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Dermot Moran: Empathy, Intersubjectivity, Personhood

Lecture by Dermot Moran (Dublin) organized by the Department of the History of Philosophy on the occasion of Corijn van Mazijk's PhD thesis defence

In this paper I want to examine the specifically phenomenological approach to empathy to highlight some significant aspects of this approach and especially the connections between empathy, intersubjectivity and personhood. I will focus primarily on Husserl, with some allusion to Max Scheler, Edith Stein, and Martin Heidegger.

I shall discuss, in particular, the complex issue of whether empathy founds intersubjectivity, as Husserl maintained, or whether intersubjectivity, or Mitsein, enables empathy, as Heidegger claims. The answer is somewhat complicated but I can initially sum up Husserl’s position, with a quotation from the linguist Emile Benveniste – only an I can say we. Subjectivity founds intersubjectivity, since all conscious life is necessarily egoic-life, but subjectivity itself opens itself up to intersubjectivity. Subjectivity’s openness is precisely the openness to others in the context of a shared, common, unique world. For Husserl, as he says both in Cartesian Meditations and in Ideas II, empathy is secured by the fact that subjects are oriented to the “one and same common world” (eine und dieselbe gemeinsame Umwelt, Hua IV 373). There is a triangulation between self, other and world. Furthermore, apprehension of the other, although experienced in a pairing between one’s body and the other, does not apprehend the other primarily as a body (even a living body) but as a person. For Husserl, the personalistic attitude is prior even to the natural attitude (and encompasses it).

When & where?

Monday 26th June, 3.30pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Beta

Last modified:29 May 2017 5.55 p.m.