Phenomenological Reviews

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Consciousness in its habitat of other consciousness

Ian R Owen

pp. 161-187


Chapters 7 and 8 were a focus on solo consciousness to spell out the simple findings on the noetic universal forms in general. However, those details are not representative of how consciousness is connected in culture to other consciousness. This chapter begins with how to read key aspects of the highly condensed account of intersubjectivity in Cartesian Meditations. The reading made is one that identifies eight major phenomena in the sphere of intersubjective ownness revealed by a special transcendental reduction. The empathic sense of the other is what belongs to self and is further broken down into five contributing parts. The role of retentional consciousness is emphasised as this is read as the storehouse of prior social learning held in individuals. Husserl's mathematical thinking is such that he identified constant and universal necessities in intersubjectivity that are posited as ideal and form real world instances of meeting with actual and merely possible others. The universal form of intersubjectivity is called "triangular" because it is involves three continually inter-related moments: a self in relation to another who empathises them and their view of a common cultural object that is also available to self. For the other, this triangular form is the same but reversed and overlapped with the perspective of self. Hence intersubjective meetings between two or more people are comprised of such overlappings of sense which when encountered and learned, comprise the whole of the meaningful world. Husserl posited that: "consciousness has an essence "of its own" and that, with another consciousness, it makes up a self-contained concatenation of the stream of consciousness", (III, 70). The ideal position made in the transcendental view is empathised by recourse to the use of deixis, which although it belongs to linguistics, serves to identify the inter-perspectivity in general that Husserl identified. In short, the sharing of meaning in the world obeys ideal forms and while it's impossible to have the other's consciousness as one's own, their social acts and nonverbal communications "speak the language" that has been learned in enculturation to date. It is both true to say that we can never have their experiences first-hand and we always gain an impression of them even if they don't say a word. The ideal and universal study of the triangle between self, other and cultural object is defined at the end of Sect. 44 of Cartesian Meditations (I, 129–30). The conclusion there is read as the irreducibility of intersubjective senses in self which means that meaning is intersubjective.

Publication details

Published in:

Owen Ian R (2015) Phenomenology in action in psychotherapy: on pure psychology and its applications in psychotherapy and mental health care. Dordrecht, Springer.

Pages: 161-187

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-13605-9_9

Full citation:

Owen Ian R (2015) Consciousness in its habitat of other consciousness, In: Phenomenology in action in psychotherapy, Dordrecht, Springer, 161–187.