis)reading of the sphere of ownness. Instead, intersubjective
self-constitution is a matter of enhanced self-understanding, which is to
say that intentional implications to potential others are to be located
within oneself. These implications provide subjectivity with an intersub-
jective structure regardless of the presence or absence of actual others—
to quote Waldenfels, the other “appears within myself and on my side
before appearing in front of me” (Waldenfels 2004, 247).3
Husserl illustrates the concept of “open intersubjectivity” by not-
ing that the world appears as “being there for anyone” (für Jedermann
daseiende).4 He introduces the idea in connection with his theory of per-
ceptual “appresentation” or “co-presentation.”5 Whenever we perceive
something, like a chair for instance, certain aspects of the object gain
prominence and appear in the foreground, but the intentional object
also includes aspects that are currently hidden or unthematic: “While the
surface is immediately given, I mean more than it offers.”6 This surplus
essentially pertains to the thing as intended: to see a surface or an aspect
is to see a surface of something or an aspect of something. That is to
say, the perceptual object essentially has an anticipatory unity7 which is
not exhausted by any perception: “perception is a constant pretension to
accomplish something that, by its very nature, it is not in a position to
accomplish” (Hua XI, 3):

Implied in the particular perception of the thing is a whole ‘horizon’

of nonactive and yet co-functioning manners of appearance and syn-
theses of validity [. . .], open or implicated ‘intentionalities.’
(Hua VI, 162–163; my italics)

The sense of surprise is illustrative here. When we move and look at the
chair from another angle, or touch its surface, we are not surprised to
find that there were experiential aspects to it that were not perceived
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 197
from our previous standpoint. This is because we already “appresented,”
or “associatively anticipated,” alternative appearances of the thing (see
Hua XV, 26–27). To be more precise, we may be surprised about how
the backside of the chair looks, or about how the chair feels when sitting
on it, but we are not surprised about the fact that there was a hither side
to the chair or about the fact that an object that was previously merely
seen came to support our body. If we were surprised about such features,
this would imply phenomenologically that we first experienced the chair
as illusory (e.g., something that only appears from our present stand-
point or merely visually), and then realized that it is a real object after all
that can be also seen from elsewhere, touched, and so on. This, however,
is not how we normally experience chairs or other perceptual objects.
Rather, to “associatively anticipate” alternative perceptions of the object
pertains to experiencing the object as something real.
Moreover, we are not surprised to find the chair being also perceivable
to other perceivers. Quite on the contrary, this possibility, too, pertains
to the sense of real objects. Experiencing something as being perceiv-
able exclusively to me means experiencing it as an imaginary or illusory
object, and not as a real, actually perceived thing. For example, when
I see a chair in front of me, I do not experience it as being there only for
me (only for my actual and my potential perceptions). If I did, that would
again mean that I experience it as an illusion, as a hallucination, or as a
figment of my imagination. To say that I experience the chair as actually
being there, that I experience it as something real, implies an openness to
the possibility that it could be perceived by others as well.
Importantly, this is not just a formal, and rather obvious, requirement,
or a necessary condition, but something experiential. Our openness to
potential co-perceivers is indicated by the fact that we are never surprised
to realize that others, too, are capable of seeing the chair that we see. By
contrast, in general we are surprised if they do not seem to be capable
of this. Our lack of surprise is owing to the fact that we already tacitly
constituted the chair as being there for anyone.
The references to potential co-perceivers do not have to be explicit
or thematic, however, and on most occasions, they are not. The “being
there for anyone” is rather related to the sense of the object as something
real, and it is mainly in unexpected cases where our tacit assumption
concerning perceivability by anyone becomes prominent (and perhaps
challenged). As long as we interact with people that are more or less
similar to us, the object’s “perceivability to anyone” is not considered as
a subjective anticipation but as an objective fact, a trait of the thing itself.
If we, then, enter into communication with blind persons, for instance,
the tacit assumption that anyone can see the chair is compromised.
In this sense, the horizontal structure of perception involves refer-
ences to an open infinity of possible co-perceptions which are not clearly
divided between my perceptions and those of others. In other words,
198  Joona Taipale
when perceiving a chair, my pre-reflective experience neither comes in the
form, “I can perceive the chair from other standpoints as well,” nor in
the form, “others can perceive the chair from other standpoints.” To be
sure, the experiential process of appresenting is lived through by me—
after all, “transcendental intersubjectivity is something for me” (Hua
XV, 77)—but the subjectivity of the appresented appearances remains
“open,” “undecided.” That is to say, the environment originally8 appears
neither as being there for me exclusively nor as being there for me and
other(s), but as being there for anyone, without self and other being the-
matically separated:

[E]verything object-like that stands before my eyes in experience

and primarily in perception has an apperceptive horizon of possi-
ble experiences, my own and those of others. [. . .] Every appear-
ance that I have is from the very beginning part of an open endless,
although not explicitly realized totality of possible appearances
of the same, and the subjectivity of these appearances is the open
(Hua XIV, 289).9

2.  Asymmetry and Anonymity

What is valid for me is valid for anyone.
—(Hua XLII, 132)

Despite the fact that we accept others as witnesses, that we make our
views accord with theirs, we are still the ones who set the terms of the
agreement: the transpersonal field remains dependent on our own.
—(Merleau-Ponty 1973, 138–139)

Rather than designating a particular intentional relation to others,

open intersubjectivity amounts to an essential feature of our intentional
world-relation.10 Using also the term “transcendental ‘empathy’,”11 Hus-
serl claims that, before emerging as objects of our intentions, others are
appresented as co-constituting, “transcendental others” (transzenden-
talen Anderen)12 or “ ‘pure’ others” (‘puren’ Anderen), namely poten-
tial others who “as yet have no worldly sense.”13 Open intersubjectivity,
therefore, does not imply an experience of “sharing”: the environment
appears as being perceivable to anyone, yet not to anyone in particu-
lar, but anonymously to “any alter egos whatever” (irgendwelche alter
egos).14 In other words, the tacitly anticipated co-perceivers, or “fellow
subjects” (Mitsubjekte), remain unspecified (unbestimmt), anonymous
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 199
However, even if the anyone is no one in particular, certain general
specifications concerning the implicated co-perceivers arise from the
basis of the asymmetric structure of intersubjectivity.

 i. First of all, insofar as the perceptual environment appears as pal-

pable, touchable, visible, audible, and olfactory, the implicated
co-perceivers are specified as experiencing beings with such sensi-
ble faculties. “Anyone,” as Husserl notes, “is a subject of a lived-
body.”16 When it comes to an experience of the natural world, no
matter how broad the scope of the anyone might be, it is nonetheless
“limited” to embodied, sensing subjects with a spatiotemporal loca-
tion. Rather than of “anyone” it might therefore be more fitting to
talk of “anybody” (see Taipale 2014).
ii. Moreover, the asymmetric structure of open intersubjectivity gives
rise to further specifications related to one’s own subjective-perceptual
setup. What is initially anticipated as being perceivable to anyone
is the environment as it appears to me. To quote Husserl’s strik-
ing words: “I am the norm for all other human beings” (Hua I,
154).17 Rather than referring to himself exclusively, Husserl is obvi-
ously here making a formal indication of the constitutive role of
primordial subjectivity in intersubjective perception. As he puts it
elsewhere, “what is immanently valid for me is likewise [expected
to be] valid for my fellow humans (this is how I see them as oth-
ers)” (Hua XLII, 111, cf. 132). To illustrate, for the congenitally
blind, the implicated co-perceivers of a chair do not initially include
seeing subjects. The existence, and co-positing, of seeing subjects
is something that must first be learned. By rule, others are initially
appresented as co-perceivers to what one already perceives, which is
another way of saying that open intersubjectivity is rooted in antici-
pations arising from the basis of one’s subjective-experiential setup
(see Taipale 2012, 2014).

The affective, axiological, conative, normative, and practical associations

likewise carry over to our appresentations. Sensuous perceptions are per-
meated by various feelings and evaluations. We not only hear, but like or
dislike what we hear; we not only see chairs but intend to use them; and
we not only perceive actions but also evaluate and normatively assess
them (see, e.g., Hua IV, 187). The essential point here is that the co-posited
others are expected to confirm the intersubjective availability of such fea-
tures as well. Consider looking at a chair and feeling disgusted about its
cheap 80’s style look. What you posit as being there for anyone is not
just a chair, but a cheesy chair—and you are thus surprised if someone
instead judges the chair as decorative or beautiful. To use another exam-
ple, consider exiting a movie theater after seeing a comedy that you liked
200  Joona Taipale
a lot. Before reflectively distinguishing between assessments of the objec-
tive value of the movie, on the one hand, and assessments based on your
personal preferences and your affective mood, on the other, you tend to
simply consider the object itself (the movie) as funny and entertaining.
Phenomenologically, this is another way of saying that you tacitly (and,
indeed, naïvely) assume that anyone can confirm this. And hence you are
initially, even if perhaps only fleetingly, surprised when overhearing some
other viewers judging the movie as a boring piece of rubbish instead.
What interests us here is how the sense of surprise reveals the underly-
ing tacit anticipations: you implicitly expected that what you considered
fun and entertaining would appear in this manner to anyone, and the
disappointment of that expectation is what constitutes your feeling of
In this manner, my perception of the chair, for instance, implicates not
just potential co-perceivers, but also potential co-evaluators, co-users,
co-judgers, and so on. To modify Merleau-Ponty’s note on visibility and
audibility, also the practical and aesthetic value of the object initially
seems to dwell in the object itself (see Merleau-Ponty 1968, 123). And
so, whenever someone does not share our affective take on the object, we
initially tend to assume that the other simply does not see or judge the
object correctly. Realizing the subjective nature of our assessment comes
only after that; it may arrive fast, but it is not there from the outset. To
implicate the anyone is to anticipate confirmation of our perception of
the object, and the disappointment of that tacit anticipation motivates
our occasional—and more or less extensive—feeling of surprise.

iii.  Such disappointments make us increasingly aware of the subjec-

tive nature of our anticipations, underline the self/other distinction,
and effect various transformations vis-à-vis open intersubjectivity.19
For example, the perceived object is initially taken to be there for
anyone—not only as a spatiotemporal, practical, and aesthetic
object, but one that also incorporates tradition-bound meanings.
It may then happen, as it often does, that we realize that some-
one else (e.g., a representative of another culture) perceives the
same material entity or bodily movement, but either does not
quite grasp its meaning or interprets it differently. In this case, our
tacit anticipations are partly confirmed and partly disappointed:
the other confirms our expectation about the chair being visible
to anyone (apriori intersubjectivity), but disappoints our expecta-
tion of the meaning of the chair being graspable to anyone (we-
intersubjectivity). Through interacting with people with different
perceptual-bodily setups, different aesthetic tastes, and different
cultural backgrounds, an ingroup/outgroup distinction is thus
introduced into the “anyone.” Consequently, in Husserl’s words,
“not all, reduced in a transcendental manner, are co-bearers of the
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 201
world that is pregiven as my world and that ‘we’ have as pregiven”
(Hua XV, 162). In the course of time, our experiences are thus sedi-
mented, and the tacitly implicated “anyone,” the “transcendental
‘we’ ” (transzendentale ‘Wir’),20 is specified as the open community
of “homecomrades” (Heimgenossen) (see, e.g., Hua XV, 624, 629).
Notably, it is still open—yet not to just anyone, but exclusively to
our homecomrades. On the other hand, when such anticipations are
disappointed, we refer back to the broader “anyone” of the apriori

However, these three general specifications do not really challenge the

anonymity of the implicated others. Even if the latter is specified as any-
body equipped with similar-enough perceptual faculties as mine (apriori
intersubjectivity) or as anyone with an experiential background similar-
enough to ours (we-intersubjectivity), the implicated others are nonetheless
just any co-perceivers or fellow subjects who satisfy these general require-
ments. They may remain altogether “faceless” and insignificant to me. Yet,
the tacitly implicated others harbor an associative depth which motivates
reconsidering the claim of anonymity. This will be clarified in the following.

3.  The Depth of the “Anyone”

From the start, the grasped sense implies determinations that have not yet
been experienced with this object but which nevertheless are of a known
type insofar as they refer back to earlier analogous experiences concern-
ing other objects.
—(Husserl 1948, 143)

Anything that is concealed, each tacit validity, operates from associative

and apperceptive depths—these depths enable the Freudian method and
are presupposed by it.
—(Hua XLII, 113)

As bodily expressive beings we also constitute ourselves as being perceiv-

able to anyone. Having assumed to be alone we may be surprised when
being told that we were in fact seen. We may be surprised about others’
assessments of, and reactions to, our actions and doings. Yet, what is not
surprising to us, by contrast, is the realization that we and our doings are
and were perceivable.
When it comes to the claim of anonymity, the case of self-experience is
particularly illuminating. Consider the case of shame. To be sure, shame
is a social emotion (see, e.g., Zahavi 2014) that involves assessing one’s
action as being—actually or potentially—witnessed by others. It is worth
noting that when being witnessed doing something disgraceful, the sig-
nificance of the witness (e.g., his or her personal, social, or contextual
202  Joona Taipale
relevance) is crucial. That is to say, it clearly matters whether the witness
of one’s action is a bird, a dog, an infant, a teenager, an adult, a friend,
a colleague, one’s own child, one’s spouse, one’s parent, an unknown
bypasser, a person one wishes to get acquainted with, etc. The intensity of
shame correlates not just with the nature of the witnessed action, but also
with the nature of the witness—the presence of certain witnesses might
not inflict shame on you at all. If that is true, we can argue that the wit-
nesses in the presence of whom you feel shame are not just anyone. Keep-
ing this in mind, consider the case of feeling shame while being alone.
Surely, you might not be explicitly thinking of anyone in particular, but
the tacitly appresented co-perceivers of your doings, the implicated oth-
ers in whose potential presence you feel shame, are not just anyone, but
kinds of people that matter to you one way or the other. Even if the
co-posited others might be strongly typified and idealized, and hence far
removed from any actual other(s), they are not altogether anonymous
either. The specifications of the co-posited others make all the difference
here. The type of the audience matters, regardless of whether the latter is
a real or an imagined one.
One might naturally object at this point, saying that feeling shame
while being alone is just a special case. After all, shame is a social emo-
tion, which, by definition, highlights the role and significance of particu-
lar others. While the anonymity of the anyone might be challenged in this
case, in many other cases it might not be: what about the more neutral
forms of experience?
On the one hand, we can reply to this by saying that while in this
example the implicated anyone may be specified in detail, perhaps even
personified, in other kinds of self-experience the “anyone” might remain
more anonymous. The degree of anonymity is indeed case-specific. There
is no denying this. On the other hand, the idea of faceless, completely
anonymous, co-perceivers seems to rely on an idealization. The notion
seems to apply only to cases where the affective, axiological, and nor-
mative dimensions have been brushed aside. To be sure, co-positing the
anyone relates to what we thematically posit. In the case of finding an
action virtuous or disgraceful, the implicated “anyone” comprises the co-
assessors who are expected to be able to confirm our assessment. In the
case of perceiving material objects (like chairs), again, the implicated oth-
ers are co-perceivers. The crucial question is: are they ever merely that?
When a chair gains prominence in my experience, it does so for a rea-
son. I might feel tired and the chair hence attracts me as a place to sit
(practical aspect). I might be in the middle of a move to a new apart-
ment, and the chair I see in the showcase of a department store catches
my attention as something decorative (aesthetic aspect). To be sure, the
chair may also gain prominence due to the perceptual setup itself, say,
when I see an empty chair in the middle of an empty theater stage. And
the chair can also stand out in more theoretical circumstances, as in
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 203
measuring the dimensions of the furniture. In cases of the latter type,
the co-perceivers that we tacitly expect to confirm our perception of
the chair (as an object this or that size) may remain quite neutral, face-
less, and anonymous—assuming, for the sake of the argument, that we
then manage to keep the affective and aesthetic dimensions completely
at bay. However, first of all, such cases count as exceptions rather than
as the rule. Perception is only seldom affectively neutral—and, for sure,
self-experiences are hardly ever of such kind. Moreover, given that the
affective, the axiological, and the normative are mostly (if not always)
intertwined with the perceptual, what is clear and fairly explicit in the
case of normative judgments (e.g., the case of shame), is not completely
absent in external perceptual experiences either.
The way in which we co-posit the anyone is not unaffected by our past
experiences. Our valuations and passions are not all inborn but “inher-
ited.” And, as for self-experience, we habituate the ways in which our
spontaneous expressions, actions, reactions, evaluations, intentions, and
perceptions are greeted and received in our surroundings and get used to
the ways in which they are confirmed or challenged. For example, com-
ing from an environment where we have been treated with respect and
encouragement, we tend to anticipate similar manners and patterns of
reacting from anyone we encounter and more easily enter into new situa-
tions with a more optimistic attitude; coming from an environment where
we have been repeatedly discouraged, played down, or humiliated, we
tend to anticipate similar manners of reacting from anyone we encounter,
and tend to be more reserved (cf. Taipale 2016b). Our past figures in our
self-experience, in our experience of things and the environment, and in
our experience of other people in the form of more or less tacit anticipa-
tions. The way in which “anyone” (i.e., typical co-perceivers) is impli-
cated is therefore dependent not just on the case but also on our earlier
interactions. In other words, “anyone” comes with an associative depth.
Husserl touches upon this depth-dimension in his account of typifica-
tion. He argues that the ways in which we categorize things, environ-
ments, other people, situations, and actions builds on our past experiences
of particular exemplars. While accounting for the constitution of objec-
tivity, Husserl does not discuss our experience of other people. He inves-
tigates the issue in rather general terms, without distinguishing between
type-construal related to inanimate objects and type-construal related to
animate objects, thus giving the impression that typification emerges sim-
ilarly in both cases.21 If this was right, it would mean, for instance, that
the process of learning to typify “women” and “men” is not structurally
any different from the process of learning to distinguish between “plants”
and “stones.” Indeed, both distinctions arise from our past experiences
with particular plants, stones, women, and men. Yet, here it is crucial to
distinguish between objects of personal significance and objects merely
observed without engagement or emotion. To put it differently, I find
204  Joona Taipale
the assumption highly problematic that the past tokens all have an equal
constitutional status, i.e., that all women and all men that I have per-
ceived, observed, encountered, or heard about in my past equally serve as
material for my typification of “women” and “men” (see Taipale 2015a).
Such an assumption is misleading. To be sure, Husserl’s ambitious aim
is to disclose the constitution of the objective world and unite the sciences,
and his analyses concerning open intersubjectivity and appresentation
mainly serve this purpose. Husserl’s main focus vis-à-vis open intersub-
jectivity understandably lies in the most general features of appresented
otherness, and from the point of view of his general interests, associative
specifications vis-à-vis the “anyone” may be less important. The exam-
ples that Husserl provides in this connection mainly portray an experien-
tial relation to an object perceived or known, and even if he extensively
discusses affectivity in other connections, he has less to say about the
affective dimensions in appresentation. If we want to employ the Husser-
lian concept of open intersubjectivity when descriptively theorizing our
experience of others in its own right—and I think Husserl’s philosophy
is indeed a fruitful and operationalizable account in this respect too—we
should take a closer look at the sense and degree in which the implied
others are specified.
The distinction between significant and insignificant others is relevant
vis-à-vis the concept of “anyone.” The exemplars on the basis of which
we have formed the idea of “women,” “men,” or “anybody” do not
comprise a homogenous set of individual tokens. Instead of all having
had an equal status, particular individuals have served as the “primal
institutors” or archetypes for the types in question. When it comes to the
distinction between plants and stones, it presumably is not that impor-
tant which stones and plants have served as the primal institutors of the
respective types. By contrast, when it comes to more complex types in
respect to which the emotional dimension is highlighted, the starting
point—i.e., early development—matters a lot more.
While omitting this issue in his account of typification, however, in dis-
cussing normativity Husserl talks about an incorporated “ideal within
me” (das Ideal in mir), and suggests that significant, “admirably beloved”
(verehrungsvoll geliebte) others constitute such inner “role-models” (Vor-
bilder) (Hua XLII, 525), and notes that the child’s initial “exemplaries”
are found in the parents (Hua XLII, 287). As I see it, to assume that the
foundation for our understanding of “anyone” is equally comprised of
experiences of personally insignificant and personally significant oth-
ers is unconvincing. I consider it more plausible that the relevant institut-
ing “material” first and foremost includes others that are, or have been,
personally significant to us. Furthermore, if I am on the right track in this
respect, it also seems convincing to assume that the temporal order vis-à-vis
the significant others is important. This is because in different phases of
development, certain others are more significant and prominent than the rest.
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 205
To illustrate this, let me repeat that most of our affective valuations
and normative categorizations are not inborn. We have grown into liking
and disliking various things, into thinking that something is shameful
or forbidden, and so on. Many objects, actions, and constellations that
appear desirable for the baby are repeatedly labeled by the caregivers as
dangerous, forbidden, or otherwise unfitting. For example, via repeti-
tion, a toddler learns to associate the act of “playing with food” with
a forbidding parent. The child incorporates and introjects the mindset
of her early authorities and henceforth views the world also from their
viewpoint, as it were. The child’s sense of guilt when doing something
forbidden might initially be rather personified in the sense of more or less
explicitly linking with the blaming parent. The “anyone” gradually grows
out of such significant others. The act of playing with food is grasped as
something forbidden, first, in the eyes of the caregivers, and later, in the
eyes of anyone. The early authorities (i.e., the caregivers) play a special
role as the primal institutors of the respective affective quality, which is
now assigned to the action itself: the action is now viewed generally as
forbidden, i.e., as something that anyone would regard as forbidden.22
When a 6-year-old child sees her little sister playing with food, she might
not articulate her experience by saying that mom and dad consider that
forbidden, but rather consider the forbidden quality as a characteristic
of the action itself. Nonetheless, the origin of the respective quality that
the child now expects anyone to being able to confirm lies in the specific
other(s). Moreover, the “anyone” inherits not just the general assessment
but also the tone, intensity, and strength of such early authorities.
The early authorities are thus gradually generalized into “anyone.”
The former serve as the primal institutors of the latter. To be sure, the
personified co-presence of the introjected authorities gradually fades into
the background: they are veiled by anonymity and generality, and are
thus present in a disguised form. Insofar as the child interacts with many
authorities in the course of her development, and does not remain fixated
on the parents for instance, the sense of “anyone” develops into a rather
heterogeneous, experientially less personified, and hence more flexible
normative atmosphere.
Normativity, of course, is only one kind of example, and the “anyone”
might remain more anonymous in the case of perception. Yet, early intro-
jections reach to the level of perceptual implications as well. As said, our
perceptions are always more or less permeated by affective, axiological,
practical, and normative references. Many of these remain latent, and
yet maintain their effect as parts of our experience. Even if the object of
perception would be rather neutral in itself, our past introduces a load of
anticipations that arise, to rephrase Husserl, not from our current expe-
rience, but from our past experiences with circumstances similar to the
current ones in one way or another. The italics are here meant to under-
line the fact that the experience of a chair on an empty theater stage,
206  Joona Taipale
for instance, is associatively colored not merely by our past experiences
of chairs, but of our past experiences of theaters, performances, stages,
etc.—to say nothing of the symbolism that functions associatively below
the surface of such experiences (the chair is alone etc.). In this manner,
we can see that even a simple perception tends to awaken—more or less
consciously—a whole web of associations. This introduces a depth-
dimension into the seemingly homogenous and anonymous anyone,
whom we tacitly posit as co-witnessing the situation at hand.
Although the “anyone” is generalized and transformed in the course of
time, there are often sources that can in principle, at least up to a certain
point, be tracked down—as we saw Husserl putting it, the “associative
and apperceptive depths enable the Freudian method” (Hua XLII, 113).
To be sure, the more neutral the experience, the more homogenous the
co-posited anyone. On the other hand, experiences are hardly ever alto-
gether neutral. Even if tacitly, the affective, axiological, and normative
dimensions tend to introduce non-articulated specifications to the “any-
one,” thus giving the latter a face, as it were. The way we have witnessed
our significant others to be perceiving and assessing the world, ways of
life, activities, types of objects, actions, etc. figures not just in how we
subjectively view the world but also in how we implicate potential co-
witnesses to such experiences. This is particularly clear vis-à-vis the vir-
tual confirmers of our self-experience, but insofar as simple perceptual
experiences are never free from affective, axiological or normative asso-
ciations, this holds for perception too. In this sense, more generally put,
the “anyone” implicated in our experience echoes our past. And if so,
the anonymity and generality of the anyone may often, at least to a large
extent, be seen as a disguise.

