The Phenomenological We

The Phenomenological We

Prof Dan Zahavi
University of Copenhagen


The lecture The Phenomenological We explores different phenomenological ideas about the nature of the we. One central question concerns whether we-consciousness presupposes and involves self-consciousness and other-consciousness or whether it rather abolishes the difference between self and other. Another central question concerns the relation between the second-person singular and the first-person plural. Might the adoption of a second-person perspective, where I am aware of the other and at the same time implicitly aware of myself in the accusative, as attended to or addressed by the other, play an important role in the constitution of a we? The lecture explores these questions by considering the contributions of a variety of different figures in classical phenomenology.


Further questions

  1. To what extent does collective intentionality presuppose interpersonal understanding and reciprocal recognition?

  2. To what extend do we-experiences presuppose, precede, preserve or eliminate the difference between self- and other-experience?

  3. How do we get from face-to-face based forms of we (“we enjoyed the movie together”) to more anonymous and institutionalized forms of we (“we won the world cup in football”)?


Essential Readings

  • Scheler, M. (2008). The Nature of Sympathy. London: Transaction Publishers.

  • Schutz, A. (1967). Phenomenology of the Social World. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

  • Walther, G. (1923). Zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften. In E. Husserl (ed.), Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung VI (pp. 1-158). Halle: Niemeyer.


Further readings

  • Husserl, E. (1952). Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Zweites Buch. Phänomenologische Untersuchungen zur Konstitution. E. M. Biemel. Husserliana 4. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff.

  • Schmid, H. B. (2009). Plural Action: Essays in Philosophy and Social Science. Dordrecht: Springer.

  • Searle, J. (1995). The Construction of Social Reality. The Free Press.

  • Krueger, J. (2013). Merleau-Ponty on shared emotions and the joint ownership thesis. Continental Philosophy Review. 46/4: 509-531.

  • Zahavi, D. (2014). Self and Other: Exploring subjectivity, empathy, and shame. Oxford: Oxford University Press.