The Essential Role of Intersubjectivity in Understanding Ourselves and Others

Lucas Charbonnier

Hatched by Lucas Charbonnier

Dec 19, 2023

3 min read


The Essential Role of Intersubjectivity in Understanding Ourselves and Others

Intersubjectivity refers to the relationship between multiple consciousnesses or subjects, where each person positions themselves as a subject in relation to others. But is this intersubjectivity truly essential? Does the presence of others not bring something absolutely vital to our lives?

Autrui, or the presence of others, not only allows us to comprehend the world in its complexity and access reality, but it also enables us to access ourselves. Often, being too close to ourselves, we lack perspective and objectivity. We need some distance from ourselves, and the gaze of others provides that distance. It allows us to become aware of who we truly are. The gaze of others connects us to our own selves. It turns us into an object of observation. It objectifies us. By representing what others see in us, it allows us to see ourselves. However, this gaze can also become a prison, as we become trapped in the labels and judgments imposed on us by others. It can be experienced as an alienation, a loss of freedom.

Nonetheless, it is not impossible to establish a non-conflictual and authentic relationship with others. Dialogue and the pursuit of truth through intersubjectivity can serve as the foundation for friendship or love. As the saying goes, "Love your neighbor as yourself." But can love truly be commanded? If it is a feeling, how can it be a duty? According to Kant, "Love is a matter of sensation, not of will. I cannot love because I want to, even less because I must. Therefore, a duty to love is nonsensical." What we owe to others is not love, but respect. We must refrain from using others as mere means to achieve our personal ends. Respecting others as ends in themselves, as human beings with inherent dignity, means acting as if we love them. Generosity, as a moral virtue, is not about giving to those we love. True generosity consists of giving to all, including those we do not love, out of a sense of duty to humanity and respect for others.

Now, let's shift our focus to a seemingly unrelated topic - the Greek alphabet. The Greek alphabet is filled with peculiarities and false friends. For example, the lowercase nu may appear similar to the letter V, but it is, in fact, an N. Similarly, the letter rho may look like a P, but it is an R. In Greek, when this letter was at the beginning of a word, it was aspirated. And then there is sigma, another letter with two different lowercase versions. The first is used at the beginning and middle of a word, while the second is reserved for the end.

At first glance, the topic of the Greek alphabet may appear disjointed from the discussion of intersubjectivity and the role of others in our lives. However, upon closer examination, we can find commonalities. Just as we must navigate the complexities and nuances of the Greek alphabet to understand its true meaning, so too must we navigate the complexities of human relationships to understand ourselves and others. The false friends in the Greek alphabet mirror the false assumptions and misunderstandings that can arise in our interactions with others. It is through dialogue, openness, and a willingness to learn and understand that we can overcome these false friends and deepen our connections with others.

In conclusion, the presence of others, or intersubjectivity, plays an essential role in our lives. It allows us to gain perspective, understand ourselves better, and foster authentic relationships. While it may not completely eradicate loneliness, it can provide solace and alleviate its effects. To cultivate meaningful connections with others, we should practice dialogue, seek truth together, and approach others with respect and generosity. By doing so, we can truly embrace the essence of intersubjectivity and enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.

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