I have here focused on the Husserlian notion of open intersubjectivity—
more precisely on the tacit structural referencing to potential others—
and challenged the related claim of anonymity. I suggested that the way
in which we tacitly co-posit the “anyone” grows out of, and links back
to, our past interactions and object relations. Underlining the distinction
between significant and insignificant others, I argued that our tacit expe-
riential implications to co-perceivers and fellow humans are hardly ever
completely neutral as they carry associative references to our past interac-
tions with significant others. To consider the implicated “anyone” literally
as just anyone accordingly seems to rely on an idealization, which hardly
characterizes our everyday experiences. In this manner, I have tried to
motivate reconsidering the assumption of the anonymity of the “anyone.”
If true, my claim has significant implications. For one, it enables con-
sidering experiences of empathy and concrete interactions in terms of a
(partial) fulfilment of the underlying intersubjectivity (see Taipale 2014,
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 207
84ff.). More generally, a phenomenological scrutiny of the asymmetric
structure of intersubjectivity opens new perspectives to philosophical
analyses and explications of cultural exchange, intersubjective and inter-
communal conflicts, social discrimination, and racism—just to name a
few topics. Moreover, furthering and consolidating the communication
between phenomenology and the psychoanalytic tradition is particularly
useful—for both parties. When it comes to the side of phenomenology, as
I hope to have illustrated in this article, the exchange can challenge and
hence motivate reconsidering certain claims and assumptions—some of
which are simply owing to differing research interests, and some to more
substantial disagreements and tensions.

This research has been funded by the Kone Foundation.

1. See Hua XXXIX, 669; Hua I, 137. Cf. Hua XV, 150; Husserl 1940, 318;
Hua XXXIV, 246.
2. See Hua Mat VIII, 436; Hua I, 168; Hua XV, 14, 108.
3. This is not to say that all (or even most) intentional implications are inborn
or otherwise there from the outset. Intersubjective understanding and self-
understanding develop over time, and our concrete interactions with others
influence both the way in which we understand and categorize ourselves and
the way in which we tacitly implicate potential co-constitutors while experi-
encing the world. This will be elaborated later on.
4. See Hua I, 123, 124; Hua XV, 12, 17, 110; Hua XXXIX, 606, 625.
5. See Hua I, 139; Hua XV, 84, 87, 124; Hua XXXIX, 138, 403ff.
6. Hua VI, 160.
7. See Hua I, 82.
8. See Hua XXXIX, 498, where Husserl specifies that in this sense intersubjec-
tivity pertains already to primordial experience.
9. See also Zahavi 2001b, 56; Kojima 2000, 6; Held 1966, 164ff; Held 1972, 46.
10. See Hua XV, 69.
11. Hua XV, 116.
12. E.g. Hua VI, 189; Hua XV, 16, 111, 190; Hua XXXIX, 485, 486.
13. Hua1, 137. As Husserl also puts it, perception implicates “an open unend-
ing multiplicity of possible pure egos [. . .], which stand to me in a possible
relation of empathy” (Hua10, 307).
14. Hua1, 126.
15. See, e.g., Hua VI, 114−116, 257, 259, 262, 275; Hua IX, 147; Hua XIV,
429; Hua XV, 46, 74–75, 191–192, 350; Hua XXXIII, 278; Hua XXXIX,
16. Hua XIV, 69; Hua XXXIX, 635.
17. I have elsewhere discussed this issue in terms of normality and normativity
(Taipale 2012, 2014, 2015b), and I won’t be going into the details of this
issue in the present context.
18. These elaborations could give fresh tools for the phenomenological analy-
sis of phronesis and social skills. I won’t be going into this in the present
208  Joona Taipale
19. This comes in levels: a ‘we’ may refer to a group of employees of a small
company, the residents of a city or nation, people from a particular cultural
region, or humanity as a whole. See Hua XV, 411, 618; cf. Hua XV, 139,
20. Hua I, 137.
21. “The mother is the first other,” Husserl notes (Husserl 2006, 604); yet, as far
as I know, he does not link such claims to the topics of open intersubjectivity,
appresentation, and the “anyone.”
22. To be sure, the development here is hardly straightforward and linear, as the
child (and adolescent) also retrospectively rebels against the anyone that has
already been ”internalized,” rebuilds it, modifies it, etc. Clarifying this issue
is a task of another article, however.

Held, Klaus. Lebendige Gegenwart: Die Frage nach der Seinsweise der transzen-
dentalen Ich bei Edmund Husserl, entwickelt am Leitfaden der Zeitproblema-
tik. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966.
Held, Klaus. “Das Problem der Intersubjektivität und die Idee einer phänome-
nologischen Transzendentalphilosophie.” In: U. Klaesges and K. Held, eds.,
Perspektiven transzendentalphänomenologischer Forschung. Den Haag: Mar-
tinus Nijhoff, 1972.
Husserl, Edmund. “Grundlegende Untersuchungen zum phänomenologischen
Ursprung der Räumlichkeit der Natur.” In: Marvin Farber, ed., Philosophical
Essays in Memory of Edmund Husserl. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1940.
Husserl, Edmund. Erfahrung und Urteil: Untersuchungen zur Genealogie der
Logik. Ed. by Ludwig Landgrebe. Hamburg: Claassen Verlag, 1948.
Husserl, Edmund. Husserliana Materialen, Vol. VIII, Späte Texte über Zeitkon-
stitution (1929−1934). In: Dieter Lohmar, ed., Die C-Manuskripte. Dordrect:
Springer, 2006.
Kojima, Hiroshi. Monad and Thou: Phenomenological Ontology of Human
Being. Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2000.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Visible and Invisible. Translated by Alphonso Lingis.
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1968.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Adventures of the Dialectic. Translated by Joseph Bien.
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language. Trans-
lated by Hugh Silverman. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2001.
Steinbock, Anthony. Home and Beyond. Generative Phenomenology after Hus-
serl. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1995.
Taipale, Joona. “Twofold Normality: Husserl and the Normative Relevance of
Primordial Constitution.” Husserl Studies 28/1 (2012), 49–60.
Taipale, Joona. Phenomenology and Embodiment: Husserl and the Constitution
of Subjectivity. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014.
Taipale, Joona. “The Anachronous Other: Empathy and Transference in Early
Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis.” Studia Phaenomenologica XV (2015a),
Anonymity of the ‘Anyone.’ 209
Taipale, Joona. “Similarity and Asymmetry: Husserl and the Transcendental
Foundations of Empathy.” Phänomenologische Forschungen 2014 (2015b),
Taipale, Joona. “From Types to Tokens: Empathy and Typification.” In: Thomas
Szanto and Dermot Moran, eds., Phenomenology of Sociality: Discovering the
‘We’. London: Routledge, 2016a, 143–158.
Taipale, Joona. “Social Mirrors: Tove Jansson’s Invisible Child and the Impor-
tance of Being Seen.” Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review 39/1 (2016b),
Waldenfels, Bernhard. “Bodily Experience Between Selfhood and Otherness.”
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3 (2004), 235–248.
Zahavi, Dan. “Beyond Empathy: Phenomenological Approaches to Intersubjec-
tivity.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 8 (2001a), 151–167.
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Linguistic-Pragmatic Critique. Translated by Elizabeth Behnke. Ohio: Ohio
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Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Part III

Communication and
8 Intersubjectivity,
Phenomenology, and
Quine’s Philosophy of
Dagfinn Føllesdal

Intersubjectivity is at the core of Husserl’s phenomenology. His view on

this topic developed in stages from around 1905 till the end of his life.
Gradually it incorporated and refined more and more of his phenomeno-
logical insights. It brings together fundamental notions, like the noema,
noesis, hyle, and the thetic component, and lets us see the important role
of the body, action, interaction, sedimentation and normality. It thereby
integrates Husserl’s insights into what it is to be a human being, how
we communicate with one another, and how our own subjectivity is a
product of our experience of and interaction with other subjects. Also, it
lets us better see the relevance of modern brain science and various other
empirical fields for understanding the life-world.
These insights emerged gradually in Husserl’s development of phe-
nomenology. A challenge in Husserl scholarship is to see how his basic
notions became refined and modified when he went into new issues. In
his manuscripts there are many false starts, and usually he points this
out and starts fresh again. Ever since I started teaching Husserl, in 1961,
I find it pedagogically helpful to use a spiral mode of presentation: start
with simple, basic notions that are easy to understand for one who has
not read Husserl, and see how these get enriched and adjusted when
we expand the picture. The study of intersubjectivity is one of the main
sources of expansion and also what brings it all together.
One problem in this kind of teaching is the availability of texts. When
I started studying Husserl’s manuscripts in the 1960s one had to work in
the Husserl archives to get access to them, and I still have my handwritten
excerpts from many of these texts—at that time one was not permitted
to photocopy them, presumably because the publisher forbade it. By now
the Husserl Archives has managed to make very many of them available
in print, and more are coming (although now through a publisher who
charges so much for the volumes that very few researchers and only a few
libraries at rich universities can afford to buy them). Fortunately, for the
study of intersubjectivity, in 1973, while Husserliana was still published
by Martinus Nijhoff, the Husserl Archives brought out the three big vol-
umes of Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität, which include about
214  Dagfinn Føllesdal
1/3 of Husserl’s manuscripts on intersubjectivity, judiciously selected and
edited by Iso Kern.1 It is indeed good that Kern now, 45 years later, con-
tributes a valuable article to this volume.
The editors have asked me to focus on the relation between Husserl’s
phenomenology and the philosophy of language, and in particular dis-
cuss Quine, who was my teacher and who dealt with many of the same
issues as Husserl.

Quine called himself a behaviorist, and meant by this that one should
explain communication and intersubjectivity without appealing to non-
observable entities, such as meanings or Frege’s Sinne. Quine’s behavior-
ism springs from his empiricism. All knowledge about the world around
us and about other people reaches us through our senses. In an interview
in the Harvard Review (1994), Quine said:

Behaviorism, as far as I’m concerned, is only an intersubjective

empiricism . . . When you take as your data your own perceptions,
and pool these with those of your colleagues, and get the common
denominator, then you have data which are pertinent to science from
the standpoint of intersubjective behaviorism. I don’t see that as
going beyond what every modern scientist would subscribe to as a
matter of course.2

In this passage, Quine makes a point that is central in comparing Quine

to Husserl: the intersubjectivity that is relevant to what Quine calls
“behaviorism” is not simply a matter of pooling one’s data with those
of one’s colleagues. This we do in science with all kinds of data, for
example data from physiology and neuroscience. What is important for
behaviorism is that the data relate to behavior and that they are socially
accessible. That is, behaviorism does not bring in all empirical evidence,
but only evidence concerning behavior that is accessible to all of us in
our daily lives together. Husserl refers to such evidence as constituted
intersubjectively, by means of social acts, and he holds that these acts
are based on empathy. Quine, too, stresses the central role of empathy in
social interaction. See, for example, the many references to empathy in
Pursuit of Truth, including: “Empathy is why we ascribe a propositional
attitude by a content clause . . . The content clause purports to reflect the
subject’s state of mind rather than the state of things.” (Quine 1990, 68).
The reason for being a behaviorist is that when we are seeking to
understand certain social phenomena, for example language learning
and language use, we must focus on the evidence that is available to the
participants in the pertinent social situations. This evidence is empirical,
it comes to us through our senses. Even adherents of telepathy seldom
Phenomenology and Language 215
claim telepathy to be so pervasive that it plays a role in language learn-
ing. However, not all that comes to us through our senses is available in
normal public interaction. Thus, for example, brain scientists study pro-
cesses in our brain. These insights may help us understand what happens
when we learn and use language. However, they are not part of the evi-
dence which has played a role in the emergence of language and in gen-
erations’ learning and use of language. Laboratory observations have not
been part of these everyday situations. These observations are made in
the context of what Husserl in Ideas II calls the “naturalistic attitude” of
science, as opposed to the “personalistic attitude” which usually under-
lies language learning and social interaction, and which crucially involves
empathy. If we want to understand how language emerges, is learned and
used, we must pay special attention to the evidence that is available to us
humans in our ordinary lives.
This is what Quine calls “behavioral evidence.” His view is that for the
study of certain kinds of social phenomena, including linguistic commu-
nication, one must pay special attention to this sort of evidence.

The Social Nature of Language

Philosophers and linguists have always said that language is a social insti-
tution. They have, however, immediately forgotten this and have adopted
notions of meaning that are not socially accessible and where it remains
unclear how such entities are grasped by us. Frege’s Sinne are an example.
However, Frege did not pretend to have much to say on the social nature
of language. The appeal to meanings, concepts or other entities similar to
Frege’s Sinne is much less excusable when one professes that language is
social. Quine was one of the first to take this label seriously and explore
in some depth its consequences for meaning and communication. His
exceptional sensitivity to lack of clarity made him see problems where
others thought there was smooth sailing. This led him to insights that
were revolutionary and fertile. We shall now take a look at these.

Quine on Radical Translation

Quine’s view on translation illustrates his view on behavior as evidence.
His translation manuals, which correlate two languages with one another,
are subject to two constraints:

(1) Observation. Roughly, translation manuals should map observation

sentences of one language onto observation sentences of the other
language that have the same “stimulus meaning.” I will not explain
the notions of ‘observation sentence’ and ‘stimulus meaning’ here,
since they went through important transformations when Quine
thought through the intricate problems of intersubjectivity.3
216  Dagfinn Føllesdal
(2) Charity. Do not translate sentences that the native assents to into
sentences that you regard as absurd, i.e. that nobody in his right
mind would regard as true. And do not translate sentences that the
native dissents from into sentences that you regard as banal, i.e. that
nobody in his right mind would regard as false.

The first constraint appeals to stimuli and stimulus meaning. Quine

writes that this is where behaviorism comes in. In translating between
two languages we are helped by paying attention to the sensory situation
of the users of the two languages:

A visual stimulation is perhaps best identified, for present purposes,

with the pattern of chromatic irradiation of the eye. To look deep
into the subject’s head would be inappropriate even if feasible, for we
want to keep clear of the idiosyncratic neural routings or private his-
tory of habit formation. We are after his socially inculcated linguistic
usage, hence his responses to conditions normally subject to social
assessment. (Cf. § 2). Ocular irradiation is intersubjectively checked
to some degree by making allowances for the speaker’s orientation
and the relative disposition of objects.
(Quine 1960, 31; my italics.)

Quine’s first constraint will be our main topic in the first part of this
paper. However, let us first note that the two constraints reflect the close
connection Quine sees between beliefs and meaning. One main use of
sentences is to express our beliefs. By listening to others and noticing
what sentences they assent to and what sentences they dissent from we
can gradually form a picture of their conception of the world and its
features. A translation is a way of sorting apart meaning and belief. We
work out a translation manual in such a way that we come to attribute
beliefs to the other person that it seems plausible that she has. Our plau-
sibility considerations involve the two factors that are central in episte-
mology: perception and reasoning, reflected in the two constraints. The
observation constraint focuses on perception, the charity constraint on
reasoning. There is a lot of interplay between these two factors. However,
we now want to look more closely at the first factor:

Let us first note that there are two conflicting notions of stimulation in
Word and Object. Quite early in the book Quine hints at a neurologi-
cal notion of stimulation, noting “those distinctive photochemical effects
which are wrought in one’s retina by the impact of red light” (p. 6). How-
ever, in other places in the book Quine identifies a visual stimulation pat-
tern with the pattern of chromatic irradiation of the eye (Quine 1960, 31),
Phenomenology and Language 217
suggesting through this choice of words that he has in mind not the trig-
gered nerve endings, but the light pattern that would be captured by a
photographic plate and could thus be identified from person to person.
This pattern is sometimes identified with a scene (p. 32), and with bar-
rages of the senses (ibid., p. 33). Early in Word and Object, before get-
ting to his more technical discussion of stimulation, Quine also states
that some stimulations are verbal and that when one asks the question
‘What color is this?’ “the stimulus eliciting ‘Red’ is a compound one: the
red light assails the eye and the question the ear” (p. 10). I was Quine’s
student when the book appeared, and I took ‘stimulation’ to mean what
reaches the sense organ, for example in the case of visual stimulations the
pattern of light reaching the eye, which could be registered by a camera
oriented in the same direction as the eye and sensitive to the same wave-
lengths as the eye. However, Quine told me that this was not what he
meant, he meant triggered nerve endings.
There are two problems with the nerve ending view. First Quine wants
to compare the stimuli received by different people. Quine initially pro-
posed to do this by matching the triggered nerve endings of two subjects.
However, the nerve endings in, for example, the retina are neither equi-
numerous nor arranged in similar patterns in different people, and it will
therefore be difficult to compare them. Already in Word and Object he
observed this:

Different persons growing up in the same language are like different

bushes trimmed and trained to take the shape of identical elephants.
The anatomical details of twigs and branches will fulfill the elephan-
tine form differently from bush to bush, but the overall outward
results are alike.
(Quine 1960, 8)

Quine notes this several times later, first in 1965, in “Propositional

Objects.” (Cf Quine 1969, 157). In his Paul Carus lectures in 1973 he
observed that already Darwin, in his Origin of Species, wrote that “he
found wild variation in the neural patterns even in simple insects arbi-
trarily chosen from a single swarm.”4
A second problem with the nerve ending view is crucial for the pro-
ject of this paper: by appealing to triggered nerve endings, Quine leaves
behaviorism and he also leaves phenomenology. Triggered nerve endings
are not part of the publicly available evidence that is so crucial for behav-
iorism and also for phenomenology. It is perplexing that Quine at this
stage of his development regards his appeal to stimuli and stimulus mean-
ing as giving a behaviorist basis for language.
Taking visual stimuli to be the pattern of irradiation reaching the eye
will overcome the first of these objections; the patterns can be compared
from one person to the next. Do these stimuli qualify as behavioral
218  Dagfinn Føllesdal
evidence? Clearly, in our daily life we do not go around observing what
light rays people receive. We tend to look where they look instead of
imagining what light rays hit their eyes. However, as we shall see in a
moment, we cannot simply disregard what reaches the eye, things are
more complicated.

Davidson: Maximize Agreement

Donald Davidson saw the difficulties connected with stimuli, whichever
way they are conceived. Rather than trying to develop an alternative way
of dealing with perception, he proposed to drop the first of Quine’s two
constraints on translation, the observation constraint, completely and
instead base communication and language learning exclusively on the
second constraint, the charity principle. He strengthened this principle to
a principle of maximizing agreement: Interpret the other in such a way as
to maximize agreement. The expression “maximize agreement” recurs in
many of Davidson’s papers from the 1960s, for example in “Truth and
Meaning” (1967), where it is explained as follows:

The linguist will then attempt to construct a characterization of

truth-for-the-alien which yields, so far as possible, a mapping of sen-
tences held true (or false) by the alien on to sentences held true by
the linguist.5

When Davidson later met Gadamer, he was struck by the similarity

between this principle and Gadamer’s “Vorgriff der Vollkommenheit.”6
However, although Gadamer was strongly influenced by Heidegger, who
emphasized the role of the body, Heidegger and Gadamer did not go
discerningly enough into the role that perception and the body play in
intersubjectivity. Husserl discusses these issues and saw the problems that
they raise. This makes his view on intersubjectivity different from that of
Heidegger and Gadamer and more similar to that of Quine.
Now to the difficulties in Davidson. First: there are some problems of
comparing different interpretations when one interpretation yields agree-
ment on some points, another agreement on other points. How do we
count or measure agreements and disagreements?
However, a much more serious problem for Davidson’s maxim of
maximizing agreement is cases where we intuitively should expect disa-
greement. For example, if I am out in the forest with my native inform-
ant and I see a rabbit and I have formed a tentative hypothesis that
his expression ‘Gavagai’ has something to do with rabbits, then I may
want to test out my hypothesis by uttering ‘Gavagai.’ If my inform-
ant dissents, I will, according to Davidson, regard this as disconfirming
my hypothesis and I will perhaps give it up. However, if I note that my
Phenomenology and Language 219
informant’s view of the rabbit is blocked by a big tree, I may rather take
his dissent as confirming my hypothesis; I do not expect my informant
to see through trees, this is the kind of basic knowledge I absorb early in
life. That is, I do take into account how my informant acquires beliefs.
So, epistemology, and indeed empathy, plays a role. I should not just
maximize agreement, but I should maximize agreement where I should
expect agreement. Perception plays an important role in epistemology.
Hence we are back to Quine’s two principles again.7 Quine, like Husserl,
worked on how we figure out what others perceive, one central element
in intersubjectivity, and they moved in the same direction, by bringing in
empathy to deal with this.

Davidson: Triangulation
After I presented Davidson with the rabbit-behind-the-tree example on
a hike in 1973 he did not mention maximizing agreement again. How-
ever, some years later he proposed another idea, that of triangulation.
This is again a simple idea. Briefly, learning the beginning parts of a
language, those that are very close to perception, consists in the teacher
and the learner and the object forming a triangle. When an object is
conspicuous both for teacher and learner, the teacher utters an expres-
sion connected with that object, say ‘Gavagai.’ The learner associates
the sound with the conspicuous object, and from now on uses ‘Gavagai’
to draw attention to this kind of objects. So now Davidson recognized
that, like Quine, he had to bring in perception. He does this by appeal-
ing to causation:

It takes two points of view to give a location to the cause of a thought,

and thus to define its content. We may think of it as a form of trian-
gulation: each of the two people is reacting differentially to sensory
stimuli streaming in from a certain direction. Projecting the incoming
lines outward, the common cause is at their intersection. If the two
people now note each other’s reactions (in the case of language, ver-
bal reactions), each can correlate these observed reactions with his or
her stimuli from the world. A common cause has been determined.
The triangle which gives content to thought and speech is complete.
But it takes two to triangulate.8

There are many problems with this notion of triangulation. The events
with which I am familiar have a multitude of causes. Rather than talking
about “lines” one should talk about causal trees, branching out from the
two people. One then sees immediately that the notion of “their inter-
section” makes little sense. Of course, causation matters in perception
and language learning. But causation alone does not get us anywhere.
220  Dagfinn Føllesdal
Causation is only one among very many important factors that are
needed. And both causation and many of the other factors are intimately
intertwined with a theory of individuation, or reification, that to a large
extent is left undeveloped.
In fact, Quine had discussed a similar example already in the first of his
John Dewey lectures, “Ontological Relativity,” in 1968:

The learner has now not only to learn the word phonetically, by
hearing it from another speaker; he also has to see the object, and in
addition to this, in order to capture the relevance of the object to the
word, he has to see that the speaker also sees the object.
(Quine 1969, 28)

There are several more problems hidden in the triangulation example,

which Quine had struggled with since he wrote Word and Object. How-
ever, Davidson stuck to his triangulation view during the rest of his life,
although he gradually saw that there were problems—important prob-
lems. In particular, at a week-long intensive discussion session at Stan-
ford in 1986, sponsored by Stanford’s Center for the Study of Language
and Information, with just Quine, Davidson, Dreben, and me partici-
pating, this theme was a central point of discussion, and Quine insisted
from beginning to end that although the idea of triangulation contains
a core of truth, it also pushes crucial philosophical problems under the

Quine on the Distal and the Proximal

What are then these problems? In fact, Quine had proposed a very simi-
lar view at the beginning of Word and Object. In the first sentence of the
preface to the book, Quine stated his view in a nutshell:

Language is a social art. In acquiring it we have to depend entirely

on intersubjectively available cues as to what to say and when. Hence
there is no justification for collating linguistic meanings, unless in
terms of men’s dispositions to respond overtly to socially observable
(Quine 1960, ix)

In the first paragraph of the main text he reiterates:

Each of us learns his language from other people, through the

observable mouthing of words under conspicuously intersubjective
(Quine 1960, 1)
Phenomenology and Language 221
He elaborates on this in the next sentence:

Linguistically, and hence conceptually, the things in sharpest focus

are the things that are public enough to be talked of publicly, com-
mon and conspicuous enough to be talked of often, and near enough
to sense to be quickly identified and learned by name; it is to these
that words apply first and foremost.
(Quine 1960, 1)

It has become usual to oppose Quine’s “proximal” view to Davidson’s

“distal” view: Quine has been supposed to hold that we respond to stim-
uli, while according to the distal view we respond to ordinary objects in
our neighborhood.
The distal view seems more plausible. As we just saw, Quine states
this view as his own in the opening sentences of Word and Object. We
learn our language through the intersubjectively observable mouthing of
words when confronted with publicly observable things.
So from the very beginning of Word and Object Quine has a distal view.
Why does he then in chapter 2 go on to talk about stimuli? The reason
is, I think, that Quine, as usual, saw problems others did not see. Quine
asked “How do we know that others individuate the world into the same
objects as we do?” If we presuppose that they do, we are begging the
question. Likewise, Husserl explored what he called the intersubjective
constitution of objective reality, rather than taking it for granted. One
reason for learning a language and using it to communicate is just that
we want to find out how others conceive of the world. As Quine puts it
in Pursuit of Truth, referring back to the Stanford discussion:

His [Davidson’s] reification of rabbits and the like is for me part of

the plot, not to be passed over as part of the setting.
(Quine 1990, 42).9

Quine struggled with these problems during all the years from Word and
Object until his very last writings. Davidson did the same, and in 1999,
in The Library of Living Philosophers volume on his work, pp. 729–732,
he gives a survey of his position.

