Subjectivity as a Plurality: Parts and Wholes in Husserl's Theory of Intersubjectivity

In Andrej Božič (ed.), Thinking Togetherness: Phenomenology and Sociality. Institute Nova Reijva for the Humanities. pp. 89-101 (2023)
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It is well-known that in the fifth of his Cartesian Meditations, Husserl puts forth a theory of intersubjectivity. Most commentators of Husserl have read his Cartesian Meditations as presenting a theory of intersubjectivity whose basis is empathy, in the form of a process of constituting the sense of “other” in one’s own experience, as the primary origin of the intersubjective layer of experience. In this paper, I claim that the structure of intersubjectivity as Husserl presents it in the Cartesian Meditations is articulated as being governed by a logic of parts and wholes rather than that of a phenomenology of empathy, and that the articulation of this logic demonstrates that the transcendental ego is intrinsically intersubjective. My main philosophical claim in this regard is that the way Husserl’s account of transcendental empathy unfolds in the Cartesian Meditations implies a prior fundamental mereological structure of which the individual transcendental ego is only a part. That is, the transcendental ego has an eidetic a-priori intersubjective structure, in the sense of being a moment of an intersubjectively structured transcendental whole. In this sense, rather than being a singulare tantum, it is more fitting to say that transcendental subjectivity is actually a plurale tantum.

Author's Profile

Noam Cohen
Yale University


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