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Primary intersubjectivity: empathy, affective reversibility, ‘self-affection’ and the primordial ‘we’


Daly, A, Primary intersubjectivity: empathy, affective reversibility, self-affection' and the primordial we', Topoi: An International Review of Philosophy, 33, (1) pp. 227-241. ISSN 0167-7411 (2014) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

DOI: doi:10.1007/s11245-013-9206-7


The arguments advanced in this paper are the following. Firstly, that just as Trevarthen’s three subjective/intersubjective levels, primary, secondary, and tertiary, mapped out different modes of access, so too response is similarly structured, from direct primordial responsiveness, to that informed by shared pragmatic concerns and narrative contexts, to that which demands the distantiation afforded by representation. Secondly, I propose that empathy is an essential mode of intentionality, integral to the primary level of subjectivity/intersubjectivity, which is crucial to our survival as individuals and as a species. Further to this last point, I argue that empathy is not derived on the basis of intersubjectivity, nor does it merely disclose intersubjectivity, rather it is constitutive of intersubjectivity at the primary level. Empathy is a direct, irreducible intentionality separable in thought from the other primary intentional modes of perception, rationality, memory and imagination, but co-arising with these. In regard to the inter-personal level, the concrete relations with others, primary empathy is both the ground for the possibility of the secondary manifestations—pity, sympathy, perspective taking, etc., and motivates them. Thirdly, it is the movement in the core of subjectivity initially generated by shifting attention between the ‘I’ and ‘we’ perspectives and later ‘solidified’ through affect to become shifting identification, which opens up the intersubjective domain. So we can affirm that we are not only born into sociality but our sociality goes to the roots of our being as Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty have claimed.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:phenomenology, intersubjectivity, empathy, Merleau-Ponty, Scheler, ontology, Trevarthen, Gallagher, Zahavi
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:Philosophy
Research Field:Phenomenology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies
UTAS Author:Daly, A (Dr Anya Daly)
ID Code:148478
Year Published:2014
Web of Science® Times Cited:11
Deposited By:Philosophy and Gender Studies
Deposited On:2022-01-13
Last Modified:2022-03-10

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