Reception versus Perception

Like Husserl, Quine never held that the objects we perceive are stimuli.
We perceive physical objects. This reflects the second problem mentioned
earlier: the evidence we make use of in language learning is publicly acces-
sible. As for the first problem, the intersubjective comparison of stimuli,
Quine begins to disentangle this in The Roots of Reference (1974). He
222  Dagfinn Føllesdal
there introduces a distinction between reception and perception, which he
returns to in some later works. In one of his last papers, “I, You, and It: An
Epistemological Triangle”10 (1999), he presents the idea by starting from
a triangle that, as he says, “Donald Davidson has occasionally invoked.”
The triangle is indeed, Davidson’s triangle, simple and pedagogically
useful. It has you at one vertex, me at another vertex, and at the third
vertex there is some object. a creature, unfamiliar to me. You tell me a
name for it: aardvark.

I you

object (aardvark)

However, as Quine goes on to show, the example is full of problems:

What went on in your nervous system and mine when we observed

the aardvark differed in perspective and probably in more. We are
differently wired. Our sensations may have differed too, if that
makes sense. All we clearly shared was the distal cause of our neu-
ral events: the aardvark. Still I end up associating this same word
with my stimulus, my neural intake, as you did with your different
intake—numerically different certainly, and somewhat different in
further ways. We thus differ in the proximal causes of our concord-
ant use of the word, but we share the distal cause, the reference,
farther out on our causal chains.
(Føllesdal and Quine 2008a, 485)

Receptual Difference—Perceptual Similarity

Once I have learned the word ‘aardvark’ from you, the next time an
aardvark turns up and you and I are there to observe it, I say ‘There’s an
aardvark’ and you agree.
What we receive is different, our sets of triggered nerve endings and
what happens in our neural networks differ. However, my neural intakes
the first time I perceive the aardvark and the second time I perceive it
prompt the same verbal response and are in that sense similar. The neural
intakes are perceptually similar, Quine says. The same holds for you. So
Phenomenology and Language 223
while what I receive differs considerably from what you receive, we agree
in our perceptual judgments.
In order to survive, we need standards of perceptual similarity that
mesh relatively well with the succession of natural events. These same
standards seem to also facilitate communication, but communication
may also lead to modifications of our standards of perceptual similarity.
We will get back to this in a moment.

Preestablished Harmony
In general, if events out there at the third vertex on two occasions pro-
duce neural intakes in both of us, and yours are perceptually similar
for you, mine are apt to be perceptually similar for me. Quine calls
this parallelism a preestablished harmony between your standards of
perceptual similarity and mine. Thanks to this harmony, our scales of
perceptual similarity pair off nicely. This notion of harmony is related
to Husserl’s notion of “normality,” which is thematized in some other
contributions to this volume, in particular that of Christel Fricke. See
also Fricke 2015.
Quine notes that this also applies to the sounds of our language:

The preestablished harmony is needed to account for our meeting of

minds not only on aardvarks, but also on what to call them: on the
mellifluous Dutch disyllable ‘aardvark’ itself. The phonetic constancy
of a word, from one utterance of it to another, is itself a product of
the speakers’ subjective standards of perceptual similarity. Thanks to
the harmony, communication proceeds apace. Oh, we sound alike.
Oh, who says so? Each of us, by his own standards of perceptual
similarity, all of which are in harmony.
(Føllesdal and Quine 2008a, 486)

Perceptual Similarity and Natural Selection

Not only language learning, but all learning is based on perceptual simi-
larity between our neural intakes. Expectation, induction and habit for-
mation rest on perceptual similarity. Since it is presupposed in learning,
perceptual similarity has to be, in part at least, innate, but it is overlaid
and modified as learning progresses.
The parallel similarity standards that are the basis of language learn-
ing also enables vicarious induction: we can learn about the world and
adjust our expectations and habits through communicating with others
and learning from their experiences. This gives us an explanation of both
the innateness and the preestablished harmony: both are favorable for
survival through natural selection.
224  Dagfinn Føllesdal
Sameness and Distinctness
Until now we have focused on similarity: we have seen how our minds
meet on similar objects and also on what to call them. However, let us
now consider an example which brings in something radically new and
illustrates one of the shortcomings of Davidson’s simple triangulation.
After you have taught me the term ‘aardvark’ a stranger comes by. I point
to the aardvark and he says ‘Fido.’ Aha, another language, I guess. I point
to the aardvark again and say ‘Fido,’ and the stranger nods approvingly.
An aardvark comes by again, and I try again ‘Fido,’ but the stranger
seems to disapprove. The same happens when we next spot an aardvark,
and I begin to get bewildered. To me the aardvarks all look the same
and I try in vain to spot minute differences that could explain how the
stranger uses the word ‘Fido.’ I know that I am no aardvark expert, and
having earlier had trouble distinguishing elms and beeches I assume that
I have to learn more about these animals the stranger calls ‘Fido.’
However, my aardvark studies may be in vain. Our knowledge of the
world is not confined to similarities. We conceive of the world as consist-
ing of objects, they are all distinct from one another, although some of
them may look rather similar. And conversely, one and the same object
may look different from different angles or from one time to another.
This is all related to Husserl’s notion of “constitution” as a structuring
activity, and it is not explained by Davidson, who tried to explain com-
munication by appeal to causation:
In order to master a standard language and in order to understand
how another person conceives of the world, we have to master two sets
of contrasting pairs: similarity versus difference, and identity versus dis-
tinctness. They can be combined in four different ways, as shown in the
following diagram:

identical distinct

Mastery of these two contrasting pairs requires quite a lot of us. We

have to get a grip on space, time, causality and the notion of recurring
enduring objects. These notions come as a package, and studies of chil-
dren’s acquisition of language show that it takes some years before a
child is able to master these intricacies. Early on the child may use terms
with divided reference, like ‘dog’ or ‘ball,’ but there are indications that
Phenomenology and Language 225
they are used on a par with mass terms, such as ‘water’ before the child
gets a grip of the package of individuation and reference.

This complicates the triangulation situation. In order to interpret the
other, it does not suffice to have matching similarity judgments. We also
have to divide up the world into objects in similar ways. The stimula-
tions underdetermine what we perceive, and we have no guarantee that
we individuate the world in the same way. The slack is reduced through
features in our nervous system. Quine mentions the work that Hubel and
Wiesel and many others have done on selected responsiveness to various
special features in the environment, such as special diagonals from upper
right to lower left, bilateral symmetry, etc.11
We are born with a lot of dispositions and abilities to register certain
features of the world and extrapolate them inductively. It may be interest-
ing to compare this to Husserl, who in Experience and Judgment writes:

Thus, every experience has its inner horizon, and ‘horizon’ means
here the induction that essentially belongs to every experience and is
inseparable from it. The word is helpful, since it points to . . . induc-
tion in the usual sense of a mode of inference, and that this ulti-
mately . . . leads back to the original and basic anticipation.12

These abilities are decisive for perception and action and also for the
learning of languages. Through the learning of languages these abilities
become more developed and refined. This in turn facilitates further lan-
guage learning.
When we start learning a language, we associate linguistic expressions
with our different anticipations and other dispositions on the basis of pub-
licly accessible evidence. In the case of perception we have many expecta-
tions and tacit assumptions that can be confirmed or disconfirmed. Our
expectations may go wrong, but there is something to be right or wrong
about, as there is in our judgments about the physical world. There is there-
fore here much under-determination, but little indeterminacy. However, as
soon as we extrapolate from the perceptual realm into more theoretical
domains, the interplay between theory and meaning becomes more per-
vasive. In theoretical areas indeterminacy of translation and of reference
thereby becomes more prominent. In these areas it is important that we
not regard meaning as something that first exists in our mind and then gets
expressed through language. There are no proto-meanings in our mind, as
Fodor and many others maintain. There are intimate and interesting con-
nections between mind and meaning. But we get a wrong picture of these
connections if we fail to take seriously the public nature of language.
That Quine had a distal, not a proximal, theory of language learning
does not eliminate or reduce indeterminacy of translation. On the contrary,
226  Dagfinn Føllesdal
the indeterminacy becomes greater than if one had a proximal view. We
must from the very beginning make assumptions about which objects a
person perceives, and these assumptions are far more under-determined
than assumptions about which stimuli he receives. We have here partly
under-determination: there is something to be right or wrong about, similar
to what we have in the natural sciences, and partly we have indeterminacy.
Independently of this, the indeterminacy of translation is, on the other
hand, also smaller than it might seem from Word and Object. A large
number of human activities, practices and customs play a role on com-
munication and therefore contribute to establishing the meaning and ref-
erence of linguistic expressions. (Cf. Føllesdal 1975). All this evidence
must be brought into the study of meaning as constraints on translation
and interpretation, not just assent and dissent.
Individuation, or reification, as Quine often calls it, is a process which
is fundamental for our theories and at the same time depends upon them.
It is in my opinion also crucial to language learning and communication.
When we try to understand another person, we have to make assumptions
concerning which objects he perceives and which properties he takes them
to have, and thereby concerning his theories and the structure of what he
perceives. As the process of understanding progresses, these assumptions
may be modified in the light of publicly accessible evidence, the way Neu-
rath modified his ship. Our understanding always remains tentative. There
is no dry dock, where we can build up our understanding from a firm, non-
intensional basis, such as stimuli or causality. We are hence moving in a cir-
cle, we use assumptions concerning perception to understand language, and
we use our tentative understanding of language to improve our assumptions
concerning perception. However, this is no vicious circle. We are just extend-
ing Neurath’s ship simile from science to translation and interpretation.
In The Roots of Reference (1974) Quine argued that what are sensed
are not the simple sensory elements discussed by Berkeley and Hume, but
significantly structured wholes:

Confronted with seven spots equally spaced around a center, the sub-
ject responds rather to the composite circular form than to any com-
ponent. Confronted with a solid, he directly senses a body in depth.
He goes through none of Berkeley’s inferential construction of the
depth dimension, for he is unaware of the two-dimensional data of
that construction.
(Quine 1974, 1–2)

Quine and Husserl

In this connection Quine refers approvingly to the Gestalt psychologists.
He could have referred to Husserl, who antedated and inspired the Gestalt
psychologists and who carried out detailed analyses of individuation,
Phenomenology and Language 227
perception and intersubjectivity. Like Quine, Husserl held that we per-
ceive physical objects, not sense data. He also argued that we perceive
directly actions, not physical movements, and people, not bodies. Percep-
tion and language are dependent on intersubjective adaptation. Husserl
studied this adaptation in great detail and concluded that “even what is
straightforwardly perceptual is communal.”13
Quine, too, in his Paul Carus lectures in 1973 observed the social
nature of perception:

Perception being such a private business, I find it ironical that the

best evidence of what counts as perceptual should be social con-
formity. I shall not pause over the lesson, but there is surely one
(Quine 1974, 23)

Quine never studied Husserl. However, he moved more and more in the
direction of Husserl. And he recognized this: In an interview with Gio-
vanna Borradori in 1994, he said:

I recognize that Husserl and I, in very different ways, addressed some

of the same things.
(“Twentieth-Century Logic,” Føllesdal
and Quine 2008b, 64)

What then Happened to Quine’s Behaviorism?

Quine’s early insight remains valid: When we are seeking to under-
stand certain social phenomena, for example language learning and
language use, we must focus on the evidence that is available to the
participants in the pertinent social situations. This is the basis for
Quine’s fundamentally new way of looking at language, meaning, and
communication. This evidence is empirical, it comes to us through our
senses. A closer study of this evidence led Quine to a position very
near that of Husserl, who is sometimes regarded as the polar oppo-
site of a behaviorist. However, given the fundamental importance of
Quine’s insight into the public nature of language, why not keep the
label ‘behaviorism’ for this new position, since it does not seem to be
needed for anything else?

Husserl was not studied by the main later contributors to the philoso-
phy of language. In his work from 1900 on, particularly in his Logical
Investigations (1900/01), in the Ideas (1913) and in various lectures and
manuscripts, Husserl discussed issues in the philosophy of language that
228  Dagfinn Føllesdal
are of fundamental importance and only much later have been discovered
and discussed in mainstream philosophy of language.
Husserl knew very well the work of the eleven years older Frege, who
became a key figure in the twentieth century development of the phi-
losophy of language. Husserl owned all of Frege’s books and articles.
His copies of Frege’s works, which are preserved in the Husserl archives,
show that he studied them thoroughly. He even studied with great care
Frege’s Grundgesetze, where his annotations show that he read Frege’s
formal proofs carefully and even spotted some inaccuracies. There is also
an interesting correspondence between the two.
However, while Frege was widely studied and became very influen-
tial for the development of logic and philosophy of language during the
whole twentieth century, Husserl was hardly ever read and discussed by
philosophers of language. Why?
Part of it has to do with Husserl’s writing style. Frege was eminently
simple and clear—Wittgenstein once said “I wish I could write like
Frege.” Husserl’s sentences are long and complicated, so long that he
sometimes loses track of the grammar. He also uses many philosophical
terms, like ‘idealism,’ ‘ontology,’ and ‘metaphysics,’ in a very idiosyn-
cratic way. Husserl gradually became aware that he used philosophical
terms in a way that differed from that of many other philosophers, and
to avoid misunderstandings he therefore introduced terms that were not
used by others, such as ‘noema,’ ‘noesis,’ etc. However, since terms get
their meaning through the various contexts in which they are used, he
decided not to start with definitions, but instead stated his view using
these special terms. Their meaning gradually dawns on the reader through
the use Husserl makes of them. This contributed to making him difficult
to read. It also makes it hard to present his philosophical views briefly.
This is part of the reason that in teaching Husserl I use the spiral move-
ment I mentioned at the beginning of this paper.
All these difficulties: long and complicated sentences, deviant terminol-
ogy and strange and undefined key terms have contributed to the neglect
of Husserl among philosophers of language. Another important factor
has been the emergence, in certain intellectual milieus, of “schools” of
philosophers who refrained from reading one another, believing that
what the others say is irrelevant to their concerns. This was often con-
nected with an introduction of labels, like “continental” versus “ana-
lytic” philosophy, etc., which in turn closed people’s mind: use of labels
is comfortable when much more is published than one has time to read.
One puts a label on the authors and then with good conscience abstains
from reading them.
“Analytic” philosophers hence did not read Husserl, and “continen-
tal” philosophers who did struggle their way through some of his work
did not discover more than a fraction of what is there, since they were not
familiar with the issues Husserl dealt with. In the 1960s, however, Husserl
Phenomenology and Language 229
started to be read by philosophers who were open to both traditions, and
it was discovered that Husserl very early had important insights in phi-
losophy of language and many other fields that had remained unexplored.

So What Did Husserl Contribute to the Philosophy

of Language?
Already in his first phenomenological work, Logical Investigations
(1900/01) Husserl takes up issues in the philosophy of language that had
been little discussed at that time, but now are central. Starting in the
first of his six Logical Investigations he discusses, for example, what he
calls “essentially occasional expressions,” that is expressions which are
systematically context-sensitive, such as indexicals, like ‘I’ ‘here’ ‘now.’ In
§ 26, “Wesentlich okkasionelle und objektive Ausdrücke,” he introduces
the semantic distinction between the “anzeigende” and the “angezeigte”
meaning, that is the purely linguistic meaning expressed by a word like
‘I’ contrasted with the meaning it has in a given situation of use. This
distinction anticipates some basic elements in David Kaplan’s distinction
between “character” and “content.”14
Husserl discusses some related issues in the 6th Logical Investigation,
and he deepens and improves his discussion in the second edition of the
work. While the second edition was in proofs he added a supplement
with some improvements. (Husserliana XIX/2, pp. 556–558). In Logical
Investigations and his lectures on the theory of meaning, there are also
anticipations of other important ideas and distinctions in the philosophy
of language that have been set forth and developed more than sixty years
later by Keith Donnellan, John Perry and others.15

Husserl’s Philosophy of Language from the Ideas on

I will not try to survey Husserl’s many insights in the Logical Investiga-
tions but will instead focus on the later development in Husserl, from
which we have much to learn. Husserl got into examples and problems
that could not be handled within the framework of Logical Investiga-
tions, and in Ideas (1913) he developed further his views on meaning and
introduced the notion of the noema, which provided a bridge between
the notion of meaning and his general theory of intentionality. “The
noema is nothing but a generalization of the notion of meaning (Sinn) to
the field of all acts,” he wrote in the third volume of Ideas, Husserliana
V, page 89. The connection is reflected in the title of a manuscript that all
too long remained unpublished: “Noema und Sinn.”
As Frege pointed out, his distinction between Sinn and Bedeutung helps
to deal with some issues, such as identity (same Bedeutung, but possibly
different Sinne) and non-referring expressions (Sinn, but no Bedeutung).
He also was able to handle many other challenges, for example those
230  Dagfinn Føllesdal
discussed in Künne’s “Hybrid proper names” (Künne 1992). However,
many problems cannot be handled by Frege. They require a broader
notion of sense, that applies not only to language, but to perception,
action and all “acts.” Husserl’s noema is such a broad notion. Briefly, it
is the abstract structure of our anticipations, sedimented from our past
experience and incessantly adjusted by new experience, most of the sedi-
mentation and adjustments taking place without our being aware of it.
A full discussion of Husserl’s view would have to go into this notion and
its interplay with what Husserl calls noesis, hyle and the thetic compo-
nents of acts.
While Husserl was working his way toward this new notion of noema,
he proposed, in a manuscript in 1911, the following Twin World exam-
ple.16 Husserl’s discussion starts as follows:

But how is it, if on two celestial bodies two people in surroundings

that seem to be totally similar, conceive of “the same” objects and
adjust their utterances accordingly? Does not the “this” in these two
cases have a different meaning?17

Husserl immediately gives a variant of the example:

Let us change the example somewhat. Let two similar surroundings

be arranged on the earth, and two people in the same position rela-
tive to them, who experience the same appearances, utter the same
words, etc. Do their words have the same meaning?18

Later he gives a third variant, where only one person is involved:

If I were brought from one surrounding to another totally similar

one, where my empirical perceptions were either absolutely similar
or fit in with my being in the same surroundings, and if, being con-
founded through the route, which did not give me enough clues to
estimate correctly the direction of the movement, I believe that I have
returned to the same start point [. . .]19

Philosophers of language in our time will immediately associate this

example with Hilary Putnam’s Twin Earth example, which Putnam put
forth in lectures at the University of Washington and the University of
Minnesota in the summer of 1968. Putnam published a short version
of his discussion of the example in “Meaning and Reference” in 1973
and a full version followed in “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’ ” (1975). The
example has been widely discussed and has been used for several differ-
ent purposes. It has led to new insights in the relation of language to the
world, natural kinds, and the semantics of demonstratives. Putnam used
it as an argument for his version of “semantic externalism.” Husserl’s
Phenomenology and Language 231
manuscript was printed in 1987, long after Putnam had put forth his
twin earth example, and Christian Beyer discovered the example in Hus-
serl in 1995, while he was working on Husserl at Stanford. Nobody had
noted it earlier. So Putnam got the idea independently.
It is no accident that the twin world example was conceived both by
Husserl and by Putnam. Putnam got into the issues raised by this example
by reflecting on Quine, who was, without comparison, the philosopher
who engaged him the most. Gradually, he became interested in Husserl,
and he was always eager to talk about him. However, he never came
to the stage when he discovered that Husserl and Quine were engaged
by the same problems and were moving in the same direction in their
attempts to solve them.
Susanna Siegel, the present holder of Harvard’s Edgar Pierce Profes-
sorship of Philosophy, which Quine held from 1956 to 1978, has written
several interesting books and articles on the issues that engaged Quine
and Husserl, particularly perception and rationality. She justly criticizes
Quine’s view in Word and Object:

In the history of analytic philosophy, both this construal of percep-

tual experience and its power to give you reason to believe what
it suggests are relatively new. Davidson famously held that only a
belief can justify another belief. Quine didn’t talk about perceptual
experience at all in discussing belief formation—only about ‘sensory
(Siegel 2015, 407)

She adds in a footnote that “Quine (1960) also worked with notions of
experience, observation, and evidence that were much less impoverished,
but never assimilated sensory stimulation to any of these.” However,
Siegel makes no reference to Quine’s many books and articles after 1960,
where he revised and enriched his discussion of these notions, particu-
larly Ontological Relativity (1969), The Roots of Reference (1974), The
Pursuit of Truth (1990) and From Stimulus to Science (1995). Also, there
is no mention of Quine’s plan to rewrite Word and Object in view of his
later insights. In particular, he wanted to rewrite completely his discus-
sion of sensory stimulation in Chapter 2.
These changes spring from Quine’s reflections on perception, intersub-
jectivity and empathy, for which Husserl’s phenomenology provides a
very good framework.20

