Journal of Consciousness Studies
Sudan with Barbara Smuts
The coupling of 'self and other' as well as the issues regarding intersubjectivity
have been central topics in modern Japanese philosophy. The dominant views
are critical of the Cartesian formulation (pure, disembodied subjectivity),
but the Japanese philosophers drew their conclusions also based on their
own insights into Japanese culture and language. In this paper I would
like to explore this theme in two of the leading modern Japanese philosophers
- Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945) and Tetsuro Watsuji (1889-1960). I do not
make a causal claim that Japanese culture or language was responsible for
these thinkers' philosophy, although without a doubt they were strong influences.
The point rather is to show an interesting convergence of concerns regarding
the fundamental nature of the relation between the self and others across
different cultures and intellectual traditions, and to clarify further
the ontological structure of the self-other relation. After the examination,
the thesis I would like to defend here is the following: Intersubjectivity
is indeed a condition, rather than an accident, of the structure of lived
experiences as such (not 'consciousness') but this relation also requires
at the same time the recognition that the Other must remain a true negation-in-relation
to the self. Let me first turn to Watsuji, although chronologically he
was 20 years junior and was a student of Nishida, since Watsuji's phenomenology
deals more directly with the topic of intersubjectivity. I will then turn
to Nishida's broader ontological considerations.
A 'sensed presence' often accompanies hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations
associated with sleep paralysis. Qualitative descriptions of the sensed
presence during sleep paralysis are consistent with the experience of a
monitoring, stalking predator. It is argued that the sensed presence during
sleep paralysis arises because of REM-related endogenous activation of
a hypervigilant and biased attentive state, the normal function of which
is to resolve ambiguities inherent in biologically relevant threat cues.
Given the lack of disambiguating environmental cues, however, the feeling
of presence persists as a protracted experience that is both numinous and
ominous. This experience, in turn, shapes the elaboration and integration
of the concurrent hallucinations that often take on supernatural and daemonic
qualities. The sense of presence considered here is an 'other' that is
radically different from, and hence more than a mere projection of, the
self. Such a numinous sense of otherness may constitute a primordial core
consciousness of the animate and sentient in the world around us.
The importance of the face is best understood, it is suggested, from the effects of visible facial difference in people. Their experience reflects the ways in which the face may be necessary for the interpersonal relatedness underlying such 'sharing' mind states as empathy. It is proposed that the face evolved as a result of several evolutionary pressures but that it is well placed to assume the role of an embodied representation of the increasingly refined inner states of mind that developed as primates became more social, and required more complex social intelligence.
The consequences of various forms of facial disfigurement on interpersonal
relatedness and intersubjectivity are then discussed. These narratives
reveal the importance of the face in the development of the self-esteem
that seems a prerequisite of being able to initiate, and enter, relationships
between people. Such experiences are beyond normal experience and, as such,
require an extended understanding of the other: to understand facial difference
requires empathy. But, in addition, it is also suggested that empathy itself
is supported by, and requires, the embodied expression and communication
of emotion that the face provides.
In this paper, I have a twofold aim: First I wish to show to what extent the Husserlian Theory of Intersubjectivity can be relevant for contemporary empirical research and for ancestral wisdom traditions, both in their experiences and in their conceptual tools; and secondly I intend to rely on some empirical results and experiential mystical/practical reports in order to bring about some more refined phenomenological descriptions first provided by Husserl. The first aim will be the main concern here, while the second will only be broached by way of initial steps towards further development.
I will proceed in two stages: in the first place I will give some evidence for Husserl's relevance by giving an account of his original conceptions of (a) egoic subjectivity, (b) genetic phenomenology, and (c) lived empathy. In the second place, my purpose is to indicate how much Husserl's view on infants/children, animals/ beasts, mad people/the insane and aliens/foreigners/strangers may be of some interest for scientific empirical conceptions and for practical paths of spiritual self-development. In so doing, I hope to be able (1) to confirm the accuracy of Husserl's own intuitions and analysis, and (2) to suggest some refinements in the way Husserl described such experiences.
Throughout this paper I will focus on two main Husserlian discoveries:
(1) subjectivity is from the very start intersubjectivity; (2) infants,
animals, the insane and aliens are subjects in a full sense, precisely
because they are from the very beginning always already intersubjective
subjects; besides, they are limit-subjectivities, who compel me in a kind
of feedback to enlarge and to deepen my own subjectivity.
Theory of mind explanations of how we know other minds are limited in
several ways. First, they construe intersubjective relations too narrowly
in terms of the specialized cognitive abilities of explaining and predicting
another person's mental states and behaviours. Second, they sometimes draw
conclusions about second-person interaction from experiments designed to
test third-person observation of another's behaviour. As a result, the
larger claims that are sometimes made for theory of mind, namely that theory
of mind is our primary and pervasive means for understanding other persons,
go beyond both the phenomenological and the scientific evidence. I argue
that the interpretation of 'primary intersubjectivity' as merely precursory
to theory of mind is inadequate. Rather, primary intersubjectivity, understood
as a set of embodied practices and capabilities, is not only primary in
a developmental sense, but is the primary way we continue to understand
others in second-person interactions.
