Consciousness and First-Person Phenomenology: First Steps Towards an Experiential Phenomenological Writing and Reading (EWR)

  • Natalie Depraz


For most phenomenological philosophers such a question will appear pointless in virtue of its obviousness. What would be a phenomenological approach that would not be a first-person one? Phenomenology is in the first person or is not at all. Tautological proposition, taken-for-granted question: the answer is in the question, which is rhetorical. And what? Are we actually there? The obvious argumentation of the philosopher is the following: as soon as the transcendental I is mentioned, we have to do with a first person proper. Since Husserl’s phenomenology is exemplarily the science of a unique object, the subject, understood as the functional core of emergent lived experiences (which are to be experienced and described), phenomenology is ipso facto a first-person investigation.

I would like here to question such a common view. In order to do so, I will (1) put into question the equivalence between the “transcendental” and a first-person experiential instance. While refusing Emile Benvéniste’s linguistic assertion, according to which “qui dit Je estJe”, while claiming the necessity of a radical first-person experience (first contended by P. Vermersch), I will show that the only way to equate phenomenology and a radically first-person approach is to demonstrate that Husserl’s phenomenology is mostly a third-person phenomenology. In order to contend such a view, I will examine first accounts drawn from Ideas I, Lectures about passive synthesis and from Sartre’s The Transcendence of the Ego: sorting out the ambivalence of the phenomenological (here Husserlian and Sartrian) posture, its thrusts and limitations, I will be able to suggest a few experiential criteria of a first-person phenomenology. My contention will be to explore the lived experience of the philosopher/phenomenologist while she or he is writing and reading in order to experientially check her or his lived disposition: does she or he “see” what she or he reads? What she or he writes? How is she or he related to his concepts, arguments, descriptions, examples? To what extend does she or he embodies her or his writing and reading? Unfolding the first steps of my first-person phenomenological approach, experiential reading and writing (ERW) will give me the opportunity to share with the audience the experiential quality of our experiential embodiment, as phenomenological researchers.


Personal Pronoun Experiential Criterion Philosophical Phenomenology Rhine Valley Physical Resonance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Benvéniste, E. (1966). Problèmes de linguistiquegénérale. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  2. Berger, E. (2009, 14–15 May). Méthode en première personne et rapport au corps Sensible: pour unepratiquecorporéisée de la description. Conference ‘Première, deuxième, troisièmepersonne’, Université de Rouen (in preparation).Google Scholar
  3. Bois, D., & Berger, E. (1990). Unethérapiemanuelle de la profondeur. Paris: G. Trédaniel.Google Scholar
  4. Bois, D., & Berger, E. (2006). Somatopsychopédagogie. Paris: Point d’appui.Google Scholar
  5. Chauvier, S. (2001). Dire Je. Essaisur la subjectivité. Paris: Vrin.Google Scholar
  6. Chauvier, S. (2009, Janvier). ‘Ceque ‘Je’ dit du sujet’. Revue de métaphysiqueet de morale.Google Scholar
  7. Depraz, N. (1995). Transcendanceet incarnation. Le problème de l’altérité à soidans la philosophie de E. Husserl. Paris: Vrin.Google Scholar
  8. Depraz, N. (2009a, Décembre). Eléments pour unephénoménologie du sens. Arco, Université de Rouen.Google Scholar
  9. Depraz, N. (2009b). The ‘failing’ of meaning. First steps into an experiential practice. In C. Petitmengin (Ed.), Ten years of viewing from within: The Legacy of Francisco Varela, JCS. Imprint Academic: Thorverton.Google Scholar
  10. Depraz, N. (2011, November). Lire et écrire en phénoménologue: Sartre et l’accès au vécu ‘en première personne. In: Lire et écrire: des phénomènes-miroir. A l’exemple de Sartre, Conference on the 20th of March, 2009, org. by N. Parant, & N. Depraz, Rouen, PUHR, ‘Rencontresphilosophiques’, n°2.Google Scholar
  11. Depraz, N. (2012). Empathy and second persons. In A. Schnell (Ed.), Continental Philosophy Review.Google Scholar
  12. Depraz, N., & Mauriac, F. (2004). ‘Secondes personnes’ dans l’Evolution psychiatrique.Google Scholar
  13. Depraz, N., Varela, F. J., & Vermersch, P. (2003). On becoming aware: A pragmatics of experiencing. Amsterdam/Boston: Benjamins Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gendlin, E. (1997). Experiencing and the creation of meaning. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gusdorf, G. (1951). Mémoire et personne. Paris: P.U.F., t.1.Google Scholar
  16. Husserl, E. (1960). Cartesian meditations [1931] (trans: Cairns, D.). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  17. Husserl, E. (1973). Experience and judgement [1939] (trans: Churchill, J. S., & Ameriks, K.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Husserl, E. (1982). Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy—First book: General introduction to a pure phenomenology [1913] (trans: Kersten, F.). The Hague: M. Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  19. Husserl, E. (1991). On the phenomenology of consciousness of internal time (1893–1917) (trans: Brough, J. B.). Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Husserl, E. (2001). Analyses concerning passive and active synthesis: Lectures on transcendental logic [1918–1926] (trans: Steinbock, A. J.). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  21. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perception (1945) (trans: Smith, C.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  22. Pascal, B. (2006). Pensées. Paris: Édition Lafuma, 1935, Pensée 688 (trans: Trotter, W. F.). Corvallis: Oregon State University.Google Scholar
  23. Perry, J. (1993). The problem of the essential indexical and other essays. Oxford: O.U.P.Google Scholar
  24. Petitmengin, C., et~al. (2009). Listening from within. In C. Petitmengin (Ed.), Ten years of viewing from within. The legacy of Francisco Varela, JCS (pp. 253–284).Google Scholar
  25. Ricœur, P. (1990). Soi-mêmecommeunautre. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  26. Sartre, J. -P. (1991). The transcendence of the ego: An existentialist theory of consciousness (Original French text: La transcendance de l’ego, Paris: Vrin, 2003, pp. 102–110), Hill and Wang (trans: Barnes, H. E.).Google Scholar
  27. Shantideva (1997). The way of the Bodhisattva, éd. américaine (Padmakara Translational Group, Trans.). Boston: ShambalaGoogle Scholar
  28. Vermersch, P. (2012). L’ entretiend’ explicitation. Paris: ESF, 1994 (first edition), 2001 (second edition).Google Scholar
  29. Vermersch, P. (2012b). Explicitationetphénoménologie. Paris: P.U.F.Google Scholar
  30. Zahavi, D. (2006). Subjectivity and selfhood: Investigating the first-person perspective. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of RouenRouenFrance

Personalised recommendations