1. Iso Kern, ed. Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität, Husserliana, vols.
XIII, XIV and XV. Martinus Nijhoff, Den Haag, 1973.
2. Cf. Edmister and O’Shea 1994. Here from Føllesdal and Quine 2008b, 47.
232  Dagfinn Føllesdal
3. A testimony to Quine’s ability to put himself in the place of others, and
also his concern for others, are the hundreds of letters he sent to his parents
starting in 1925, when he left home. These letters read as a diary because he
wrote one every week and discussed issues and events that he thought might
interest them.
4. Quine 1974, 24; Darwin 1859, 45–46. Quine often came back to this, even
in his latest work, for example in “The Growth of Mind and Language,”
University of Oldenburg, Germany, June 5, 1997, reprinted in Føllesdal
and Quine 2008a, 182–191; “Progress on Two Fronts” (1996), in Føllesdal
and Quine 2008a, 473–477; “Three Networks: Similarity, Implication, and
Membership” (2000), in Føllesdal and Quine, 493–497.
5. Davidson 1967. Reprinted in Davidson 1984; the quoted passage is on page
27 of the reprint.
6. Or better, „benevolent interpretation,” as Gadamer’s student Wolfgang
Künne calls it in Künne 1990.
7. For more on this, see Føllesdal 1975, esp. 39–40.
8. Davidson 1991/2001, 212–213 of the reprint in 2001. The italics are mine.
9. Kathrin Glüer in her excellent book Donald Davidson: A Short Introduction
(Glüer 2011), points out that “in interpreting observation sentences, he [the
charitable interpreter] assigns content to the speaker’s beliefs that are such
that he himself believes them under the given conditions.” (p. 121). How-
ever, then we are back to Quine again, and his struggle with observation
sentences, which is what Davidson wanted to avoid.
10. Quine 1990, 42. “I, You, and It: an Epistemological Triangle” was originally
published in Alex Orenstein and Petr Kotatko (eds.) Knowledge, Language
and Logic: Questions for Quine, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science
(Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999), 1–6. Page references in the
text are to the reprint in Føllesdal and Quine 2008a, chap. 44.
11. Quine’s most detailed discussion of this is given in Quine 1993, 107–116;
reprinted in Quine 2008a, where the discussion is found on p. 417.
12. „So hat jede Erfahrung ihren Innenhorizont; und ‚Horizont‘ bedeutet hierbei
die wesensmäßig zu jeder Erfahrung gehörige und von ihr selbst untrenn-
bare Induktion in jeder Erfahrung selbst. Das Wort ist nützlich, da es vor-
deutet . . . auf die Induktion im gewöhnlichen Sinne einer Schlußweise und
darauf, daß diese letztlich . . . zurückführt auf die originale und ursprüngli-
che Antizipation.” Edmund Husserl, Erfahrung und Urteil (Hamburg: Felix
Meiner Verlag, 1939), §8, 28.
13. Edmund Husserl, Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die tran-
szendentale Phänomenologie (Walter Biemel (ed.), The Hague: Nijhoff,
1954), Husserliana VI, § 47, 166.19–22; The Crisis of the European Sci-
ences and Transcendental Phenomenology, transl. by David Carr (Evanston,
Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 163.
14. Cf. Kaplan 1968, 1978, 1979.
15. Cf. Donnellan 1966; Perry 1980. Christian Beyer, who is a student of
Künne and now professor in Göttingen, spent a year at Stanford, and in
the books and an article included in the bibliography (Beyer 1996; 2000;
2006; 2008) and also in several other publications he has explored Hus-
serl’s many interesting anticipations of Perry’s work.
16. Husserl’s twin world example was discovered by Christian Beyer, who dis-
cusses it in the final section of his book Von Bolzano zu Husserl. Eine Unter-
suchung über den Ursprung der phänomenologischen Bedeutungslehre.
(Beyer 1996). Beyer’s discovery illustrates the observation I made earlier,
that philosophers who are familiar with the issues and know the discussion
Phenomenology and Language 233
of them are more likely to discern the insights in the texts they read. Fortu-
nately, more and more philosophers now disregard labels and “schools” and
concentrate on the issues.
17. ‟Wie aber, wenn auf zwei Himmelskörpern zwei Menschen in völlig
gleicher Umgebungserscheinung ‘dieselben‘ Gegenstände vorstellen und
danach ‘dieselben’ Aussagen orientieren? Hat das ‘dies’ in beiden Fällen
nicht eine verschiedene Bedeutung?” (Edmund Husserl: Husserliana XXVI,
Ergänzende Texte, Beilage XIX, The Hague 1987, 211.44–212.2.)
18. ‟Ändern wir das Beispiel etwas ab. Es seien auf der Erde zwei gleiche Umge-
bungen hergestellt und zwei Menschen zu ihnen in gleicher Lage, beide völ-
lig gleiche Erscheinungen habend, in gleichen Worten aussagend etc. Haben
beiderseits die Worte dieselben Bedeutungen?” (Husserl: Husserliana XXVI,
212, 3–6).
19. ‟Würde ich von einer Umgebung in die andere völlig gleiche gebracht, wobei
die empirischen Anschauungen entweder absolut gleich oder im Sinne eben
anschaulich gleicher Umgebung zusammenpassend sein werden, und glaube
ich, verwirrt durch den Weg, der nicht genug Anhaltspunkte richtiger Schät-
zung der Bewegungsrichtung abgab, zum selben Ausgangspunkt zurück-
gekehrt zu sein [. . .].” (Husserl: Husserliana XXVI, 212, 30–35)
20. I am grateful to Christian Beyer, Frode Kjosavik and David Cerbone for
several helpful suggestions.

Beyer, Christian. Von Bolzano zu Husserl: Eine Untersuchung über den Ursprung
der phänomenologischen Bedeutungslehre. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Pub-
lishers, 1996.
Beyer, Cristian. Intentionalität und Referenz. Paderborn: mentis, 2000.
Beyer, Christian. Subjektivität, Intersubjektivität, Personalität. Berlin: de Gruyter,
Beyer, Christian. “Noematic Sinn.” In: F. Mattens, ed., Meaning and Language:
Phenomenological Perspectives. Phaenomenologica 187 (2008). Dordrecht:
Darwin, Charles. Origin of Species. London: John Murray, 1859.
Davidson, Donald. “Truth and Meaning.” Synthese 17 (1967), 304–323.
Reprinted in Donald Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984, 17–36.
Davidson, Donald. “Reply to Dagfinn Føllesdal.” In: Lewis Edwin Hahn, ed.,
The Philosophy of Donald Davidson (The Library of Living Philosophers
XXVII. Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1999), 729–732. (Reply to my
article, “Triangulation,” ibid., 719–728.)
Davidson, Donald. “Three Varieties of Knowledge.” In: A. P. Griffiths, ed., A.J.
Ayer Memorial Essays. Cambridge University Press, 1991. Reprinted in Don-
ald Davidson, Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective. Oxford: Clarendon Press,
2001, 205–220.
Donnellan, Keith. “Reference and Definite Descriptions.” Philosophical Review
75 (1966), 281–304.
Edmister, Bradley and Michael O’Shea. “W.V. Quine: Perspectives on Logic, Sci-
ence and Philosophy.” (Interview) Harvard Review of Philosophy 4/1 (1994),
234  Dagfinn Føllesdal
Føllesdal, Dagfinn. “Meaning and Experience.” In: Samuel Guttenplan, ed.,
Mind and Language: Wolfson College Lectures 1974. Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1975, 25–44.
Føllesdal, Dagfinn and Douglas B. Quine. Editors. Confessions of a Confirmed
Extensionalist and Other Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
Føllesdal, Dagfinn and Douglas B. Quine. Editors. Quine in Dialogue. Cam-
bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008b.
Fricke, Christel. “Questioning the Importance of Being Normal: An Inquiry
into the Normative Constraints on Normality.” Journal of Value Inquiry 49/4
(2015), 691–713.
Glüer, Kathrin. Donald Davidson: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford Uni-
versity Press, 2011.
Kaplan, David. “Quantifying in.” Synthese 19 (1968), 178–214.
Kaplan, David. “Dthat.” In: P. Cole, ed., Syntax and Semantics, Volume 9. New
York: Academic Press, 1978, 221–243.
Kaplan, David. “On the Logic of Demonstratives.” Journal of Philosophical
Logic 8 (1979), 81–98.
Künne, Wolfgang. “Prinzipien der wohlwollende Interpretation.” In: Inten-
tionalität und Verstehen. Frankfurt am Main: Forum für Philosophie, 1990,
Künne, Wolfgang. “Hybrid Proper Names.” Mind 101 (1992), 721–773.
Perry, John. “A Problem About Continued Belief.” Pacific Philosophical Quar-
terly 61 (1980), 317–322.
Quine, W. V. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960.
Quine, W. V. Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1969.
Quine, W. V. The Roots of Reference. The Paul Carus Lecture Series, 14. La Salle,
IL: Open Court, 1974.
Quine, W. V. Pursuit of Truth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.
Quine, W. V. “In Praise of Observation Sentences.” Journal of Philosophy 90
(1993), 107–116.
Quine, W. V. From Stimulus to Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1995.
Quine, W. V. “I, You, and It: An Epistemological Triangle.” In: Føllesdal and
Quine (2008), 485–492.
Siegel, Susanna. “Epistemic Evaluability and Perceptual Farce.” Afterword In J.
Zeimbekis and A. Raftopoulos, eds., The Cognitive Penetrability of Percep-
tion: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015,
9 From Empathy to
Sympathy. On the
Importance of Love in the
Experience of the Other
Mariano Crespo

Husserl’s theory of empathy (Einfühlung) as a kind of experience of the
Other (Fremderfahrung) is a fundamental element of his theory of inter-
subjectivity. As is well-known, Husserl thinks that the point of departure
for the analysis of empathy is the primordial sphere, or sphere of own-
ness (Eigentlichkeitssphäre). Therefore, the Other arises phenomenologi-
cally before my consciousness as a “modification” of myself. However, it
would be a mistake to reduce Husserl’s theory of Fremderfahrung to his
empathy theory. Sympathy is also a kind of Fremderfahrung, which, cer-
tainly, is connected to empathy, but which is different. As Husserl writes
in Ideas II: “Empathy into persons is nothing else than precisely that
apprehension which understands the sense, i.e., which grasps the body
in its sense and in the unity of the sense it has to bear” (Husserl 1989,
255–256). However, sympathy goes beyond empathy. One of my points
in this paper is precisely that Husserl’s theory of sympathy is an “enrich-
ment” of his empathy theory. Saying that, I do not suggest that Husserl
totally replaces his former conception of empathy by a new one, which
is sympathy-based. In fact, in Gemeingeist I he still uses “empathy” as
a broad term covering, among other things, non-sympathy-based phe-
nomena. Sympathy’s experiences are grounded in empathy’s ones, but go
beyond. We can even say that in sympathy some forms of empty empathy
are fulfilled.
The “enrichment” of empathy that takes place in sympathy is espe-
cially clear, according to Husserl, in the case of the “community of love”
(Liebesgemeinschaft). Here love seems to be the key element for trans-
forming empathy from an experience of the Other qua modificatum of
myself into some kind of feeling in the Other. Husserl admits that in
empathy I share a common world with the Other, but in the final analysis
I have my own aims and the Other has his or hers. Love seems to trans-
form mere empathy into a richer experience of the Other. With love, the
Other is not a modificatum of the lover: “Lovers do not live side by side,
nor the one with the other, but rather in one another, both actually and
236  Mariano Crespo
potentially.” (Hua XIV, 174.) In this sense, I seek to show that in the text
Gemeingeist I (1921) (Hua XIV, 165–184) and in three texts belonging
to the Reflections on Ethics from the Freiburg Years, recently published
in volume XLII of Husserliana (Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie),1
Husserl lays the foundations for a theory that, so to speak, goes from
Einfühlung to Sympathie.2
In order to carry out this task, I will first present a contextualization
and summary of the fundamental features of the Husserlian theory of
Einfühlung. Secondly, I will show the degree to which the analyses of love
that we encounter in the texts I have mentioned (Gemeingeist I and those
collected in Hua XLII) constitute a broadening of this theory. Finally,
I will outline certain possible lines of future development on the basis of
these analyses.

The antecedents of the phenomenological analysis of the experience of
the Other must be sought in texts from the end of the nineteenth and the
beginnings of the twentieth century. As has been suggested (cf. Schloss-
berger 2005), the theories that in this epoch sought to respond to this
question can be classified into two groups: on the one hand, there are
those that hold that “what is ‘given’ ‘above all’ to us is exclusively one’s
own ego.” Therefore,

That what is primarily given in the case of other is merely the appear-
ance of the body, its changes, movements, etc., and that only on the
strength of this do we somehow come to accept it as animate and to
presume the existence of another self.
(Scheler 1973, 238; cf. Scheler 2008, 244)

Thus, knowledge of the experiences of others always takes place with the
mediation of the body. On the other hand, there are theories that reject
that our access to the minds of others is always mediated and which
defend—as Scheler does—that “affective and emotional states are not
simply qualities of subjective experience; rather, when expressed, they
become visible to others” (Zahavi 2014, 123).
According to the first group of theories, the only way of experiencing
the lived experiences of other people would be an indirect road, i.e., it
would be mediated by the external perception of the other’s body. In
this situation, there are two possibilities: either one begins directly with
the perception of the other body, and by means of reasoning one comes
to the conclusion that what the other is experiencing is something that
I experience analogously, or one begins with the self-givenness of the ego
itself, and one attempts—by means of the perception of the body of the
other—to experience the other ego. The first possibility corresponds to
From Empathy to Sympathy 237
the so-called theories of reasoning by analogy, while the second consti-
tutes the so-called theories of empathy. Following the first type of theory,
when I observe the face of a person I perceive certain expressive move-
ments that are known to me by my own face. As a result, I infer that
when that person is making the gesture that he or she is currently mak-
ing, then what is occurring—for example—is an experience of pain, since
that is what I experience when I make the same gesture. This is, then, a
reasoning by analogy.3
This type of theory promptly received a whole series of criticisms.
Theodor Lipps was the psychologist who most systematically formulated
objections against this theory, and in turn he became the point of refer-
ence for other critiques. Lipps proposed a theory according to which it
would be possible to represent the experience of the other I without the
mediation of any inferential process at all. The group of theories that
Lipp’s view belongs to have been termed ‘theories of empathy.’ The ele-
ment which is common to these theories consists in holding that, in some
way, one’s own ego is—if I may be permitted the expression—“placed”
in the other ego, in order to be able to understand his or her psychic con-
tents. This meaning is what underlies the German term ein-fühlen, which
precisely denotes that “feeling-in” alluded to in colloquial expressions
such as “walk a mile in the other’s shoes.” In the case of Lipps there is an
appeal to a kind of inexplicable instinct that makes me place myself in the
place of the other, thus participating interiorly in the lived experiences of
the Other. Here is a representative text:

In virtue of an instinct that can no longer retreat to anything else, it

occurs that in the apprehension of certain sense-perceived processes
which we later characterize as vital manifestations or as sensate phe-
nomena of another ‘individual’—there arises in me, the one who
immediately apprehends a vital activation, a sensing, a wanting, etc.
of such a kind that it constitutes in me, with the act of apprehending,
a unique lived-experience.
(Lipps 1906, 36)

Thus, Lipps advocates a kind of instinctive projection (sich hinein pro-

jizieren) of one’s own experiences into the bodies that are outside our-
selves.4 This transference would explain, at the same time, a kind of
internal imitation. This is the experience that we have, for example, when
we observe that the trapeze artist is about to fall, and we “jump” in our
seats as though we were in the place of the one who is observed. In this
case, it would seem that, in some way, we transfer ourselves to the other,
and we feel “the same” as him or her. For his part, Husserl coincides with
Lipps in his critique of the theories of reasoning by analogy. He does not
think, therefore, that in the perception of the other there is any reason-
ing at all. Nevertheless, he believes that Lipps has focused on the most
238  Mariano Crespo
basic level of this perception and, above all, he rejects Lipp’s recourse to
the instincts of vital manifestations and of the imitation of alien expres-
sions in order to explain the experience of the other. In a not too chari-
table observation, Husserl claims that having recourse to those instincts
is “a refuge of phenomenological ignorance” (sic) and, in its place, he
demands an “authentic” explanation.5 Husserl takes from Lipps the term
Einfühlung, but he never accepts it in the sense intended by the latter, i.e.,
an inner imitation or an instinctive projection of one’s own immanent
experiences toward the bodies that are outside us as basis of empathy.
In addition, as Iso Kern indicates in the text prepared for this volume
and in his editorial introduction to volume XIII of Husserliana, Husserl
states that the word Einfühlung was not the correct expression for the
experience of the other. In the strict sense, Fremderfahrung is not a sich
hinseinversetzen in the other as Einfühlung suggests. In his own words:

Thus I cannot really put myself into the other one’s shoes; I can only
imagine how I would feel—how it would be like for me [wie mir
zumute wäre]—if I were like the Other; where in fact I have to give
up my identity and quit being myself. So we are dealing with an
imaginary representation [eine imaginäre Vorstellung].
(Hua XIII, 338; transl. by CB.)6

This is the context in which the Husserlian theory of the Fremderfahrung

arises. Certainly, the mature formulation of this kind of experience is
found in the 5th of the Cartesian Meditations. Nevertheless, there are
various manuscripts prior to the Paris Lectures in which Husserl refers
to Einfühlung as a kind of Fremderfahrung. As Iso Kern indicates in his
text, the first of Husserl’s manuscripts about this issue are from a time
between 1905 and 1907, and they are closely related to Lipp’s writings
about Einfühlung. Another source of inspiration for Husserl were the
discussions with Dilthey. The bulk of the manuscripts in which Husserl
deals with Einfühlung were brought together by Kern in volume XIII of
Husserliana and derive from the years between 1909 and 1916. A num-
ber of these belong to the course Grundprobleme der Phänomenologie
given by Husserl in the winter semester of the years 1910/1911.7 The fun-
damental aspects of the theory of Einfühlung from the fifth of the Car-
tesian Meditations had already been outlined in these early manuscripts.
As is well-known, the guiding thread of the analyses from this early
phase of the Husserlian treatment of Einfühlung is the idea that the
lived experiences of others are neither originally perceptible nor are they
observable in a proper sense. Nevertheless, there is a kind of perception
whose type Husserl wants to determine. To do this, Husserl uses terms
like Mitwahrnehmung8 or Kompräsentation; later he would substitute
them with Appräsentation (cf. Hua XIII, Text 2).
From Empathy to Sympathy 239
With what I have said up to this point, it is understandable that the
starting point of Husserlian analyses would be self-perception, i.e., the
perception of the sensing body itself, of my sensations and of the entire
stream of my consciousness (cf. Hua XIII, Text 8, 250). The grasping of
the other’s ego is—as we will see—what Husserl calls an “interpretation.”
However, how does this interpretation take place? In the first place, Hus-
serl confirms that the body of the other is given to me, is a phenomenon
for me. It is an external phenomenon. This external phenomenon that
I have of the body of the other is united with an “intention” that “inter-
prets” the body like a Leib, that is, like an animated, sensing body. Thus,
in the same way that—in the sense of Leib—a sphere of self-appearance
corresponds to my body, similarly a sphere similar to self-appearance
corresponds to the body of the other—similar to it, not to me. The sens-
ing body of the other is, then, interpreted as the subject of a sphere of
self-perception. For me, this self-appearance is a re-presentation (Verge-
genwärtigung), but not for the foreign subject. (Cf. Text 3, 252.)
The fundamental difficulty with all these analyses derives, as Husserl
himself notes, from offering a correct description of the perception of the
self, of the re-presentation of the other and of the step from the first to the
second. This latter is possible through a kind of “mental experiment”:
I can grasp the body of the other as Leib if I “put myself in” that body as
though it were my Leib, if I can see it as though it were my Leib (cf. Hua
XIII, Text 88, 266), albeit considered from here, from the perspective of
my Leib. A body that is given to me externally is given to me as Leib,
when, because of the similarity with my own Leib, it demands appercep-
tion as Leib and hence as animated by a subject. The perception of one’s
own sensing body constitutes the foundation for the perception of the
sensing body of the other. Only through an interpretation of a body that
is like mine, as a sensing body and thus as animated by an ego (like mine)
can I grasp the sensing body of the other.9
What I want to retain from this rapid walkthrough of the principal lines
of the Husserlian theory of empathy is that it always takes place start-
ing from the stratum of the primordial sphere of the ego. As a result, the
other arises “phenomenologically, qua ‘modification’ of my ego itself.”10

As I stated previously, one of the principal objectives of the Husserlian
analysis of love is an analysis of the type of community that arises—
or which one wishes would arise—between the one who loves and the
beloved. This community would make it clear, as I noted above, that
the subject who loves is, in some way, “absorbed” (versunken) in the
beloved person. The subject is happy not just because the beloved person
is happy; he or she is happy with the same happiness that the beloved
240  Mariano Crespo
person experiences. In this way, this Einfühlung would not be, as Husserl
said in 1915, an imaginäre Vorstellung.
Firstly, it is important to note that when Husserl speaks of the lover
being absorbed in the beloved he is not speaking about just any kind of
love, but about personal love. For example, it is not what happens in
instinctive love, in the sense of an instinctual concern for the other, as
happens in motherly or fatherly love. In this kind of love, Husserl thinks,
we do not experience the same happiness or the same sadness that the
beloved experiences, but rather a happiness in which the beloved rejoices,
and a sadness in which the beloved becomes saddened. (Cf. Hua XIV,
166.) Nor is this authentic Einfühlung produced in the kind of commu-
nity that arises via acts and social relations. This is, at most, a praktische
Willensgemeinschaft in which one seeks to make the you (thou) carry out
an action in its physical or spiritual Umwelt. (Cf. Hua XIV, 169.) The
ego informs the you of its desire or will, with the hope that this desire or
will motivate the you. It can become accustomed to my will. In that case,
we have an interweaving of the wills of both persons, with a “recipro-
cal motivation toward a common praxis-purpose,” with a mere praxis
aufeinander.11 This kind of “complete” Einfühlung or sympathy does not
take place in the more general love to the neighbor. This latter consists,
rather—in the words of Husserl himself:

in a loving concern for the Other, because of its being and its coming
to be ethical, [in] a disposition towards Others, towards communities
or towards all of humanity, but it is not the foundation for a com-
munitarian relationship nor for a personal association or solidarity.
(Hua XIV, 175.)

It is, then, in personal love—understood as a lasting, friendly disposition

to be loved in the entirety of the individual person—in his or her active
and passive behavior regarding his or her environment and embodiment,
thoroughly pierced by the spirit (durchgeistige Leiblichkeit), that this ful-
filled empathy, or sympathy, takes place in the other.
Secondly, once we have considered the type of love where we contem-
plate a total Einfühlung, or sympathy, Husserl establishes that the latter
takes place in the aspiration (Streben). In personal love, the Streben of
the beloved is taken up in the Streben of the lover, which merge them-
selves into a single Strebensgemeinschaft. In Husserl’s words, “I come
to a community of aspiration with the other, and, in this way, I live as
me in him, and he in me” (Gemeingeist I, 139–140/172). What is defini-
tional about personal love is the Ineinander, that is, a one-in-the-other
that is proper to the subjects that establish this kind of relationship. It
is, as I said earlier, a Gemeinschaft des Strebens in which “one’s entire
aspiration enters and introduces itself forever into the aspiration of the
other, and the other way around. From here we see, simultaneously, that
From Empathy to Sympathy 241
as soon as the contact of the lovers is actualized, and one of them under-
stands the aspirations of the Other, he or she seeks to explicitly accept the
aspirations of the other as one’s own; he or she may participate in it with
the will of the other, or else intervene beneficially” (Gemeingeist I, 173).
This would even happen with those types of acts that are, so to speak,
“outside” of the contact of the lover with the beloved. In them the will of
the other is implicitly lived.

As a loving person I know that whatever I think, feel, strive for or

do must be ‘according to the mind of [im Sinne]’ my beloved one,
that it must be alright with him, such that he does not merely refrain
from blaming me for it and acknowledges it as right in this sense but
that it also accords with his striving [im Sinne seines Strebens ist]
as something I am striving for. This sense would be actualized if he
were present, if he were happy to take an interest [mit Freuden Anteil
nähme], loved to stand by me or if—should the latter be impossible
or undesired—he happily and lovingly empathized [sich hineinver-
setzen] with the situation behind my striving [meine Strebenssitua-
tion] and if he was assured, in the form of an approval regarding
the will [Willensbilligung], that his ego and its striving is manifested
[betätigt] in mine (inauthentic, implicit life and striving of the loving
person within the beloved one [im Geliebten]). We may say: lov-
ers do not live side by side, nor the one with the other, but rather
in one another, both actually and potentially. Thus, they also bear
all responsibilities together and are united in solidarity, even with
respect to sin and guilt.
(Hua XIV, 173–174; transl. by CB.)

In a text drawn from Hua XLII and written on or around February 8,

1931, that is, 10 years after Gemeingeist I, Husserl continues to insist on
this idea.

Thus, love does not merely mean that one observes the Other as he is
glad and fine and then becomes glad oneself, and that one feels sorry
if this is not the case. It also means that one’s own living and striving
is united with the being of the other to such a degree that the foreign
pleasure directly—and completely—becomes one’s own pleasure and
that the foreign striving is (or becomes) one’s own, that the foreign
self-preservation becomes a part of—and indeed becomes—one’s
own self-preservation.
(Hua XLII, Text 33, 467; transl. by CB.)