My initial scope will be limited: starting from a neurobiological standpoint,
I will analyse how actions are possibly represented and understood. The
main aim of my arguments will be to show that, far from being exclusively
dependent upon mentalistic/linguistic abilities, the capacity for understanding
others as intentional agents is deeply grounded in the relational nature
of action. Action is relational, and the relation holds both between the
agent and the object target of the action (see Gallese, 2000b), as between
the agent of the action and his/her observer (see below). Agency constitutes
a key issue for the understanding of intersubjectivity and for explaining
how individuals can interpret their social world. This account of intersubjectivity,
founded on the empirical findings of neuroscientific investigation, will
be discussed and put in relation with a classical tenet of phenomenology:
empathy. I will provide an 'enlarged' account of empathy that will be defined
by means of a new conceptual tool: the shared manifold of intersubjectivity.
This paper argues that, from the perspective of phenomenological philosophy,
the study of intersubjectivity is closely tied to questions of the representational
mind. It focuses on developmental studies of children's understanding of
the human mind, setting out some of the main findings and theoretical explanations.
It then takes up Husserl's idea of looking at persons in the 'personal
attitude'. Understanding motivational connections among a person's subjective
experiences is an essential feature of this attitude. Proposing a unified
theoretical interpretation of children's representational achievements,
the paper suggests that understanding motivational connections among one's
representations requires an ability for reflection that children apply
in progressively more refined ways to themselves and others.
In philosophy, the last thirty years or so has seen a split between 'simulation theorists' and 'theory-theorists', with a number of variations on each side. In general, simulation theorists favour the idea that our knowledge of others is based on using ourselves as a working model of what complex psychological creatures are like. Theory-theorists claim that our knowledge of complex psychological creatures, including ourselves, is theoretical in character and so more like our knowledge of the world in general.
The body of this paper is divided into three parts. In Part I, I introduce
the 'contrastive case' of autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that
has recently become the focus of sustained philosophical and psychological
attention because of the selective way in which it affects individuals'
social capacities. Theory-theorists argue that autistic children's unique
profile of assets and deficits is most fruitfully explained by their inability
to develop and deploy a theory of mind. After considering the strengths
of this hypothesis, I claim theory-theorists face two unresolved difficulties:
(1) explaining why high-functioning autistics who develop some theory of
mind capacities still fail to engage in normal psychological knowing; and
(2) explaining why autistics are generally as unknowable to us in the privileged
sense of normal psychological knowing as we are to them. In Part II, I
provide the theoretical framework for addressing these challenges by developing
an account of normal psychological knowing as psycho-practical expertise.
In Part III, I return to the problem of autism, showing how this psycho-practical
approach to normal psychological knowing may further suggest how to encompass
various aspects of the disorder that tend to be ignored under the prevailing
I want to argue here that certain Buddhist and Jewish thinkers say scandalous things on purpose. More scandalously still, I suggest that these statements are infused with deeply transformative ethical power, intended specifically as a way of relating to the dreadful fact of suffering. As scandals, these special responses to suffering intentionally rupture normal semantic patterns and sequences of thought, often through statements or actions which appear paradoxical. These scandalous statements are, in fact, always communicative in function, structure, and intent, but they are designed to create a kind of 'cognitive dissonance'. The thinkers I consider here say scandalous things in order to cause a breaking-open in the consciousness of the hearer and practitioner, which produces compassion, transformation, and liberation. Counter-intuitively, this rupture highlights intersubjectivity and language.
In thus talking about scandal and about ethical responses to suffering,
this essay brings into dialogue ideas from two very different source traditions
(admittedly a project which is fraught with some methodological risks).
I engage Mahayana Buddhist ideas (of the Prasangika-Madhyamika variety)
in conversation with the modern Jewish philosopher of ethics, Emmanuel
Culture can be said to be about the business of 'self-replication'.
From the moment of conception, it impresses its patterns and rhythms on
the developing, infinitely plastic neuronal substrate of the fetal organism.
It shapes this substrate to become preferentially sensitive to its patterns
and thus to seek to replicate them as an adult. This process of neural
shaping continues throughout life as the capacity of the brain to reorganize
itself according to the uses to which it addresses itself never ceases.
The extraordinary capacity of culture to extract different abilities from
the biological form is clearly manifest in the lexical, vocal, tool manufacture,
and writing capabilities emerging in bonobos raised in a Pan/Homo culture.
These findings render moot old questions regarding the innate limits of
the ape brain. They raise instead far more productive questions about the
form and function of the perpetual dance that is constantly taking place
between plastic neuronal systems and their external culturally devised
ways of being.
