Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Andrew Tallon

Second Advisor

Denis Savage

Third Advisor

Thomas Anderson


Intersubjectivity is recognized in phenomenological studies as a most important philosophical issue . This recognition is due to the fact that since phenomenology aims to investigate human experience, and since the intersubjective experience is one of the most prominent and basic types of human experience, any investigation of human experience demands consideration of intersubjectivity. However, the investigative questions which are posed in an& relevant to such investigations are not identical from one phenomenological approach to another. Since each phenomenological approach broaches the issue of intersubjectivity from its peculiar perspective, it is therefore not possible to articulate in a singular form the impact and significance of the intersubjectivity issue for phenomenological studies in general. Still, it is possible to indicate at least a few of the fundamental questions which pertain to the phenomenology of intersubjectivity, which questions, in fact, outline the course of this study.

The first question which will be examined in this study is whether the objective existence of other subjects can be affirmed. This question is significant because phenomenology's insistence that the basis and context for philosophical analysis is the perspective of the human subject evokes the philosophical problems of solipsistic subjectivism. Solipsistic subjectivism is the philosophical position which maintains that nothing beyond the subject, his thoughts and experience, can be affirmed as existing. Consequently, with such a position it becomes impossible to validly affirm the objective extra-subjective existence of other subjects. Such a solipsistic subjectivism, this study argues, is characteristic of the transcendental phenomenology of Edmund Husserl.

In moving beyond Husserl, this study examines the approaches of Alfred Schutz and the existentialist phenomenologists, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Stephan Strasser. These phenomenologists are able to circumvent the solipsism of Husserl in that they affirm as given that human being is co-existence, being in an objective world-with-others. They emphasize that the givenness of human co-existence should not and cannot be gainsaid if one conscientiously aims to investigate human experience as human experience.

The other fundamental questions which will be considered are: How are others known? How are others recognized? And, finally, the more general question: Can the phenomenology of intersubjectivity offer insight into understanding the morality of intersubjective experiences?

The first of these questions involves analysis of the way in which another's intended meaning can or cannot be known. The focus for analysis is an attempt to understand the ontological status of meaning. If meaning is understood as a purely subjective, private creation of consciousness, then it becomes in principle impossible for one subject to have knowledge of another's intended meanings. Another's intended meanings would only be known indirectly as the private meanings a subject creates by himself, and projects as his knowledge of the other. However, if it is claimed that meaning is not a private creation of consciousness but influenced and conditioned by meanings which a subject directly receives from the world, then a subject's knowledge of another would be knowledge that is based upon the direct assimilation of the other's meanings and would not be merely the private meanings that the subject projects.

The question of recognition involves the two-fold consideration: How is it that subjects recognize other subjects as distinct from other living-beings? And, what is the original way in which the growing, developing subject recognizes others? The first consideration is significant because in order to explain how subjects know each other, it must be explained how subjects are able to recognize those others as other human beings. The second consideration is important because of the fact that even the small infant, who does not have refined perceptual and cognitive abilities, is able to recognize others.

Finally, the question concerning the insight phenomenology can offer for understanding the morality of intersubjective experiences is significant for two related reasons. First of all, if phenomenology is to accomplish its expressed aim to investigate human experience, then a phenomenology of intersubjectivity must be such that its principles and methods can be fruitfully applied in order to garner an understanding of all the dimensions of the intersubjective experience. Secondly, since one of the most significant and profound experiences is the moral experience, then a phenomenology of intersubjectivity is, in a sense, required to undertake an analysis of intersubjective moral experiences.


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