In a well-known text from 1923 entitled Wert des Lebens. Wert der
Welt. Sittlichkeit (Tugend) und Glückseligkeit, published in 1997 by
Ullrich Melle and also included in Hua XLII, Husserl is a bit more
242  Mariano Crespo
explicit with regard to the Strebensgemeinschaft founded by personal
love. It is a question, ultimately, of an identification of the Gemüts- und

Spiritual love and community of love, in which various subjects lead a

life that is united by personal identification of mind and will. I desire
what you desire; I strive for what you strive for; I want what you
want; I suffer from what you suffer from and vice versa [in deinem
Leiden leide ich und du in meinem]; your pleasure becomes mine etc.
Here there is no disagreement [Streit] but rather agreement—not by
concession but by a habitual identification of the subjectivity of mind
and will, in which a particular [kind of] unity arises.
(Hua XLII, Text 24, 301–302; transl. by CB.)

In this very text, and in relation to what I have just noted, Husserl admits a
double meaning of the term Einfühlung. On the one hand, one can allude
to “mere” empathy, in the sense of empty, intuitively unfulfilled empathy,
to an “ihn als Anderen verstehend, aber objektiv ihn haben” and, on the
other, a “mitleben, miterfahren, mitdenken, sich mitfreuen, in seinem Sein
aufgehen und somit eventuell in seinem Lebensstreben streben.”12 It is this
latter that occurs in the realm of personal love; nonetheless, those who are
in this kind of relationship do not lose their unity. Husserl even spoke of
a kind of Deckung or verschmelzen to be found in Streben.

Whatever I sense, in alignment with him [in Deckung mit ihm], as his
necessity—as something he needs—I will prepare for him. I then act
for him in his service, not as a servant acting in accordance with his
will, but still acting not out of any necessity pertaining to my own life
apart from his, but rather out of a necessity pertaining to his life. This
necessity has then become a part of my own, as in all true caring. As
true caring, it always requires one to immerse oneself into the Other,
to live within him in a self-forgotten way [das Selbstvergessen-in-
ihm-Leben] and thus to live through the necessities of his life in this
‘alignment [Deckung]’—[i.e.,] in empathy.
(Hua XLII, Text 33, 468; transl. by CB.)

Being one with the beloved one lovingly, ‘aligning’ oneself in one’s
own being with the beloved [one’s] being, merging into a pure har-
mony, a dual harmony [Zweieinigkeit].
(Hua XLII, Beilage XL, 469; transl. by CB.)

His being, his life is as if it was mine. Thus, we have a particular

mode of empathetic alignment.
(Hua XLII, Beilage XL, 470; transl. by CB.)
From Empathy to Sympathy 243
Third, one may wonder whether this Strebensgemeinschaft that takes
place in personal love admits of degrees and whether it is more of an ideal
that one aspires to. In various passages of the texts I have mentioned,
Husserl leans toward thinking that this is the case, i.e., that total Einfüh-
lung or sympathy is something that one should aspire to in personal love.
Indeed, Husserl believes that it belongs to the categorical imperative of
the individual subject to aspire to this higher form of community that the
Strebensgemeinschaft13 consists in.
To sum up, what I wish to emphasize in these brief considerations of
a non-systematic analysis of love in Husserl is that the latter, in the form
of personal love, makes an authentic Einfühlung, or sympathy, possible.
It ceases to be a mere imaginäre Vorstellung. This is opposed to what
occurs with an empty, intuitively unfulfilled Einfühlung in which the
other appears as a modificatum of the ego. In total Einfühlung or empa-
thy the one who loves is somehow “submerged” in the beloved. Husserl
also speaks, as I indicated a moment ago, of an “alignment” (Deckung)
with the ego of the other (cf. Hua XV, Beilage XXI, 513) and gives the
example of what occurs in compassion (Mitleiden). In this case it is not
a matter of suffering, where I would be hurt by what hurts the other. In
sympathetic compassion, there is a suffering with the other, a submerging
oneself in the other, so that one can speak of a suffering in common. As
occurs with love, it is not simply a case of being happy when the beloved
is happy, but rather of being happy with precisely the same happiness.14
In this way, sympathy no longer considers the other as being a reflection
of one’s own self. (Cf. Bianchi 1999, 211). As a result, lovers do not
simply carry out actions together, but rather one’s every striving “enters”
into the tending of the other, and that of the other in that of oneself. (Cf.
Hua XIV, 173.) The lovers are not just seen as living beings belonging to
their respective environments; rather, the one lives in the other.15

I would like to conclude by noting a few possibilities for research that
could be profitably carried out on the basis of some of the issues I have
touched on in this article.
First, I believe it would be interesting to study the connections between
the Husserlian theory of personal love as founding a Strebensgemein-
schaft and the theory of sympathy defended by Max Scheler. Both authors
admit that sympathy (Scheler) or the “fulfilled empathy” (Husserl) add
an affective element to mere empathy. As Scheler points out, it is clear
“that any kind of rejoicing or pity presupposes, in principle, some sort
of knowledge of the fact, nature and quality of experience in other peo-
ple (. . .) It is not through pity in the first place that I learn of someone’s
being in pain, for the latter must already be given in some form, if I am to
244  Mariano Crespo
notice and then share it” (Scheler 2008, 8). Thus, sympathy’s experiences
and pity and fellow-feeling “are always additional to an experience in the
other which is already grasped and understood” (ibid.). In other words,
sympathy adds something to empathy.16 Scheler is more radical, breaking
with the primacy of the perception of the body of the other. In this way,
in the face of the neighbor’s suffering I immediately perceive his or her
pain. It is not a question of the perception of the grimacing face of the
latter, initially as a body that demonstrates certain modifications, which
can be interpreted as symbols of a given psychic experience. Rather, it is
this experience that we perceive immediately. As he writes:

For we certainly believe ourselves to be directly acquainted with

another person’s joy in his laughter, with his sorrow and pain in his
tears, with his shame in his blushing, with his entreaty in his out-
stretched hands, with his love in his look of affection, with his rage
in the gnashing of his teeth, with his threats in the clenching of his
fist, and with the tenor of his thoughts in the sound of his words. If
anyone tells me that this is not ‘perception’, for it cannot be so, in
view of the fact that a perception is simply a ‘complex of physical
sensations’, and that there is certainly no sensation of another per-
son’s mind nor any stimulus from such a source, I would beg him to
turn aside from such questionable theories and address himself to the
phenomenological facts.
(Scheler 1973, 254)

In this way, the theory presented by Scheler constitutes a criticism directed

at the double starting point of the theories of reasoning by analogy i.e.,
that which is given to us, above all exclusively, is my own conscious-
ness, and, therefore, that we never have direct access to another’s person’s
mind and that which is actually given to us of other human beings is
exclusively the phenomenon of his or her physical body.17
Secondly, I think that Husserl should have explained a little better the
sense in which the individualities that enter into play in personal love are
preserved as themselves despite the Deckung of the aspirations that take
place in it. If in personal love it is the other who lives in me and I who
live in the other, to what extent is my individuality not “absorbed” in
the personality of a higher order that is the Liebesgemeinschaft with the
Third, and within a broader analysis of the topic of vocation, and in
connection with some points mentioned by Anthony Steinbock in his
books Phenomenology and Mysticism and Moral Emotions. Reclaiming
the Evidence of Heart, it would be interesting to analyze to which extent
the lover contributes to the revelation of the vocation of the beloved,
to an opening to the “depth or richness of its [of the beloved] intrinsic
value,” to “an opening to the beloved’s own possibilities that cannot be
From Empathy to Sympathy 245
anticipated in advance and can only be revealed in the movement of lov-
ing.”18 If, as Husserl says, “qua true lover (ethical) I love and participate
voluntarily in the germinating soul of the other, in his or her aborning,
growing subjectivity” it would be of interest to analyze how far the other
reveals my authentic Myself to me.19
Finally, I think that Husserl’s analysis of love reveals the importance of
non-intellectual (affective) elements in the experience of the other. How-
ever, this analysis must be complemented by a consideration of those
affective elements that can make the experience of the Other difficult or
even impossible. This is what happens in the case of resentment, as Max
Scheler has shown in a masterful fashion, and in the case of so-called
“negative empathy,” as Edith Stein pointed out in her work on empathy.
But that goes beyond the limits of this paper.

1. I refer to the following texts: Text 24: “Wert des Lebens. Wert der Welt.
Sittlichkeit (Tugend) und Glückseligkeit” (1923) in Hua XLII, 297–333;
Text 33: “Personale Werte und Sachwerte. Liebe im echten Sinn. Absolute
Individualwerte und relative Werte. Opfer von Werten und Absorption von
Werten” (1931) in Hua XLII, 458–468 and Beilage XL: “Philosophie, Tel-
eologie und Liebe. Liebe als Problem. <Das niedere und das höhere Ich, das
Ich im Anruf. Genusswerte und Liebeswerte. Formen von Liebe>” (1935), in
Hua XLII, 468–472.
2. This is a point which is already made by Stein in her dissertation: Sympathy
may be regarded as a kind of intuitive fulfillment of (empty, intuitively unful-
filled) empathy; see Stein 2008, §3c, where she states that sympathetically
experienced pleasure is an “originary” (originäres) experience, while merely
empathetically experienced pleasure (eingefühlte Freude) is a “non-originary
experience.” I am grateful to Christian Beyer for pointing this out to me.
3. “In my own case, I can observe that I have experiences when my body is
causally influenced, just as I can observe that these experiences frequently
bring about certain actions. I can observe that other bodies are influenced
and act in similar manners, and I therefore infer by analogy that the behavior
of other bodies is associated with experiences similar to those I have myself.
In my own case, being scalded by hot water gives rise to a feeling of intense
pain; this experience then leads to the quite distinct behavior of screaming.
When I observe other bodies being scalded by hot water and screaming,
I assume that in all likelihood they are also feeling pain. Thus, the argument
from analogy can be interpreted as an inference to the best explanation,
one that brings us from observed public behavior to a hidden mental cause.
Although this inference does not provide me with indubitable knowledge
about others, and although it does not allow me actually to experience other
minds, at least it gives me more reason to believe in their existence than to
deny it” (Zahavi 2014, 121).
4. “What is really happening is that I am projecting part of myself into these
external objects (. . .), and this is for Lipps what empathy more generally is
all about. To feel empathy is to experience a part of one’s own psychological
life as belonging to or in an external object; it is to penetrate and suffuse that
object with one’s own life” (Zahavi 2014, 104).
246  Mariano Crespo
5. “Die ‘unerklärlichen Instinkte’ sind phänomenologisch ein Refugium
der phänomenologischen Ignoranz, denn das ‘Erklären’, worauf es hier
ankommt, ist das Aufklären am Leitfaden der Aufweisung” (Hua XIII, 24);
“Lipps Auffassung der Einfühlung kann ich mir nicht zu eigen machen. Mit
unerklärlichen Instinkte kann ich nicht operieren” (Hua XIII, 242). Stein
writes on Lipp’s reliance on instincts as “bankruptcy of scientific investi-
gation” (Stein 2008, 41). As Zahavi points out: „Rather than explaining
empathy, that is, empathy understood as an experience of the minded life of
others, Lipps’ s account is consequently better geared to handle something
like ‘motor mimicry’ or ‘ emotional contagion’. There is therefore, as Stein
puts it, a discrepancy between the phenomenon to be explained and the phe-
nomenon actually explained” (Zahavi 2014, 113)
6. The text in which Husserl expresses his reservations about the expression
Einfühlung is found in Hua XIII: Text 13 (1914 or 1915), 335 ff. Cf. also
Hua XIII, 234 and Hua XV, 172.
7. I am referring to the following texts: Hua XIII, Text 6, Grundprobleme der
Phänomenologie, §§ 1–6, 111–120; Hua XIII, Text 2, 21–33; Hua XIII, Text
13, 333–342; Hua XIII, Beilage X (38–41); Beilage XVI (70–76); Hua XIV,
Text 1 (3–10); Hua XIII, Text 3, 42–55; Hua XIII, Text 4, 62–66; Hua XIII,
Text 8, 250–267; Hua XIII, Text 9, 270–278; Hua XIII, Text 11, 316–320;
Hua XIII, Text 12, 321–330.
8. Cf. Hua XIII, 27 (1–12: 16–28); 28 (1–26).
9. In §§ 50–54 of his ‘Cartesian Meditations’, Husserl makes it clear that this
interpretation is not based on an inference by analogy but rather on the
“pairing association” of the foreign body “over there” with my own body
“here” in the mode of apperception
10. Cf. Hua I, § 52. Some authors have criticized Husserl on this point because
of the difficulties that a similar theory would represent for a dialogue in
which the actors enjoyed an equality of position: “In der Tat führt Theunis-
sen den unüberwundenen Solipsismus bei Husserl darauf zurück, dass dieser
die fremden Subjekte nur von der Welt und eben damit auch vom Ich her
thematisch macht. Erst in dem weltentrückten Zwischenbereich der eine
Ich-Du-Beziehung fällt mit der Perspektivik auch der Vorrang des Ich. Das
wirft eine Menge Fragen auf, hier nur soviel: Stört denn die Perspektivik
wirklich die Gleichrangigkeit der Dialog- und Lebenspartner?” (Waldenfels
1971, 201–202)
11. “Personen fassen sich nicht nur komprehensiv auf in der allerdings ersten
und grundlegenden Weise, dass der Eine die zu seiner Umwelt gehörige
Leiblichkeit des Anderen und deren geistigen Sinn als Leib versteht, hierbei
Mienenspiel, Gesten, gesprochene Worte als Kundgebung persönlichen Leb-
ens deutend, sondern auch so, dass sie ‟einander bestimmen,” gemeinsam
und nicht nur einzeln, also personal verbunden tätig sind.” (Hua IV, 192)
12. As Beyer has suggested to me, this distinction between two meanings of
empathy would show the ambiguity of this term. As I mentioned in section
II of this chapter, Husserl did not quite like the use of the expression Ein-
fühlung to designate the experience of the other. Zahavi also refers to this
fact: “As for Husserl, he frequently uses the term Einfühlung, though his
preferred term, especially in his later writings, is simply Fremderfahrung.
On some occasions, moreover, he openly expresses reservations regarding
the term Einfühlung. In a manuscript from 1914 to 1915 he calls it ‘a false
expression’, since in his view it remains unclear whether the term is meant
to designate the projection of one’s own self into another body or rather
the actual encounter with another embodied self (Cf. Hua XIII, 335–339).
From Empathy to Sympathy 247
Thus, one reason why many have been wary of the term is obviously because
it seems to commit one to a projectivist account.” (Zahavi 2014, 114).
13. ‟Es gehört zum kategorischen Imperativ des einzelnen Subjekts, diese höhere
Gemeinschaftsform und diese höhere Form des Einzelseins und Einzelle-
bens als Funktionär einer ethischen Gemeinschaft zu erstreben. Soweit sie
praktisch möglich ist, ist sie selbst von unbedingt höherem Wert als das
Nebeneinander-Vorbeileben der Einzelnen, und somit ist sie kategorisch
gefordert” (Hua XLII, Text 24, 315–316).
14. “Und so ist Liebe nicht bloß zusehen und sich freuen, wenn der andere sich
freut, wenn es ihm gut geht, und bedauern, wenn nicht, sondern es in Leben
und Streben <so> eins sein mit seinem Sein, dass fremde Freude direkt eigene
Freude ist, ganz und gar, dass fremdes Streben eigenes Streben ist (oder wird),
dass in meiner wahren Selbsterhaltung die fremde selbst aufgenommen ist
und sie zur eigenen wird. Das ist nicht allgemeine Menschenliebe, sondern
als meine Liebe zu diesem individuellen Menschen etwas ganz Einziges, Aus-
genommenes, das hier freilich nicht gut beschrieben ist” (Hua XLII, 467).
15. “Als Liebender in der Liebesgemeinschaft (Freundschaft), und zwar in

meiner Aktualität, betrachte ich (ich, der liebend Betrachtenden, der liebend
auf ihn, in ihn Eingehende) ihn nicht nur als so und so Lebenden, er ist nicht
nur als das in meinem Seinsfeld, sondern ich lebe in seinem Leben, ich lebe es
mit, und auch ich bin für ihn evtl. Mitlebender nicht nur von aussen, sondern
sein Mitleben umfasst mein Mitleben” (Hua XIV, 512).
16. At the same time, this also opens the possibility of an empathetic under-
standing of the suffering or of the joy of others without experiencing sympa-
thy. So we can grasp the other’s suffering and remain unaffected.
17. Scheler opposes “the view according to which our encounter with others
is first and foremost an encounter with bodily and behavioral exteriorities
devoid of any psychological properties. According to such a view, which has
been defended by behaviorists and Cartesians alike, behavior, considered
in itself, is neither expressive nor significant. All that is given are physi-
cal qualities and their changes. Seeing a radiant face means seeing certain
characteristic distortions of the facial muscles. But, as Scheler insists, this
account presents us with a distorted picture, not only of behavior but also
of the mind. It is no coincidence that we use psychological terms to describe
behavior and that we would be hard-pressed to describe the latter in terms
of bare movements. In the majority of cases, it will be quite hard (and arti-
ficial) to divide a phenomenon neatly into its psychological and behavioral
aspects: think merely of a groan of pain, a laugh, a handshake, an embrace.
In his view, affective and emotional states are not simply qualities of sub-
jective experience; rather, when expressed, they become visible to others.”
(Zahavi 2014, 123)
18. “The love of a person is an opening to the person as given in his or her
uniqueness. In loving as in trusting, I am immediately ‘beyond’ myself with-
out trying to go outside of myself. Loving is the process of living in the pres-
ence of this radiance that we call the person, not the attempt to possess what
is radiating in this personal manner. Loving can be characterized as letting
the other become such that he or she ‘can’ realize him—or herself. This can
be understood as an openness to possibilities that are not given outside of
that loving, and that lie in the direction of the becoming-being of the person.
In this way, the person is revealed in and through the movement of loving,
but never presented like an object over against and intending (like an ‘I plan
on these possibilities for you’)” (Steinbock 2014, 227).
248  Mariano Crespo
19. “(. . .) how a person can get or hold our attention in explicit and implicit
ways; how someone can incite our actions or behavior; how someone can
stir our personal growth and transformation, or inspire our life’s vocation.
These issues belong primordially not to the perceptual and epistemic life, but
to the emotional sphere of experience, which in their turn even structure the
way in which things (perceptual and epistemic) are attractive and repulsive,
and hence guide what becomes affectively significant for these other modes
of attention” (Steinbock 2001, 180).

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nomenological Philosophy. II. Translated by A. Rojcewicz and A. Schuwer.
Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989.
Lipps, Theodor. Leitfaden der Psychologie. Zweite, völlig umgearbeitete Auflage.
Leipzig: Verlag von Wilhelm Engelmann, 1906.
Scheler, Max. Wesen und Formen der Sympathie. Bern: Francke Verlag, 1973.
(The Nature of Sympathy. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2008).
Schlossberger, Mathias. Die Erfahrung des Anderen: Gefühle im menschlichen
Miteinander. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2005.
Stein, Edith. Zum Problem der Einfühlung. Freiburg: Herder, 2008.
Steinbock, A. J. “Interpersonal Attention Through Exemplarity.” Journal of Con-
sciousness Studies 8/5–7 (2001).
Steinbock, Anthony. Moral Emotions: Reclaiming the Evidence of the Heart.
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014.
Waldenfels, Bernhard. Das Zwischenreich des Dialogs: Sozialphilosophische
Untersuchungen in Anschluss an Edmund Husserl. Den Haag: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1971.
Zahavi, Dan. Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
10 Intersubjectivity and
David Carr

The phenomenological approach to intersubjectivity has always been

closely entwined with its account of embodiment. From Husserl’s first
reflections on Einfühlung through the work of Scheler, Stein, Merleau-
Ponty, and Schutz, up to the more recent works of Zahavi and others,
the assumption has been that our access to other subjects is mediated by
the body; and the task of phenomenology is to describe and understand
how this works.
By taking up this task of description, phenomenology turns its back on
the standard approach of modern philosophy. Often called the “problem
of solipsism” or the “problem of other minds,” this is a metaphysical
and epistemological puzzle. We all believe that other people exist, just
as we all believe that the “external world” exists, but since Descartes,
philosophers have raised skeptical doubts about these beliefs and then
taken upon themselves the task of defeating skepticism and reinforcing
or confirming these beliefs. Hume thought it couldn’t be done, and Kant
thought it a scandal that it hadn’t been done, but they agreed that no
progress had been made.
The “problem of other minds” fits into this puzzle as a sort of sub-
problem. Even if we could be sure that the “external world” really exists
as it appears in our perception, how can we know that those bodies we see
around us announce the presence of other minds? Here enters the much-
maligned “argument by analogy,” descended from Locke and Berkeley,
according to which we infer, on the basis of an analogy between the other
body and my own, that another mind lurks behind, or within, that other
body. It is unclear whether this argument is attributed to each of us, each
time we are confronted with a body, or whether it is only a philosopher’s
tool for addressing the metaphysical and epistemological problem.
What is clear is that in either case this “problem” has nothing to do
with our actual experience, and in fact distorts it. Phenomenology tries
to return to this actual experience and describe it as fully and accurately
as possible. I hope to contribute to this task in the following paper.
Throughout, I shall be drawing heavily on Husserl’s treatment of this
250  David Carr
subject, but I will expand on Husserl by drawing on examples from other
writings and from common experience.
I will begin with the so-called face-to-face encounter, often considered
the paradigm case of intersubjectivity, and examine the role of embodi-
ment in this form of intersubjectivity. In the second section, I will suggest
that this form of intersubjectivity, while important, is not the only form,
and that we-intentionality, or plural subjectivity, presents us with a dif-
ferent, and perhaps equally important, form of intersubjective relation.
After discussing this phenomenon in a general way, I will then return to
the topic of embodiment and ask how it might figure in an account of

1.  Face-to-Face Embodiment

In phenomenology, intersubjectivity is approached in the context of per-
ception, and the subject of perception is an embodied subject. This is the
context of Husserl’s best-known treatments of Fremderfahrung or Einfüh-
lung (Hua XIII, 111ff. and Hua I, 121ff.). Thanks to my body—understood
as the lived body, not the objective body—I am spatially situated in the
real world and encounter the things around me as near and far, left and
right, up and down. The mobility of my body and the changing perspec-
tives it affords my senses permits the perceived world to take shape as a
dymamic world of lived space. This is the world in which I can not only
perceive but also move and act on my surroundings, and in which they
can also act upon me. My relation to my own body is not that of a sub-
ject to an object. I have an inner awareness of it. Even though I can see
and touch parts of my body, it is with my body that I do this. There is
no difference between me and my body here. Of course, perceiving is not
the only thing I do, so there is more to me than being a perceiver. But in
perception itself, as Merleau-Ponty puts it boldly (Phénoménologie 1945,
175), “I am my body.”
It is in this world that I encounter other persons who have bodies
(more or less) like my own. Their bodies are not mere things for me,
since I know that other persons have the same internal bodily awareness
that I have. But I don’t share that awareness, any more than they share
mine. Their bodies are directly present to me, but their inner awareness
is only indirectly present—appresented, as Husserl calls it (Hua IV, 162).
The same is true for their perspective or point of view upon the world.
We inhabit the same world, but each from his or her own point of view.
To perceive another person is to be in the presence of a perspective on the
world which is not—and cannot be—my own.
We can call this the phenomenology of the first and second persons,
of the I-thou relation, or of the face-to-face encounter. (See Schutz 1967,
33ff). Certainly the situation it describes is pervasive in our experience.
It is the basis of important features of human existence: desire and the
Intersubjectivity and Embodiment 251
erotic, friendship, sympathy and empathy, obligation and sacrifice. The
other is my alter ego, mon semblable, my mirror image. But the irrecon-
cilable difference of perspective also reminds us that this is the place of
conflict and opposition, of antagonism and struggle, of domination and
oppression. In all of these, our bodies are involved, and they can unite us
or divide us.
In any case, the face-to-face encounter is rightly taken by many to be
central to how we relate to others. But is it the only way we relate to
others? I would like to suggest that it’s not, and in order to make this
point I would like to turn to a topic that is much discussed among phe-
nomenologists these days: we-intentionality. If we examine this concept,
we shall see that it opens up a new way of conceiving of intersubjectivity.