In this article I draw on personal experience to explore the kinds of
relationships that can develop between human and nonhuman animals. The
first part of the article describes my encounters with wild baboons, whom
I studied in East Africa over the course of many years. The baboons treated
me as a social being, and to gain their trust I had to learn the troop's
social conventions and behave in accordance with them. This process gave
me a feeling for what it means to be a baboon. Over time, I developed a
sense of belonging to their community, and my subjective identity seemed
to merge with theirs. This experience expanded my sense of the possible
in interspecies relations. The second part of the article describes a mutual
exploration of such possibilities in my relationship with my dog, Safi.
I describe how Safi and I co-create systems of communication and emotional
expression that permit deep 'intersubjectivity', despite our very different
biological natures. In my relationships with baboons, dogs, and other animals,
I have encountered the presence in another of something resembling a human
'self'. I emphasize the importance of recognizing and honoring this presence
in other animals as well as in humans.
In this article, I discuss the constellation of issues that concern
the interpersonal nexus of attention. I do so by (1) drawing a distinction
between presentation and revelation as modes of givenness, (2) characterizing
the emotional life as peculiar to person, and describing person as essentially
interpersonal, (3) articulating the phenomenon of exemplarity (a) in distinction
to leadership, (b) in terms of its efficacy, (c) with respect to the types
of exemplars, and (d) with a view to how they are related to one another.
I conclude by (4) delineating the distinctions between perceptual and epistemic
attention and interpersonal attention, and rooting the former in the latter.
This article makes five main points. (1) Individual human consciousness
is formed in the dynamic interrelation of self and other, and therefore
is inherently intersubjective. (2) The concrete encounter of self and other
fundamentally involves empathy, understood as a unique and irreducible
kind of intentionality. (3) Empathy is the precondition (the condition
of possibility) of the science of consciousness. (4) Human empathy is inherently
developmental: open to it are pathways to non-egocentric or self-transcendent
modes of intersubjectivity. (5) Real progress in the understanding of intersubjectivity
requires integrating the methods and findings of cognitive science, phenomenology,
and contemplative and meditative psychologies of human transformation.
In this essay I discuss Edith Stein's (1989) analysis of empathy and
note its application in the field of clinical medicine. In identifying
empathy as the basic mode of cognition in which one grasps the experiences
of others, Stein notes, 'I grasp the Other as a living body and not merely
as a physical body'. The living body is given in terms of five distinctive
characteristics - characteristics that disclose important facets of the
illness experience. Empathy plays an important role in clinical practice
in aiding physicians to grasp the content of first-person reports of bodily
disorder, and to comprehend the meaning of illness-as-lived. I suggest
that an important task for medical education should be that of developing
students' capacity for empathic understanding and I note several ways in
which this task might be accomplished.
In this (posthumously published) article, the author uses his recent
experience of organ transplantation as the basis for reflection on phenomenological
notions of lived experience, temporality, selfhood and medical ethics.
This essay focuses on the theme of intersubjectivity, which is central
to the entire Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It addresses the following
five themes pertaining to Buddhist concepts of intersubjectivity: (1) the
Buddhist practice of the cultivation of meditative quiescence challenges
the hypothesis that individual human consciousness emerges solely from
the dynamic interrelation of self and other; (2) the central Buddhist insight
practice of the four applications of mindfulness is a means for gaining
insight into the nature of oneself, others and the relation between oneself
and the rest of the world, which provides a basis for cultivating a deep
sense of empathy; (3) the Buddhist cultivation of the four immeasurables
is expressly designed to arouse a rich sense of empathy with others; (4)
the meditative practice of dream yoga, which illuminates the dream-like
nature of waking reality is shown to have deep implications regarding the
nature of intersubjectivity; (5) the theory and practice of Dzogchen, the
'great perfection' system of meditation, challenges the assertion of the
existence of an inherently real, localized, ego-centred mind, as well as
the dichotomy of objective space as opposed to perceptual space.
Drawing on the work of Scheler, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl and
Sartre, this article presents an overview of some of the diverse approaches
to intersubjectivity that can be found in the phenomenological tradition.
Starting with a brief description of Scheler's criticism of the argument
from analogy, the article continues by showing that the phenomenological
analyses of intersubjectivity involve much more than a 'solution' to the
'traditional' problem of other minds. Intersubjectivity doesn't merely
concern concrete face-to-face encounters between individuals. It is also
something that is at play in simple perception, in tool-use, in emotions,
drives and different types of self-awareness. Ultimately, the phenomenologists
would argue that a treatment of intersubjectivity requires a simultaneous
analysis of the relationship between subjectivity and world. It is not
possible simply to insert intersubjectivity somewhere within an already
established ontology; rather, the three regions 'self', 'others', and 'world'
belong together; they reciprocally illuminate one another, and can only
be understood in their interconnection.