2.  We-Intentionality and Intersubjectivity

Clearly, the concept of intentionality is the heart and soul of phenom-
enology. Directedness to a content, of-ness or about-ness, as introduced
by Husserl in the Logical Investigations, leads eventually to and even
requires the phenomenological reduction that becomes the phenom-
enological method. Of course many thinkers, from Brentano to Searle,
have employed the notion of intentionality without becoming phenom-
enologists. I would say that’s because they have not taken it seriously
enough. In any case, the next question is: if intentionality is a property
or characteristic, to what does it belong? The seemingly obvious answer:
consciousness. “All consciousness is consciousness of something” is the
usual formula used in explaining the concept of intentionality, and Hus-
serl introduces intentionality in the context of a discussion of conscious-
ness. And of course consciousness is implicitly tied to the individual.
This is the sense of intentionality that was operative in our discussion
of perception and intersubjectivity so far. The embodied subject of per-
ception is an intentional subject, related through embodied experience
to things, other persons, and the spatiotemporal world to which they
But the question that has been raised since Husserl introduced the idea
of “personalities of a higher order” (in Hua I, XIV, and elsewhere) is
whether we can attribute intentionality not only to individuals but also to
communities or groups of individuals. We are encouraged to answer in the
affirmative by observing ordinary language usage. “Parliament decided,”
“Germany invaded Poland,” “the electorate can’t make up its mind,” etc.
Social entities of various kinds, according to our way of speaking, have
experiences, take decisions, act, find themselves in moods, feel anger. Of
course these groups are made up of individuals, and it may seem easy
to think of these expressions as shorthand for describing the thoughts,
actions and feelings of individuals: members of Parliament, German gen-
erals, individual voters. This is less easy to do, however, when we think
252  David Carr
of cases where we speak not of “they” or “them” but of “we” or “us,”
i.e., of communities to which I consider myself to belong. It is because
of these differences that collective intentionality is usually referred to as
But what exactly is the difference between “we” and “they” in this
context? There are in fact many important differences, and the linguistic
one is the least of them. Many uses of “we” involve no collective inten-
tionality at all. When my friend and I say, “we saw the Eiffel Tower,”
there is a common object of our experiences, but the expression may
mean no more than that I saw it and you saw it, perhaps even at differ-
ent times. But if we saw it together, then we have not only a common
object but also a shared experience, which is properly ascribed not to
me and you individually, but to us jointly. If we go to the store, nothing
more than two separate actions, and two agents, are implied. But if we
do the shopping, or play a game of tennis, or build a cottage, then we are
engaged in activities whose only proper subject is we. When I say we in
this sense, I am referring to a collection of persons to whom I stand not in
a subject-object relation, as if I were observing them from outside, like a
sociologist or an anthropologist. Instead I relate to them as a participant
in our shared experience or activity. My relation to the group is one of
What I want to stress here is that this is one of the primary ways we
relate to others. As we saw, phenomenology, with its origins in describing
first-person singular experience, has largely framed the problem of inter-
subjectivity, or alterity, in terms of the face-to-face encounter, in which
the other stands over against me. But in we-experience we relate in a dif-
ferent way, and this deserves our attention. And when as phenomenolo-
gists we try to describe this experience, it should be noted that we do
not give up the first person point of view, but rather attend to its plural
rather than its singular form. The phenomenological approach allows us
to describe and understand collective existence not from the outside but,
so to speak, from the inside, consulting our experience as members or
The phenomenological approach offers other advantages as well. Dis-
cussions of collective subjectivity have always been haunted by what
Hans Bernhard Schmid calls “the specter of the group mind” (Schmid
2009, 32). If we find it impossible to reduce a collective action in cer-
tain circumstances to a mere collection of individual actions, then
to what, exactly, are we attributing this action? What is the ontologi-
cal status of the we-subject? Must we say that it is just as real as the
individual subjects that make it up? The extreme form of this realism is
represented by Hegel. He really invented the idea of we-intentionality
when he introduced the central character or protagonist of the Phenom-
enology of Spirit—Geist—by calling it “an I that is We, a We that is I”
(Hegel 1952, 140), and in that work he develops a very subtle account
Intersubjectivity and Embodiment 253
of how spirit (the we-subject) grows out of subjective and intersubjective
experience and interaction. But in his later work, and most notoriously
in his lectures on the philosophy of history, Geist develops a life of its
own, not only soaring above the lives of the individuals that make it up
but even running counter to their intentions and using them for its own
purposes—the famous List der Vernunft. Here we find the Volksgeist, the
Zeitgeist, Geist as embodied in the state, and ultimately the Weltgeist.
Cautious philosophers have always been wary of these notions, which
can lead not just to windy pop-philosophy and culture-speak, but also to
some dangerous politics.
Interestingly, Husserl himself has no hesitations at all about seem-
ingly taking this route. The term “personalities of a higher order” occurs
several times in Husserl’s later works, notably in the Cartesian Medita-
tions and in the Crisis. In paragraph 56 of the Fifth Meditation, Husserl
says he has completed the clarification of the “first and lowest level” of
intersubjectivity, (Hua I, 156) or of what he calls the communalization
of monads, and can now proceed to “higher levels” of intersubjectivity,
including “pre-eminent types that have the character of ‘personalities of
a higher order’ ” (160). These higher levels, he tells us, present “relatively
minor difficulties” (157). Perhaps because of this, Husserl’s treatment of
personalities of a higher order is, in these late paragraphs of Cartesian
Meditations, brief and rather sketchy. In using this phrase, Husserl is in
effect attributing personal characteristics to certain kinds of communi-
ties. We might suspect him of merely resorting to a commonplace or
façon de parler, But in fact, if we consult the manuscripts on intersubjec-
tivity, in particular those of Husserliana vol. 14, dating from the 1920s,
we find that Husserl takes this notion very seriously indeed. There we
find him attributing to certain forms of community not only “person-
ality” (Hua XIV, 199, 405), but also “subjectivity,” (404), “conscious-
ness” and “unity of consciousness,” (200), “character,” “conviction”
(Gesinnung, [201]), “memory,” and even “so etwas wie Leiblichkeit”—
something like corporality (206). We shall return to this last, somewhat
enigmatic expression, later on.
He mentions the use of the term Gemeingeist by the nineteenth century
humanists, under the influence of German Idealism, and the tendency of
experimental psychology, in his day, reacting against German Idealism,
to debunk such terminology as mystical or fictitious (Hua XIV, 404). The
attempt to reduce Gemeingeist to a collection of individuals is just as
misguided, he says, as the analogous attempt by some of the same psy-
chologists to make individual consciousness an epiphenomenon of mat-
ter (404). Husserl goes out of his way to maintain that speaking of such a
communal subject is not merely a manner of speaking (keine uneigentli-
che Rede), no mere analogy (keine blosse Analogie) (404).
Thus, Husserl seems explicitly to embrace a concept that even most
other phenomenologists have found unpalatable. Alfred Schutz (199), for
254  David Carr
example, rejects it in no uncertain terms, drawing on Max Weber for sup-
port. Even Wilhelm Dilthey (1970, 351–355), who became increasingly a
source of inspiration for Husserl in his later work, was suspicious of the
notion of a superpersonal subject, in spite of his closeness to German Ide-
alism. According to Schmid, even philosophers who talk about collective
intentionality “think that the idea of a non-individual mind is so terribly
and obviously mistaken, that there is no need for further argument,”
and quotes Searle as denouncing such “perfectly dreadful metaphysical
excrescences.” (Schmid 2009, 24 and note).
But what gives Husserl license to pursue the Gemeingeist in the way
that he does, I suggest, is that he is engaged precisely not in traditional
metaphysics but in phenomenology. The phenomenological approach to
this matter is found if we consider it not as some version of the realism/
nominalism dispute in metaphysics, or the holism/individualism distinc-
tion, but as a matter of describing and understanding the social expe-
rience of those involved. As we’ve seen, part of our social experience
involves identifying ourselves with groups, and our relationship to these
groups is not one of observation from the outside but one of membership
and participation. This is exemplified in some (but not all) of our uses of
the we-subject, and when we say “we act” or “we believe” or “we feel,”
this is not just shortcut for describing a collection of individuals’ actions,
thoughts and feelings. The “we” refers to a group with which I identify
myself. I can’t identify myself with something that I consider to be merely
fictitious. For me the “we” with which I identify myself, and in whose
actions, decisions and thoughts I share or participate, is something real.
This means that the we-subject is dependent on the individuals that make
it up, to be sure, but in a very special way: in good phenomenological lan-
guage, the we-subject is constituted by the individuals who make it up.
Here it is important to pay careful attention to the phenomenologi-
cal notion of constitution. Consider perception. According to phenom-
enology, the perceptual object is constituted by, but is not reducible to,
perceptual experiences or intentions, and it is in and through such expe-
riences that the object has its reality for the perceiver. Similarly, the we-
subject, understood from the point of view of those who participate in
it, is indeed something real for them, and needs to be taken seriously.
The “philosophical” or “metaphysical” instinct drives us to ask, of the
perceptual object: “yes, but does the object really-really exist? You’ve got
to be a realist or an idealist in this matter, don’t you?” But that, I would
insist, is not a phenomenological question; here is one place where phe-
nomenology differs from traditional metaphysics. Likewise for the we-
subject. Of course, the existence of the perceptual object can become
problematic within experience—in bad lighting, dense fog, etc. And the
existence of the we-subject can be problematic as well. It is at best a
fragile entity that can wither or fragment if the support of its constituents
is withdrawn. Such is the fate of communities, states and other social
Intersubjectivity and Embodiment 255
entities that become riven with strife. Their reality is called into question
not by metaphysical arguments, but by the experience of the very indi-
viduals that make it up.
We-subjects, then—communities large and small—have their reality in
the social experience of individuals that constitute them by identifying
with them and with the thoughts, actions and other intentional functions
they perform. And I want to claim that this is a primary form of intersub-
jectivity, different from, but just as important as, the face-to-face relation.
Is the we-relation somehow based on the face-to-face relation, such that a
founding relation obtains between them? Hegel thought so, and he gave
us a famous account of how the one emerges out of the other. But for
our purposes I want to put this issue aside, in order to pursue another
question. The question is: what about embodiment? We have seen that
Husserl attributes “something like embodiment” to the plural subject.
What does he mean?

3.  Intersubjective Embodiment

Husserl’s first approach to this question is to invoke the idea of organism.
“Superpersonal subjectivity,” as he calls it in a manuscript (Hua XIV), “is
like a physical organism built up out of cells, to which we ascribe unity of
life through metabolism, etc.” A human community [eine Menschheit], he
goes on, “lives in the individual persons, is made up of them, they would
be the cells, the ultimate organically functioning elements.” The “organic
unity . . . maintains itself as individual humans are born into it and others
die off. . . ,” as in the case of multicellular organisms. (205).
Though Husserl does not mention it, this makes us think of the well-
worn metaphor of the body politic, and of the famous frontispiece to
Hobbes’ Leviathan of 1651. In Abraham Bosse’s engraving, the com-
monwealth is represented as a human body composed of a multitude of
tiny human forms, presumably the notional signers of the social contract.
Sword and scepter are wielded by the two arms, but the body is of course
surmounted by the crowned head of the sovereign. As Hobbes puts it, “a
multitude of men, are made one person, when they are by one man, or
one person, represented; so that it be done with the consent of every one
of that multitude in particular” (Hobbes 1996, I.16.13).
The metaphor of the body politic can be traced back even further,
minus the idea of consent, to Plato’s Republic. The Polis can be consid-
ered a human individual “writ large” and is composed of three parts,
corresponding to the head (the philosopher king or kings), the heart (the
guardians), and the nether regions (everybody else). Of course it is also
significant that in our own time certain entities that enjoy the legal status
of persons are called “corporations,” and that they have a quasi-organic
form: an executive or board of directors issues orders that are carried out
by individuals exercising bureaucratic functions within the organization.
256  David Carr
But something is missing here. No doubt the functionaries in a bureau-
cracy, these cell-like minions, need bodies to occupy their offices and sit
in front of their computers; the same can be said for the chief executive,
just as the sovereign needs a head on which to place the crown. But we
are asking here not about the bodies of the individual members of a col-
lective subject, but about the body of the collective subject itself. Does
this make any sense?
Husserl introduces a very small-scale collective subject, which he calls
a praktische Willensgemeinschaft, (Hua XIV, 169) by talking about the
Herr-Diener-Verbindung (402). This reminds us of Hegel, of course,
though as we might expect, Husserl makes no mention of the author
of the Phänomenologie des Geistes. The idea here, in both Hegel and
Husserl, is that of an action that we perform, the master by giving the
order, the servant by carrying it out. Aristotle, we recall, defined slaves as
people who were capable of carrying out orders but not of formulating
them. He was giving a justification for an established social institution.
Hegel uses the word Knecht rather than Sklave, recalling the medieval
feudal system, to indicate a subject of oppression, under threat of death,
who is locked in a situation not freely chosen. As a result the situation is
inherently unstable, even explosive. Marx’s proletarian is of course in a
similar relation to the capitalist.
We may assume that Husserl, using the word Diener, was thinking of
something more benign, say the household of the bourgeois professor
in 1920s Freiburg, giving orders to his maid or his gardener. He writes
about this relation as one freely chosen, in which people simply adopt
and inhabit their social roles. If we give him the benefit of the doubt
here, and put aside any political-dynamic aspects of this relation, we
note something remarkable: the maid and the gardener are doing physi-
cal work, performing bodily actions. But in a certain sense their actions,
even their bodies in this situation, are not their own. Freely lent, or even
exchanged for wages, their perceiving, acting and feeling bodies consti-
tute the embodiment of the corporate entity whose will they are carrying
out. Husserl then goes on to speak of larger units: an association (Verein),
a civic community (Stadtmenschheit), united through a city government,
a nation-state (Staatsvolk) unified by a constitution and government, are
examples, he says, of what he calls personalities of a higher order (405).
Here we can speak of will, and of acts, that belong to the community as
such, not just to individual citizens.
The expression of will, on the part of the master, leader or sovereign,
has its own bodily character. Here we should think not so much of giv-
ing orders as expressing the will of the community in the rhetoric of the
“we.” The political leader, such as Lincoln addressing those mourners
assembled on the battlefield at Gettysburg in 1863 (“that we here highly
resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain”), speaks to, but pri-
marily for or on behalf of, the community he represents. He gives voice,
Intersubjectivity and Embodiment 257
as we say, to its thoughts and feelings. His speech, then, and his very
voice, are transformed into that of the community itself. To be sure, in
the case of political rhetoric, the “we” is too often merely presumptive
or persuasive. The speaker wants to persuade his audience that he or she
embodies the will of the community, and hopes, by this rhetoric, to bring
that about. Many listeners may not be persuaded.
More is involved than the voice. Ernst Kantorowicz wrote a famous
book about the medieval monarchy called The King’s Two Bodies
(1957). If the sovereign is wounded, incarcerated, or assassinated, as Lin-
coln was, it is not only his individual body but the body politic that is
affected. And it reacts with spasms of grief and cries of pain. No doubt
such grief and pain are felt privately and individually, but primarily they
are felt collectively and expressed communally. Think of the spontaneous
gatherings at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels in March 2016, and the
Place de la Republique in Paris in November 2015. It is we who grieve
and we who mourn the victims of terrorist attacks and feel outrage, and
to express this we must assemble in one space. Speakers address these
gatherings and articulate what we feel, speaking not to but on behalf
of the aggrieved and outraged. For activists of a few years ago, it was
not enough to express their outrage at financial inequality, they had to
Occupy Wall Street, cramming themselves into Zucotti Park in lower
Manhattan. They developed a strange way of giving speeches, since they
were not permitted to use amplification. The speaker would utter a sen-
tence or two, and a chorus of unison speakers would repeat them so all
could hear. The Occupy movement was replicated around the world.
More recently, the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th
president of the United States has given rise to massive and repeated pub-
lic manifestations of displeasure and opposition. These demonstrations
reached their peak (so far) in the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017. The
largest was in Washington, D.C., with a half million participants, and it
was replicated in major cities in the U.S. and Europe.
More often than not, these gatherings do not stand still. Just as public
squares become gathering places, streets and avenues become marching
routes. Who can forget the linked arms of European and other leaders as
they marched through the streets of Paris in protest of the Charlie Hebdo
massacre in January 2015? Such marches are not always expressions of
grief or outrage. In 2014 the Gay Pride parade in New York took place a
few days after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex mar-
riage. The parade is held every year, but on this occasion the exuberance
and joy of the participants knew no bounds. This march was one of affir-
mation and celebration. Think of those who gathered at the Brandenburg
Gate in Berlin on Nov. 9–10, 1989.
The examples used so far have been those of shared emotions and feel-
ings. Grief, outrage, joy: as Husserl knew, these are intentional experi-
ences. Who “has” these experiences? It would be philosophically blind,
258  David Carr
or perhaps metaphysically dogmatic, to impute these emotions merely to
a collection of single individuals. And equally, the bodily expressions of
these emotions, shared by the participating individuals, are not simply a
collection of individual movements. The solemn assembly, the march, the
speaking voices, constitute the collective body of the plural intentionality
behind these emotions.
But these examples make up only a small aspect of the phenomenon of
social embodiment. Jean-Paul Sartre, in his Critique of Dialectical Reason,
speaks of the “seriality” of the collection of people we might find in a
public place, and then takes as his paradigm the storming of the Bastille in
Paris on July 14, 1789. What happens here is what he calls (Sartre 1960,
391) “the dissolution of the series in the group-in-fusion.” The collective
feelings of anger and outrage are now fused into a collective action or pro-
ject with a distinct goal. The crowd is the collective body through which
that action is executed. The collective action, then, the plural project with
its plans, its means-end structure, and its goal or completion, must be seen
as a typical instance of collective intentionality. The coup d’état, the physi-
cal occupation of official or symbolically important spaces, are the embod-
iment of these political acts. These acts are not just intentional but also
teleological: there is a common orientation to a goal—not one mentally
envisaged, but a goal incorporated in the bodily movements themselves.
The classic study called Crowds and Power (Canetti 1960), written
by Elias Canetti in the 1950s, is often read as an indictment of the
mob psychology and violence which lay behind the growth of fascism
in Europe. But in fact Canetti discusses a vast array of examples of
social embodiment, including its role in social and military organiza-
tion. Another study, and one that deserves to be considered a classic,
is a small book, published in 1995, by the late Chicago historian Wil-
liam McNeill. It is called Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in
Human History. This book has a lot to tell us about social embodiment,
but the first thing to be noted is that it is not limited to spontaneous
outbursts and mass movements, of the sort we have been describing.
It also includes examples of careful coordination and sophisticated
McNeill introduces his book by describing being drafted into the U.S.
army in the fall of 1941. He reported for basic training, along with thou-
sands of other young men, to an army base in Texas. This was before
Pearl Harbor, before the U.S. even entered the war. Weapons were still in
short supply, so the recruits couldn’t learn how to fire their rifles or their
anti-aircraft guns, which is the training they really needed. So what did
they do? They were set to marching and drilling in the dusty fields under
the hot Texas sun. “A more useless exercise would be hard to imagine”
(McNeill 1995, 1), McNeill says. What surprised him, and continued to
surprise him in retrospect many years later, was how much he enjoyed it.
“Enjoyment” is hardly the word. He writes:
Intersubjectivity and Embodiment 259
Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the pro-
longed movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of perva-
sive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of
personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than
life, thanks to participation in collective ritual.

McNeill’s personal experience convinces him that “something visceral

was at work.” (2) He calls it “muscular bonding” and says it is far older
than language and critically important in human history. Close-order
marching is not even useful in modern warfare. But it is still a “collective
ritual” of military life. What may have been efficacious in earlier battles
has become an end in itself, as with most rituals. We do it because it has
always been done. But it achieves something far more important than
victory in battle: the solidarity and social cohesion of those who fight—
esprit de corps, as it’s called. He quotes J. Glenn Gray on the “experi-
ence of communal effort” among soldiers: “Their ‘I’ passes insensibly
into a ‘we,’ ‘my’ becomes ‘our,’ and individual fate loses its central
importance” (10).
McNeill, true to his world-historical perspective, launches into an
extensive account of military battlefield formation, from the epic of Gil-
gamesh through the ancient Chinese and Babylonians to the Greeks and
Romans. We know a lot about the closed ranks of the Greek hoplites in
phalanx formation, their shields clasped in front of them, their marches
often urged on by the sound of drums and flutes; and about the fleets of
triremes propelled by the rhythmic efforts of three banks of oarsmen. All
of this survives in ritualized form in the modern military parade, its social
and symbolic function especially favored by the likes of Hitler and Stalin.
Who can forget the Nurnberg party congress captured on film by Leni
Riefenstahl, or the Mayday parades on Red Square, with their perfectly
synchronized marchers stretching as far as the eye can see? McNeill is
well aware of the dark side of these activities, and of the role they have
played in modern totalitarianism. But he thinks this has given an unde-
servedly bad reputation to an aspect of social existence that he regards as
valuable and beneficial on the whole.
Besides, military marches and drills make up only part of his focus in
this splendid book. He discusses religious observances and the important
role played in them by processions and other forms of coordinated move-
ment. Architecture, internal and external, plays the role of facilitating
and channeling such movement. Just as public squares and streets, as
we saw, become places of assembly and marching pathways, so the long
central aisle of the Gothic church is the route of procession for the clergy
and the faithful on their way to the altar.
The discussion of religious observance leads to the broader phenom-
enon of dance. It is deeply connected with religion, of course, from the
260  David Carr
strictly choreographed movements of the Latin mass, to the whirling der-
vishes of Sufism, from the Shakers and Quakers of the 18th and 19th cen-
turies to the ecstatic and almost trance-like gyrations of the participants
in certain evangelical Christian services. But its importance extends far
beyond its relation to religion. McNeill writes of the rhythmic swaying
and singing of women at work in the fields, and of prison work-gangs.
He reminds us of the importance of dance in public festivals and com-
memorations from the earliest times to the present day. From the coor-
dinated movements of folk dancers to the swaying of ballroom dancing
(Husserl mentions a Tanzgesellschaft in his discussion of personalities of
a higher order (Hua XIV, 406)) to the delicate precision of the corps de
ballet, dance, in its many forms, is all around us, punctuating our social
existence and lending bodily solidarity to our communal life. It is usually
accompanied by music, and musical performance itself is for the most
part a communal activity with an essential bodily component involv-
ing coordinated interaction of the most sophisticated kind, both in the
improvisation of the jazz band and the carefully executed string quartet.
Team sports offer another example of intersubjective embodiment.
McNeill does not mention this, perhaps because such sports do not seem
to have a very long history, but as a bodily and social phenomenon it
displays many of the characteristics we have already encountered. Foot-
ball, in both its American and its international forms, as well as rugby,
basketball, and hockey (baseball and cricket are harder to fit in here) fea-
ture carefully coordinated deployment of forces across the field or court,
executing pre-planned strategies and tactics that nevertheless allow for
improvisation to meet unexpected opposing moves. Every play counts as
a concerted collective action with a clear-cut goal. And individual plays
fit into a larger game-strategy. Again, the goal is not something intellectu-
ally framed, but is embodied in the coordinated movements of the play-
ers. Especially in our own day, sports matches, like McNeill’s examples
of dance and drill, count as major public festivals in which loyal specta-
tors celebrate their own embodiment through coordinated cheers and
movements, often led by cheerleaders. Anyone who has seen “the wave”
knows what I mean.

4. Conclusion
The we-subjects, whose existence is manifested in these various forms
of embodiment, differ considerably from each other in many important
respects. They differ in size, for one thing, from Husserl’s two-person
Willensgemeinschaft of master and servant to the giant nation-states
most of us belong to today. They also differ in their longevity or endur-
ance. Those expressing spontaneous emotions, reacting to particular situ-
ations, may be quite ephemeral. Sartre thought that the group-in-fusion
that stormed the Bastille soon dissolved back into its seriality. Husserl
Intersubjectivity and Embodiment 261
mentioned the Tanzgesellschaft, but thought that it was too temporary to
qualify as a personality of a higher order, even though a certain subjecti-
fication (Verichlichung) was exhibited in the “we” (Hua XIV, 406). But
many political, social and religious entities can maintain long-standing
existence, succeeding in renewing and fortifying themselves in the face
of adversity from without and the threat of disintegration from within.
So diverse are these examples of embodied we-subjectivity that we may
think of them as united by little more than family resemblance. But there
are certain features they all display. The unity of the “we,” expressed or
implicit in the sense of belonging shared by its constituent members, is
always present, fragile as it is. And like the individual, the we-subject is
an intentional subject: as we have seen, it has feelings, holds opinions,
undertakes actions.
Social entities, we-subjects, like individual subjects, are marked by
finitude. This is true not only in the sense that they factually come into
existence and pass away. Rather, their finitude, like that of the individual,
figures in their self-awareness and their sense of who and what they are.
Communities often depend on a story of their founding, a myth of ori-
gin, of ancestors or founding fathers, of acts of establishment. It is often
precisely these that are commemorated and re-enacted in public manifes-
tations. Furthermore, communities face the future with a strong sense of
the possibility of their own demise. And it is against this possibility that
they often struggle for survival. Social embodiment, in the various forms
we have discussed here, often plays an important role in this process.
We’ve mentioned the important role of rituals, which not only express
solidarity but also serve to sustain and reinforce it. Patriotism, for exam-
ple, needs not only the stirring rhetoric of political oratory; it also needs
those parades with marching bands and waving flags.
In conclusion, I should point out that I am not arguing here that
embodiment is a necessary or indispensable feature of social existence.
In the age of the internet, and of blogs and chatrooms, individuals can
apparently develop allegiances to groups and movements without ever
seeing, much less interacting bodily with, the fellow members who make
up the “we.” Of course, the individuals who communicate in these new
ways have bodies, and their means of communication (e.g. their comput-
ers) require materials. But this is different from the sort of social embodi-
ment we have discussed here. While individual subjectivity is unthinkable
without embodiment, collective subjectivity seems possible without it. So
in answer to the question: do “we” have a body? I would have to answer:
not always, even if embodied intersubjectivity is the pre-eminent form.
Not only has “disembodied” intersubjectivity not replaced the embod-
ied forms; embodied intersubjectivity seems more important than ever in
today’s social world. What I have tried to do is explain how it works in
those many and important cases in which embodiment is a deeply impor-
tant part of social existence.*
262  David Carr
*  I am grateful to Frode Kjosavik, Christian Beyer, and Jacob Rump for com-
ments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Canetti, Elias. Masse und Macht. München: C. Hanser, 1960.
Dilthey, Wilhelm. Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissen-
schaften. Ed. by M. Riedel. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970.
Hegel, G. W. F. Phänomenologie des Geistes. Hamburg: F. Meiner, 1952.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political
Theology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.
McNeill, William H. Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human His-
tory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard,
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Critique de la raison dialectique I. Paris: Gallimard, 1960.
Schmid, Hans Bernhard. Plural Action: Essays in Philosophy and Social Science.
Dordrecht: Springer, 2009.
Schutz, Alfred. The Phenomenology of the Social World. Translated by G. Walsh
and G. Lehnert. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1967.
11 Husserl on the Common
Emanuele Caminada

The third part of Husserl’s Ideas II was originally inspired by the concept
of Gemeingeist. It concerns the constitution of the personal, social and
cultural world as well as the methodology of the humanities (Geisteswis-
senschaften). Here, I provide a brief historical introduction to the concept
of the common mind in German philosophy of history and society. I then
focus on its epistemological relevance and expound on Husserl’s implicit
dialogue with Dilthey in Ideas II. In systematic terms, Husserl deals with
the phenomena of collective intentionality, personal and group minds. His
concept of the common mind offers a radical alternative to contemporary
naturalistic approaches to social ontology, such as the homonymic theory of
Pettit (1996). Finally, I shall address the philosophical relevance of this con-
cept and its essential role in developing a phenomenology of the life-world.
Husserl’s aim was to withstand a naturalistic and historical drift of the
natural sciences and humanities into a tacitly skeptical attitude. The method
associated with his phenomenological reductions was to enable this. On
my interpretation, in Ideas II, which is numbered “Hua IV/V” in the new
critical edition, Husserl intends to offer, above all, an answer to the chal-
lenges of naturalism and historicism. In these two versions of positivism,
he recognized the germ of a kind of skepticism. He had tried to show that
such skepticism is self-refuting in the Prolegomena of the Logical Investi-
gations (Hua XIX). In this respect, one can consider the article Philosophy
as Rigorous Science (Hua XXV), concerning the aim of phenomenologi-
cal philosophy, as the “Prolegomena” for the project of the Ideas. This
is so since naturalism, just as historicism, is seen in the former as a mere
aftereffect of two great discoveries that were guiding modern science—
the discovery of nature, on the one hand, and the discovery of the common
mind, on the other. In what follows, I shall focus on both of these.

1.  The Discovery of Nature

The discovery of nature paved the way for the natural sciences in their
formal-mathematical idealization, in their abstraction from subjective—and
264  Emanuele Caminada
therefore secondary and tertiary—qualities. Our conception of material
reality was thereby radically modified. Husserl sees Galileo as the para-
digmatic figure here. According to Galileo, the essence for investigating
nature is only to be attained by abstraction from all subjective relativities
of experiences, since such qualities of the world are determined as strictly
correlated with the accidental being of animal fields of sense (Galileo
[1623] 1968, 348–349). Galileo gains a foundation of intuitive expe-
rience from this abstraction, which then requires a further operational
step, so that the particular essence of nature can be made accessible to the
researcher (Galileo [1623] 1968, 232). Husserl was always occupied with
the elucidation of these two operations—firstly, through the investigation
into the constitution of theoretically purified intuitive nature; secondly,
through the determination of inherent motives in this layer of experience,
gained by artificial means, for a mathematical idealization, and with this
a constitution of non-intuitive, exact, true nature.2 Despite its higher level
of abstraction and degree of idealization, Husserl does not regard the
natural-scientific method deliberately initiated by Galileo as an arbitrary
construction but as a discovery of nature—the unveiling of the essential
character of a material level of reality. The mathematizing natural sci-
ence, through the invention of its deductive and calculative methods, is
based on insight into formal principles, through which the reduced but
nevertheless intuitive, nature of objectivizing contemplation is made to
appear according to an underlying limit-idea of a full mathematical real-
ity. The validity of the natural-scientific method is therefore in no way
rejected. It is merely restricted to its domain and acknowledged in its
abstraction and idealization.

2.  The Discovery of the Common Mind

Husserl was convinced that just as reductive and physicalist forms of nat-
uralism can be rationally refuted through the elucidation of the discov-
ery of nature, without the natural sciences forfeiting their autonomy and
value, so, too, can historicism, as an expression of cultural and historical
relativism, be rejected through the elucidation of the scientific attitude
of the humanities, without disavowing the humanities as such. Husserl
was able to resume and continue a course of investigation from a phe-
nomenological standpoint, which had already been opened up by Kant,
to throw light upon those operations that led to the constitution of the
mathematical-formalized nature of modernity. Still, he found himself in a
difficult position outside of this limited domain. Not only did he have to
critically survey an existing special ontology, but he also had to simulta-
neously provide its clarification.
After all, the humanities in no way benefited from an already con-
structed eidetic of their domain, unlike the natural sciences. Quite the
contrary, the view was quite widespread that no eidetic science can be
Husserl on the Common Mind 265
composed in the field of the mind in principle, since the humanities have
to do not with regularities but with individualities and single events. The
young phenomenological movement, however, saw its proper focus pre-
cisely in the project of an unfolding of a new complete ontology of mind
as the essential doctrine of lived experiences, the psyche and the person in
their social relations.3 Husserl reproached historicism for a disinterest in
this idea, and, thereby, in ideals and eidetic invariants that are interwoven
with history. Still, he acknowledged the value of the basic intuition guid-
ing the modern humanities (Hua XXV, 47).
Thus, Husserl saw the modern sciences as led by two underlying dis-
coveries: the discovery of nature through mathematical formalization,
on the one hand, paved the way to modern natural sciences, while the
discovery of the common mind, on the other, inspired leading German
humanities scholars (Geisteswissenschaftler) in the nineteenth century.
This scientific, theoretical view is based both on Husserl’s mathemati-
cal and natural-scientific training as well as on his exposure to Wilhelm
Dilthey (Cf. Sandmeyer 2009, 57–58). Husserl himself concedes the rel-
evance of his rather late encounter with the work of the latter in his
Phenomenological Psychology lecture, above all with Dilthey’s Aufbau
der geschichtlichen Welt (Dilthey 1927 (GS VII)), from which Husserl
took the expression “discovery of the common mind” (“Entdeckung des
Gemeingeistes,” Hua IX, 34).

3.  The Concept of the Common Mind

So what exactly does the very term common mind or Gemeingeist sug-
gest? It plays a crucial role in German culture in the nineteenth century. It
expresses political interest in public opinion and in the demand to politi-
cally unite individual life goals, in which the political common mind is
strongly opposed to private egoism. With this, the expression entered
into German political discourse, as a counterpart to the English term
“public spirit,” and especially to the French term esprit de corps. An
awareness of öffentliche Meinung was bound up with Gemeingeist, as
in the English “public opinion” and the French opinion commune (Cf.
Habermas 1962, 101). There was even a political journal named after
it—the Journal für Gemeingeist (1792–1793). This journal pursued the
explicit goal of educating Germans on the common mind.
In addition to this political meaning, there were also methodologi-
cal and speculative developments of the concept in the same decades.
According to Dilthey, the modern revolution in the natural sciences,
together with the acquisition of scholastic concepts like natural law and
natural religion in French rationalism, went hand in hand with the pos-
itivistic naturalization of historical events. In Germany, by contrast, a
view antagonistic to this was formed, namely, that historical unfolding,
and not naturalistic progress, was the source of all facts of culture. Such
266  Emanuele Caminada
a view was represented by, for example, Winckelman, Herder and Schlei-
ermacher, who describe the forma mentis of a nation, a cultural milieu,
especially a group of people, with Gemeingeist (Dilthey 1883 (GS I), xiv).
Intellectual communal life was turned into a distinguished subject of his-
toriographic research by this school, in which, for example, the mytho-
logical thought of distant cultures, the aesthetic ideals of antiquity, the
spirit of Roman law, or the ethics of modern capitalism became themes
of detailed treatments.
“The discovery of the common mind” (Entdeckung des Gemeingeistes)
is, moreover, an expression used by Dilthey to establish how awareness
of history awakens in the humanities through the neoclassical resump-
tion of Greek ideals of the state in Germany (GS VII, 150). According
to this historical and philosophical tradition, the common mind is to
be understood as a supra-individual carrier of productive and inventive
power (GS VII, 96). The creativity of the mind, its inventive potential, is
thus not attributed exclusively to the individual but also to its position
in a dynamic milieu. It is not conscious activity but the dark depths of its
life, its social background and mental foundation that provide the inven-
tive mind with the material for its ideas and intuitions.
This new interest in historical events did not leave philosophy unaf-
fected. The enthusiasm for the individualities of history and the discovery
of cultural circles as equal carriers and actors, on a par with individuals in
their historical actions, molded the speculative tradition of German ideal-
ism decisively. In philosophical debates today which are not conducted in
German, mind or spirit (both: Geist) is linked to Hegel’s Phenomenology
of Spirit and its speculative appreciation of supra-individual history. For
Hegel, the common mind is part of the objective mind of history, which
is subsumed under the absolute mind. This is generally known to be the
evolution of the concept, which accounts for its favor in the nineteenth
century, and for its disfavor in the subsequent century.
Dilthey valued Hegel’s attempt to philosophically ground new con-
cepts for the phenomena of history, although he defends a completely dif-
ferent position in his confrontation with German idealism. In his sense,
although the descriptive potential of Hegel’s concepts should indeed be
examined as carefully as possible, his metaphysical presuppositions can,
however, in no way be maintained (GS VII, 150–151).
Instead of universal reason, in Dilthey there is life just as much as
consciousness of fragility and inconsistency in human history. Indeed,
one is not to be concerned with a speculative and holistic account thereof
but rather with a critical examination of the grounds out of which his-
tory is legitimately made possible as an objective science with univer-
sal validity. In this epistemological-theoretical position, Dilthey is thus
close to the neo-Kantians, although his method expressly distances itself
from the transcendental philosophers at the turn of the century, in that
he does not investigate the life of lived experiences and history in their
Husserl on the Common Mind 267
formal conditions of possibility but rather in their concrete settings (Cf.
Konopka 2009). The goal is to approach the transcendental questions
through structural descriptions of the life of consciousness and thereby
achieve a ground for the humanities. It is in this that Dilthey actually sees
his methodology as supported by Husserl’s descriptive psychology in the
Logical Investigations (cf. Sandmeyer 20089, 57–58).
The task of providing foundations for the humanities has to be located
in the previous university struggle for a relation between the natural sci-
ences, humanities and experimental psychology. While the neo-Kantians
sought the opposing principles and enabling conditions of the natural
sciences and the humanities, a group of scientists (along with Dilthey,
Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch, Georg Simmel and Ferdinand Tönnies can
all be listed) introduced a new method and discipline that is referred to
as ‘classical sociology’ today (Cf. Lichtblau 1996). In Husserl’s investiga-
tions, one seldom finds anything explicit on these authors and their meth-
odological discussions. Husserl’s interest was primarily in fundamental
general issues and not in the concrete elaboration of specific regional
ontologies and their concrete scientific-theoretical implications. None-
theless, Husserl’s investigations into the constitution of the mental world
revolve around concepts that are also of central significance in Dilthey’s

4.  The Problem of Nature vs. the Common Mind

For Husserl, the investigation of the common mind belongs to a broader
context that also includes the clarification of natural-scientific facts. ‘Nature’
and ‘common mind’—these basic guiding notions of modern science—
require a mutual clarification. They are cardinal concepts because they are
guiding the natural-scientific as well as the personal attitude taken in the
humanities, respectively. In the former attitude, everything is viewed as a
causal nexus or as founded on a material layer. It therefore sees itself as
fundamental research. In the latter attitude, the world is a fabric of acting
subjects with their motives, aims, wishes, with their work and constructions,
which can be grasped in their basic intentions. However, Husserl does not
regard this main distinction as a dualistic solution to a problem but rather
as itself a problem. Through the reductions from nature and the common
mind to differing interests and attitudes, the tension between these can be
removed. We are therefore not stuck with two detached, parallel worlds, nor
with two layers, one built upon the other.
Husserl thus presents the clarification of the common mind not only as
a regional-ontological problem but much more as a systematic one.4 This
is so because, according to Husserl, the region of the common mind—
that of social ontology—cannot be accommodated in a universal natural-
istic ontology without essentially distorting its object and individualizing
what is social.
268  Emanuele Caminada
5.  The Social Sphere in a Naturalistic Attitude
Matter, lived-body and mind as well as their states are basic constituents
of reality. In their founding relations, these belong to the temporal-spatial
whole of nature. Rising out from matter, beyond lived-body and mind, one
can further construct a mental and social ontology, which could serve as
the foundations and classifications of the human and social sciences in this
uniform ontological model. Current attempts to construe the social domain
ontologically merely aims at continuity with its foundational layers—in
particular, with the ‘hard facts’ of nature. However, according to Husserl,
one cannot attain any novel ontological reality that would go beyond indi-
vidual minds by founding the social sphere on nature. A mind as an indi-
vidual reality would then seem to be the highest founded reality. Qualities
of the mind could be examined as such as well as in relation to their circum-
stances and foundations. However, for Husserl invoking social occurrences
within a naturalistic account would remain ontologically irrelevant, and
necessarily so.
If matter is determinative as such, no new minds come out of the
embodiment of lived bodies, no relations of consciousness upon which
a new supra-individual reality is grounded. What can be explained in
this way is at most individual dispositions for social actions or collec-
tive intentionality in particular subjects. In this sense, Husserl expressly
rules out that a universal naturalistic ontology can contain a social
ontology as a special discipline. As long as matter provides universal
foundations, everything that goes beyond particular occurrences is to
be understood as a function of individual dispositions and relations—
not as something ontologically ‘novel’ (Hua V, 20). For naturalism, all
psychic occurrences are states which are psychophysically conditioned
and which can only be located ‘in the heads’ of individuals. As long as
one concurs with the underlying positing of matter, one cannot point
to anything but a sequence of mental states. Since these are necessarily
bound up with an individual lived-body and dependent on its particular
sensibility, the question regarding the reality of social unities of a supra-
individual structure encounters an absurdity in the basic naturalistic
The argument that Husserl articulates so as to clarify naturalization
with respect to the common mind is very interesting. It anticipates pre-
cisely the naturalistic attitude that restricts today’s social-ontological
debate on collective intentionality. Who among its participants would
question the general assumption that collective intentionality run from
the ‘heads’ of individuals? For, the problem pertaining to plural actions
in the debate on the mereology of intentionality becomes understandable
only on the basis of this “self-evidence.” Even those who are sensitive
to the intrinsic nature of intentionality and the irreducibility of its col-
lective form try to develop strategies to place such phenomena within
Husserl on the Common Mind 269
a naturalistic-ontological framework. Two paradigmatic approaches are
those by Hans Bernhard Schmid (2005, 2009) and John R. Searle (1995,
The former distinguishes between an ontological and a phenomenal level,
and, thereby, between what is distributive and what is non-distributive.
Ontologically, he tends to locate the capacity for collective intentional-
ity in individual subjects. Phenomenally, on the other hand, an originary
pre-thematic amalgamation is ascribed to it. Collective phenomena are
thereby construed atomistically at the ontological level but holistically at
the phenomenal level.
Searle, on the other hand, sees the social world, with all its objects,
as the result of functional predicates. Individuals construct the social
world in a collective mode of intentionality through ascription or accept-
ance of social functions. However, this superstructure does not affect the
ontology of the world, which contains nothing but physical and at most
biological carriers and qualities. According to Searle, all intentional and
functional processes can be reduced to the latter, since they occur through
mental states, which are ultimately nothing other than the activation of
biological systems in physical substrates.
Both theories, in my opinion, prove to be paradigmatic examples of the
difficulty pinpointed by Husserl, namely, how to coherently thematize the
social phenomena and the ontological novelty of intentional lived experi-
ences manifested in them in a naturalistic attitude. Schmid and Searle are
both forced by the problems they describe to assume a break between the
ontological and the phenomenal level.
Another interesting attempt to provide a naturalistic account of the
common mind is offered by Philip Pettit. In The Common Mind, he pre-
sents the underlying metaphysics of his republican social philosophy.
Pettit says that all minds share the following characteristics: they are (1)
material; (2) everyday-manifest; (3) shared.
Firstly, all minds are material. The fundamental constraint of Pettit’s
view is given by his austere micro-physicalism, according to which the
universe is made “out of atoms in the void.” The unique, common forces
of the real world are subatomic ones. However, the configurations of
these forces can lead to supervenient higher level structures with their
own configuration laws, e.g., as found in mental and social structures.
Secondly, all minds manifest thinking in an everyday sense. By “eve-
ryday,” Pettit means something similar to Husserl’s life-world, i.e., the
everyday experience of unreflective practices and thinking. Since the
capability of rationality can develop only through interaction, Pettit cat-
egorizes his philosophy of mind as “socialized functionalism.” In order
to become rational, the subject needs a common world with actual dis-
cursive partners.
Finally, all minds share a rational structure constituted by commu-
nicative/social interaction. Human thought is thereby constitutively
270  Emanuele Caminada
dependent on it. Pettit defines a group mind as shared rational dispo-
sitions and intentions that constitute supra-individual structures. He
is very careful in introducing the concept of a supra-individual mind.
He introduces it as a solution to the discursive dilemma, claiming that
the assumption of groups with minds of their own “is consistent with a
denial that our minds are subsumed in a higher form of Geist or in any
variety of collective consciousness” (Pettit 2014, 167).
Husserl’s theory of common mind accords well with Pettit’s philo-
sophical aims. Both thinkers propose a holistic understanding of mind
and attempt to avoid collectivism thanks to refined formal-ontological
concepts, i.e., phenomenological foundations and supervenience, respec-
tively. However, Husserl and Pettit are strikingly at odds with each other
with regard to metaphysics. Pettit’s account of the common mind is com-
mitted to physicalism, whereas Husserl’s account brings out the inner
contradictions of any form of naturalism.

6. Sociality in a Humanities Attitude and its

Formal Ontology
For Husserl, the expression common mind, along with nature and the
mental life of consciousness, represents a new distinct ontological layer
of reality, which can be accessed in a humanities attitude.5 In contrast to
the naturalistic positing of spatial-temporal manifoldness as an absolute
into which everything is to be placed, the humanities attitude is based
on the absolute positing of the sphere of subjectivity (Hua IV/V, 789;
Hua IV, 363). Only in this humanities attitude does the common mind
prove itself to be the intentional unity of a communicative multiplicity of
people, a supra-individual consciousness that is founded through social
acts and which streams out of a multiplicity of people and through their
unity (Hua XIV, 200–201).
The ‘subject’ of this intentional achievement originates from a
multipolar structure, from a plurality of act-subjects. Nevertheless, this
multiplicity in unity is, so to speak, personally led by one or more moti-
vated opinions, because a certain unified unanimity manifests itself in
the plurality—which can lead to the exercise of a unified action. What is
personal in such a bound multiplicity of people consists in acts of position-
taking, which found the personal unity and holds to it consistently in the
associated commitments. The carrier of this constituted will, which spans
particular individuals and is founded upon social acts, is the communica-
tive multiplicity of people. This multiplicity is the plural “substrate for
acts” that have their founding layer in individual, personal acts (Hua
XIV, 201).
According to Husserl, the intentional structure of such a supra-individual,
social subject is characterized by the fact that it consists in a plural-
ity of subjects who are committed to the implications of a unified
Husserl on the Common Mind 271
position-taking. “Common mind” does not indicate a mere multiplic-
ity of subjects who interact but a unity founded in plurality, which is
the substrate for lasting convictions, wishes, resolutions of will, etc. This
founded unity stands out because it can only carry out acts and actions
in the proper sense by means of its founding members. The common
mind can indeed be the subject of the attribution of acts, but only in the
sense of lasting convictions. It has no personhood but still a personality.
It is not a person in its own right but personal qualities, like capacities,
character, acts, can still be ascribed to it (Hua XIV, 201). The common
mind therefore lacks, as founded unity, the most originary character of
intentionality, i.e., that of constituting and achieving actuality, or leben-
dige Gegenwart—the very essence of consciousness.
Acts can only be performed by a common-minded entity if the con-
sistent decisions and opinions from its members are met on the basis
of communal grounds and forms of decision, from which they are also
consistently followed and enacted in the sense of the community, that
is, ‘in the name’ of the community. As a carrier of an institutional func-
tion or as a simple member of a group, one can perform acts on the
basis of common convictions and decisions, even if they may possibly
differ from the individual’s own. This is so since the common mind can-
not live or achieve anything as a founded unity without the originary
minds of its members. In this sense, it is not an original, spontaneously
achieved I.6
Both for Pettit and Husserl, the unifying element of a common mind
is not given by simple intentionality but by coherent, rational thoughts.
A lasting opinion is a habitual form of intentionality, and the subject is
rationally committed to its content. Opinions are formed on the basis of
motives, and if these remain valid, opinions develop into lasting, habit-
ual acquisitions of the subject, such as convictions, decisions, sentiments,
and so on. As long as these are not questioned by new motives, they are
not abandoned and can always be actualized, reinforced, or they can
vanish with time. In the coherence of habitual opinions, Husserl sees the
rationality and the core of the person.
It is for this reason that the unifying element of the common mind is
called by Husserl a personal connection. It is formed through common
opinions, which develop into habitual dispositions. The unity of a plural-
ity of persons is built through the communication of opinions. This unity
can be a unity of knowing subjects (such as a scientific community), the
unity of an action (such as in a work team), or the unity of sentiments
(such as in a friendship), and so on. The form of the common mind is
determined by the nature of the unifying connection. For example, Hus-
serl’s clarification of the operations of natural sciences brought him to
the analysis of open intersubjectivity. On my construal, he conceived of
the latter as the formal correlate of the normative ideal of objective truth,
since it is posited as an infinite task by the scientific community. My
272  Emanuele Caminada
interpretation on this point contrasts sharply with that given by Dan
The common mind is said to be the analogue of an individual mind
(Hua XIV, 201). It need not itself be a mind, since it is built through a
plurality of minds and possesses a multipolar structure, as opposed to
the mind of an individual subject, which is characterized by the polarity
of its outgoing activities and incoming passivities. The common mind is
the intentional connection of a plurality of communing minds—a plural
Still, both Husserl and Pettit agree that some particular unions of
minds have to be regarded as minds themselves. A plurality of minds can
manifest personal features if the unifying trait is given by a set of moti-
vated, rational opinions that are lived coherently by the members of the
group. The carrier of this constituted rational structure—which is distrib-
uted over the individual persons and founded on their social acts—is the
so-called personal plurality (Personenvielheit), i.e., the plural substrate
of habits, which is tracked through the common, lasting opinions of the
members of the group.
If this rational structure manifests personal features—such as coher-
ence and rationality—and if the joined members of the group are com-
mitted to the rationality of the whole, it is a plural subject that is regarded
by Husserl as a form of social personality. The fact that he calls the per-
sonal group mind “personality of higher order” (Personalität höherer
Ordnung) shows that he would conceptualize it through his own con-
cepts of foundation (Fundierungsverhältnis), as this notion is understood
in his Third Logical Investigation. Following Conni (2005), we can find
in Husserl’s formal ontology two different kinds of wholes—the pregnant
and the emergent one:

• A pregnant structure is characterized through the reciprocal founda-

tion between the parts.
• An emergent structure is characterized through the common foun-
dation of a new whole by its parts. The founding parts of an emer-
gent structure are not unilaterally related to the founded structure
but penetrated by an individuating aspect of the structure that they
are founding. Therefore, founding parts that are individuated by the
emergent structure are said to be pregnant parts. The emergent struc-
ture is given by a reciprocal relation of founding between the whole
and the founding moments and not exclusively through relations
between the founding moments, as in organic nature.

The foundational structure of the personal common mind is not of the

first, organic type, but of the second one. A personality of higher order is
for Husserl an emergent object. The founding level is given by the inten-
tional acts of the personal members of the group, which are unified by
Husserl on the Common Mind 273
common opinions. The founded level of the common mind can become a
personal level of higher order, because its foundation lies in the personal
level of its founding members. The founding relation between the two
levels is immediate. The founding elements, the social acts of the mem-
bers of the group, are not reciprocally bound in a pregnant whole, such
as the cells of a plant, which emerges mediately from their organic inter-
action. On the contrary, their social acts immediately found a new whole.
The whole is not only a configuration of the lower level but shapes the
founding elements—it individuates them.8
Thanks to this kind of foundation, Husserl’s common mind theory
cannot be said to entail an organicist view of human societies, according
to which individuals are determined by the collective in analogy to the
organs of a biological organism. Although the founding elements are
individuated by the whole, the individual persons are not individuated as
such, since they remain themselves autonomous wholes, i.e., mereologi-
cally independent. Only some social acts and lasting attitudes are indi-
viduated by the plural subject. Furthermore, these are non-autonomous
parts of the persons who are communing. Those who take part in a
group through common thinking and intentions do not become an
organic part of the group. From a formal-ontological point of view, the
member of the group is not himself or herself a pregnant part of the
whole. Only the acts he or she accomplishes and the attitudes he or she
adopts as a member of the group are pregnant parts of it. But beyond
these acts, his or her life is not exhausted by the life of the common

7. The Philosophical Relevance of the

Discovery of the Common Mind
According to Husserl, the humanities’ investigation of the common mind
has a very close affinity to the method of phenomenology as a concrete
study of intentionality; not, however, in its pure but in its empirical form,
i.e., as phenomenology applied to empirical sciences. This application
of transcendental phenomenology consists in reducing the empirical
research of the humanities to their intuitive foundations, to their cor-
responding, lived experiences. Through this final alliance, the humani-
ties transform themselves into phenomenological philosophy, as a branch
of that second phenomenology which does not proceed eidetically but
empirically. Just like phenomenology, the humanities are sciences of bare
intuition. Their intuition, however, takes place within a scientific attitude
that is directed from the natural personalistic one, albeit differing on one
decisive point. In the humanities attitude, the realities posited by subjects
are not co-posited as real but consistently singled out as (cultural) mean-
ings, as positings of the investigating subjects—as opposed to what is the
case in the naturalistic and personalistic-natural attitude.
274  Emanuele Caminada
The most fundamental difference between the natural sciences and the
humanities consists in their form of positing. The natural scientist posits
what is experienced beyond his intuition as real and absolutely objective.
The scientist within the humanities posits what is experienced within
his intuition as (cultural) meaning and determines it from a subjective
In this sense, the humanities attitude has a close affinity to the phenom-
enological attitude with respect to the correlation between experiencing
subject and the objects he has experienced. For Husserl, the incisiveness of
the humanities shows itself in the thematization of subjective life in its his-
torical achievements and results. The experienced is not posited as absolute
but as pertaining to the experiencing subject in his or her historical context.
It is in this phenomenologically clarified sense that Dilthey’s definition of
natural science as “science of objectivity” and that of the humanitites as
“science of subjectivity” is to be understood for Husserl (Hua IV, 365).
The discovery of the common mind, which leads to the humanities,
not only has a scientific-theoretical relevance but also a philosophical
and metaphysical one, since it allows one to illuminate subjectivity in
its originality. In modern times, the leading role has been accorded to
the natural sciences when it comes to doing fundamental research—on
the basis of their tremendous applicability in the form of technology.
However, according to Husserl they became blind to the original validity
of intuition, which is the source of any other kind of validity (Hua IV/V,
794; Hua IV, 366).
In contrast to the pragmatic and “life philosophy” interpretations of
natural science as a mere technique to dominate nature, Husserl acknowl-
edges their claims to truth. But he classifies them as a philosophical dis-
cipline only in so far as they do not understand themselves as a universal
conception of the world but as themselves conscious of the relativity of
their approach. This is so because, according to Husserl’s impetus, philo-
sophical truth lies in the absolute source of intuition, in the light of which
the insights that ground empirical sciences have to be clarified.
The scientist within the humanities does not require any transcenden-
tal phenomenological reduction—no reduction to the transcendental plu-
rality of the constituting subjects in order to thematize what is correlated
therewith (Hua IV/V, 796; Hua IV, 367). He turns nothing off from the
sphere of the practical world. For him, in phenomenological experience,
all things, people and animals, all values, cultural circumstances, tools
and artworks apply. For him, the world of the common mind applies. He
follows personal achievements in their interaction in particular actuation
and in personal associations. All personal processes and mental struc-
tures come into his view only insofar as they enter into a context of moti-
vation for the subject investigated by him.
These humanities studies direct themselves toward the clarification of
the achievements of the common mind as active subjective ones and of
Husserl on the Common Mind 275
the corresponding cultural products. For the scientist within the humani-
ties, the correlation between the common mind and a mental structure is
a self-evidence.10 The humanities described in this way exclusively make
its own intellectual context the theme of its research. This stems from
active and conscious personal acts. However, there remains an unintelli-
gible sphere in the underground of the mind, in passive life, out of which
alone the mental acts can be performed (Hua IV/V, 797; Hua IV, 368).
For the humanities are not only an a priori and empirical understanding
of active motivations but also one of the subterranean spheres of pas-
sive ways of retention that are essential for concretely understanding the
mental world. Radical humanities cannot be content with considering the
active and conscious sphere of human actions; they should also be able
to access the passive backgrounds in their historical context. Therefore,
according to Husserl, the genealogical explanation of the development
of historical passivity is a very important theme of humanities research.
For Husserl, phenomenology is the surest way to extend humanities
research to the sphere of passivity, on the one hand, and to limit its epis-
temological claims, on the other. For, like the naturalistic attitude, so too
does the historical one go astray if one interprets its achievements with
universality. The danger of this consists in misinterpreting the whole of
reality as a historical, mental construction, without methodically thema-
tizing the scope and limits of the humanities attitude.
The humanities aim to explain the mental world. However, according
to Husserl they presuppose the pre-given world. Only phenomenology,
which not only investigates the correlation of active mentality but the
universal correlation of subjects with their surrounding world, is able
to comprehend this pre-givenness in its intentional emergence, without
therewith devaluing its reality as a mere subjective appearance. This is
precisely where Husserl places the transcendental character of phenom-
enology as radical humanities, i.e., in the elucidation of the pre-givenness
of the world.
Since the humanities view does not open up the ongoing constitution in
personal minds (Hua IV/V, 798; Hua IV, 369–370), the humanities rather
presuppose the factual world, just like the natural sciences presuppose
nature. Only the phenomenological attitude allows for a clarification of
subjective and social achievements, which lead to the constitution of the
pre-given surrounding world. In it, the pre-given world understands itself
as a constitutive achievement of life.

8.  The Common Mind and the Life-world

The phenomenological inquiry into the constituting achievements in the
mental world brought Husserl to the thematization of the common mind.
In the characterization of the positional surrounding world of the person-
alistic attitude, Husserl is then known to have introduced the concept of
276  Emanuele Caminada
the life-world in the 1920s. Although the concept of the life-world grew
out of the treatment of the common mind, the latter gradually faded into
the background, while the former gained a focal significance. How, then,
do the concepts of the life-world and of the common mind relate to each
For Husserl, the principal discovery of the modern humanities is
to be seen in the concept of the common mind.11 According to this
view, acceptance of the common mind means that the mental world as
well as the constitutive achievements of particular subjects can only
be understood from their position in a supra-individual mental con-
text. The concept of the common mind is therefore—just like nature—
a theoretical one. The concept of the life-world, by contrast, is that
of pre-theoretical, and, above all, practical experience. The life-world
corresponds first and foremost to the personalistic attitude, while the
humanities attitude is related to the achievements of the common
mind. In this respect, through the theoretical attitude of the humani-
ties, one seeks to unveil achievements of the common mind that are
usually concealed in normal experience.
The discovery of implicit structures in the life-world through theo-
retical concepts even forms an extension of the life-world. Thus, such
ideation not only has a theoretical fallout in the life-world but much
more also a practical one, since the ideation of concepts of a common-
mind nature, such as union, alliance, nation, state, etc. develops an
effect in the practical life of corresponding particular subjects. Such
a fallout of the common mind is constantly working underground in
the pre-given surrounding world, and only a purposeful explanation of
sense through deconstructive reductions could unveil its constitutive
The concepts of the common mind and of the life-world are therefore
related, but they are not synonymous. The former indicates a theoretical
and the other a practical, personalistic attitude. The concept of the life-
world is preferred by Husserl, since it allows for a way out of the dualis-
tic opposition between nature and mind, a terminology from which the
Ideas still suffers. This is so because nature, just as the common mind,
can only be elucidated on the basis of the concrete life-world. Life thus
poses the missing link that makes the relation between nature and com-
mon mind understandable.
Although Husserl’s later investigations place the problem of the rela-
tion between nature and life-world in the foreground, the problematic
of constitution pertaining to the common mind is not rejected by him.
While nature represents a mathematical modification of the underlying
life-world, the common mind forms a veiled structure of the same, which
in my opinion still requires an in-depth phenomenological elucidation in
its constitutive relevance and in its differing relative stages.
Husserl on the Common Mind 277
1. I am grateful to Daniel O’Shiel for his translation of a draft of this paper and
to Frode Kjosavik for his insightful comments and careful editing that helped
me to make this text better.
2. Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929), The Crisis of European Sciences
(1936), together with the posthumously published Experience and Judgment
and the more extensive edition of Crisis, are all parts of this endeavor (cf.
Hua XVII and Hua VI).
3. During the last two decades, this social ontology project has had a renais-
sance within analytic philosophy, in the form of realistic phenomenology
(pace Husserl). Cf. Mulligan 1987; Schmid 2005; Salice 2013.
4. The ‘common mind’ has hitherto only been considered as peripheral in
Husserl’s phenomenology. It merely indicates the problematic and apo-
retic attempt to formulate a regional ontology of the mind in which, above
individual personalities, a specific importance is also ascribed to supra-
individual structures. Until now, only two short texts, which were known
under the title “Common Mind,” have been published in Volume XIV of
Husserliana—edited by Iso Kern—as “Common Mind I” and “Common
Mind II.” The new critical edition of Ideas II (Hua IV/V) has revealed that
Husserl also compiled additional texts under the collective title “Common
Mind I and II,” which he wrote between 1916 and 1917. Thus, Der Geist
und sein seelischer Untergrund (F IV 3, 130–142) numbered as “I,” as well
as Subjektivität als Seele und Geist (F IV 3, 143–169), numbered as “II,”
formed the basis for the edition by Edith Stein of the third part of Ideas II,
under the title Die Konstitution der geistigen Welt, in Hua IV. Through an
in-depth examination of this textual constellation, in my forthcoming book
Vom Gemeingeist zum Habitus: Husserls Ideen II I try to bring out the cen-
trality of the common mind in Husserl’s philosophical project.
5. This universal-ontological tri-partition as well as the question regarding the
interaction between these three regions have been highlighted by Roberto
Poli (2001).
6. I have given a detailed account of these ontological founding relations in
Caminada 2016.
7. Indeed, I believe that Zahavi’s take is biased by the static methodology of the
texts he is basing himself on in building his argument (mostly Hua VII and
VIII). My view differs sharply from his. The convergence of undefined hori-
zons around the limits of the idea of open intersubjectivity should not only
be deduced statically from the experience of objectivity (cf. Zahavi 2001).
Rather, it should be clarified genetically in its emergence. Working out his
life-world theory, according to which not only nature but primarily cul-
ture is at stake, Husserl took a more complex path toward the idea of open
intersubjectivity. The latter is to be grasped, namely, through the necessarily
gradual and partial overcoming of every concrete form of socialization (cf.
Hua 39, 259). Each form of evidence is thus related to, but not reduced to,
its context and conditions of possibility. Such situation-bound truths, which
have their unquestioned ground in the relativities of the socialized life-world,
are neither to be abandoned in favor of the postulation of a more stable
objective truth, nor to be separated from their—albeit relative and partial—
evidences. Rather, they should be seen as clues to the open possibility of a
fragile, continuously self-proving convergence. Open intersubjectivity as the
correlate of objectivity would be, therefore, a regulative idea, worth striving
278  Emanuele Caminada
toward for the sake of truth. Conversely, it seems to me to be plausible that,
in the passive domains of constitution, no open intersubjectivity is at work.
Should such an interpretation of Husserl’s life-world phenomenology turn
out to be accurate, then a developed phenomenology of sociality will play
an indispensable role in the future of phenomenological philosophy. The
enhancement of intentional horizons in the process of socialization should
be studied stepwise and with regard to each class of acts (not only cognitive
ones, but also, and first and foremost, those that are volitional and affective).
All these stages of sociality should comprise the field of study of a special
part of phenomenology, i.e., constitutive or transcendental sociology (Lee
8. For a comparison of the formal-ontological concept of phenomenological
foundation with the concept of supervenience (endorsed, among others, by
Pettit) see Caminada and Summa 2015.
9. Husserl’s phenomenology has often been misunderstood as, on the one hand,
an atomistic metaphysics for the nature of the mind and, on the other hand,
as a collectivism, or a kind of personalistic communitarianism, for social
ethics. However, his view is rather to be considered as consistent with Pettit’s
social-ontological chiasm, i.e., he is for individualism and against collectiv-
ism, and he is for holism and against atomism. See Caminada (forthcoming).
10. On the basis of this, Nicolai Hartmann distinguishes between objectifying
mind (in particular, common mind) and objectified mind (in particular, men-
tal works or objectifications). Cf. Hartmann 1933.
11. It should, however, be stressed that Dilthey does not distinguish systemati-
cally between “mind” and “life.” He often uses them synonymously.

Caminada, Emanuele. “Husserl on Groupings: Social Ontology and Phenom-
enology of We-Intentionality.” In: T. Szanto and D. Moran, eds., Phenomenol-
ogy of Sociality: Discovering the ‘We’. London and New York: Routledge,
2016, 281–295.
Caminada, Emanuele. Vom Gemeingeist zum Habitus: Husserls Ideen II. Sozial-
philosophische Implikationen der Phänomenologie. Dordrecht: Springer, 2018.
Caminada, Emanuele and Michela Summa. “Supervenience and The Theory of
Experience: Assessing the Explanatory and Descriptive Power of a Formal
Concept.” Metodo 3/2 (2015), 7–18.
Conni, Carlo. Identità e strutture emergenti: Una prospettiva ontologica dalla
Terza ricerca logica di Husserl. Milano: Bompiani, 2005.
Dilthey, Wilhelm. Die Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften: Versuch einer
Grundlegung für das Studium der Gesellschaft und der Geschichte. Gesam-
melte Schriften I. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1883 [GS I].
Dilthey, Wilhelm. Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissen-
schaften. Gesammelte Schriften VII. Ed. by B. Groethuysen. Göttingen: Van-
denhoeck & Ruprecht, 1927 [GS VII].
Galileo, Galileo. Le Opere di Galileo Galilei, Volume I-XX. Ed. by A. Favaro.
Firenze: G. Barbera Editore, 1968.
Habermas, Jürgen. Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit: Untersuchungen zu einer
Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft. Berlin: Neuwied, 1962.
Hartmann, Nicolai. Das Problem des geistigen Seins: Untersuchungen zur
Grundlegung der Geschichtsphilosophie und der Geisteswissenschaften. Ber-
lin: Walter, 1933.
Husserl on the Common Mind 279
Husserl, Edmund. Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenolo-
gischen Philosophie: Zweites Buch: Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur
Konstitution und Wissenschaftstheorie. Die drei Urtexte mit ergänzenden
Texten sowie einem Nachwort (1908–1930). Hua IV/V. Ed. by D. Fonfara.
Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming. [Page numbers in the printed version may
differ slightly.]
Konopka, Adam. “The Role of Umwelt in Husserl’s Aufbau and Abbau of the
Natur/Geist Distinction.” Human Studies 32/3 (2009), 313–333.
Lee, Nam-In. “On the Future of Phenomenological Sociology.” In: S. Geniusas,
D. Lavoie and N. Patnaik, eds., On the Future of Husserlian Phenomenology.
New York: New School for General Studies, 2005.
Lichtblau, Klaus. Kulturkrise und Soziologie um die Jahrhundertwende. Frank-
furt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1996.
Mulligan, Kevin. Speech act and Sachverhalt: Reinach and the Foundations of
Realist Phenomenology. The Hague: Springer, 1987.
Pettit, Philip. The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Pettit, Philip. “Groups with Minds on Their Own.” In: F. Schmitt, ed., Socializing
Metaphysics. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, 167–193.
Poli, Roberto. “The Basic Problem of the Theory of Levels of Reality.” Axio-
mathes 12 (2001), 261–283.
Salice, Alessandro. “Social Ontology as Embedded in the Tradition of Real-
istic Phenomenology.” In: Michael Schmitz et al., eds., The Background of
Social Reality: Selected Contributions from the Inaugural Meeting of ENSO,
Dordrecht: Springer, 2013, 217–232.
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Part IV

Normality and
Objectivity—The Life-
World, the Sciences,
and Beyond
12 Constructivism in
Epistemology—On the
Constitution of Standards
of Normality
Christel Fricke

1.  The Basic Idea Underlying Husserl’s Epistemology

‘Constructivism’ has recently become popular in meta-ethics: the idea
that there is some middle ground between moral realism with its heavy
metaphysical baggage on the one hand and moral expressivism, relativ-
ism, or skepticism and its counterintuitive implications and undesirable
consequences on the other.1 There are different versions of meta-ethical
constructivism. One of these versions takes the shape of reflective moral
sentimentalism. According to this view, our moral judgments are response-
dependent: They are based on responsive sentiments, sentiments such as
resentment and gratitude which we feel in response to the impact of other
people’s actions on our sensitive and emotive systems.
In contrast with other evaluative judgments that are response-dependent,
moral judgments make claims to universal authority. But how can moral
judges base their moral judgments about agents and their actions on their
responsive sentiments and make justified claims to universal authority
for these judgments nevertheless? After all, different people emotionally
respond to the same action in different ways, because their needs and
interests are not equally affected and because they may be vulnerable in
different ways. However, reflective moral sentimentalism does not claim
that we can make justified moral judgments on the basis of every senti-
ment that we happen to feel in response to an agent and his action. Moral
judgments are justified if and only if the underlying sentiments are proper.
Proper sentiments are sentiments which are properly adapted to matters
of fact, namely (a) an action performed by an agent, (b) the impact it has
on the persons concerned, and (c) the particular vulnerabilities of these
persons. The respective standards of proper moral sentiments are not
given; they have to be constituted—or constructed—in a communicative
process between all people concerned and their unconcerned witnesses.
The aim of this process is to constitute an impartial agreement about the
propriety of particular moral sentiments (felt in response to particular
actions by particular persons concerned) and the moral judgments based
on them. People who have reached such an agreement jointly approve
284  Christel Fricke
of these judgments’ claims to universal authority. The impartiality of the
respective agreement is due to the particular procedure of communica-
tion and consenting underlying it; not any agreement between people will
be able to provide the required justification. Standards of morally proper
sentiments cannot be established by majority votes.
Here, I do not have to inquire into the details of the construction of
impartial standards for morally proper sentiments. What is important
for the purpose of my argument in this paper is that ethical construc-
tivism in the shape of reflective moral sentimentalism does indeed open
up a space between moral realism and moral expressivism: Standards of
morally proper sentiments are not given; they are constructed. But the
construction of these standards is informed by matters of fact, namely
by the (beneficial or harmful) impact actions have on vulnerable people.2
My claim is that, in his Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity, Husserl
develops a constructivist account of our perception-based knowledge
of the external world that is analogous to meta-ethical constructivism
in the shape of reflective moral sentimentalism. According to Husserl,
most—if not all—our knowledge of the external world is based on per-
ception through one of our five senses. Visual perception takes the pride
of place and is the main focus of his attention. Put in terms of more
contemporary debates, Husserl’s claim is that most of our knowledge is
response-dependent: We cannot explain the content of the terms we use
for ascribing perceptual properties to objects without any reference to
our perceptual experience of these properties. But the way people per-
ceive certain spatio-temporal parts of the world is subject to limitations
originating in the nature of humans’ perceptual systems; furthermore,
even within the human species, perceptual responses to the same spatio-
temporal part of the world show a great deal of variation. How can judg-
ments based on perceptual experience make justified claims to objective
truth? According to Husserl, the truth claims we make for our perceptual
judgments—and all other descriptive judgments informed by these—
are justified if they are based on perceptions which are proper, properly
adapted to the spatio-temporal parts of the world which triggered them.
And he defines proper perceptions in terms of those particular perceptions
a normal human observer has if she perceives a part of the world from a
normal point of view under normal perceptual conditions. The respective
standards of normality (standards for normal human observers, normal
points of view, and normal perceptual conditions) are normative in kind.
They cannot be explained in terms of actual statistical normality distri-
butions among human perceivers, the standpoints they occupy, and the
external conditions of their perc