The Ego and the Other in a Pairing Relation

  • H. Peter Steeves
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 143)


The Husserlian corpus contains numerous passages focusing on intersubjectivity and related issues. Husserliana XIII–XV, texts collected and edited by Iso Kern in 1973, span the first thirty-five years of this century and bear witness to Husserl’s dynamic account of social ontology. Indeed, it is a question that never left him and one which he never thought to have solved in its entirety. To pick the Cartesian Meditations from this catalog and claim for it a special standing as Husserl’s definitive theory of intersubjectivity would, clearly, be an historic and scholarly inaccuracy. Kern’s introductions make clear that there is no reason to privilege the Cartesian Meditations—it is simply one statement of one form of one theory.


Physical Body Organic Body Pairing Relation Phenomenological Reduction Prime Matter 
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.


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  1. 1.
    Edmund Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations (1960), p. 89. Hereafter cited as “CM” and a page number referring to this edition.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hart(1992), 186.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This can lead, as Hart points out, to the notion that the Other is in some sense an irreducible presence. (Cf. Hart (1992), 190). But as we will see, this matter will be straightened up in a further explication of the apperceptive pairing that takes place.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hart (1992), 6–7Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Perhaps this argument is more controversial than my primary concern—my interpretation of Husserl—but I believe it does have some merit. It is important to mention, however, that it is not key for this project to show that Husserl was Aristotelian or that Aristotle was anticipating Husserl. I use Z3 only to show that there is a structural parallel in Husserl’s and Aristotle’s arguments. Whether Aristotle is correctly interpreted here is another matter altogether. Indeed, Aristotelians are clearly not in agreement on this passage from the Metaphysics. Some maintain it proves the existence of prime matter; others suggest that there is a change of voice in the text and Aristotle is relating an argument an opponent might make to his theory. (Cf., e.g., the work of H.M. Robinson and W.C. Charlton respectively). Still others maintain that the analysis is logical and not metaphysical and need not lead to prime matter (See Hugh R. King). For more on a phenomenological interpretation of Aristotle, see my “Taken Up…” (1992).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See Stahl (1981). Stahl does not use phenomenological terms, but this account of his version of Aristotle is, I will argue, fair.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Stahl (1981), 179. Emphasis mine.Google Scholar
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    Even my experience of a park, a lecture hall, a farm, etc. cannot exist without Others—the world is fundamentally an intersubjective world: it is the arena in which the actors meet.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    We might be able to stop right here and maintain that we have reached an absurdity. If someone lacks a feeling of isolation—lacks the feeling of being alone—it must be the case that they have a feeling of togetherness (being accompanied, being crowded, etc.) at least to some degree. But here we have reasoned that I lack a feeling of isolation and a feeling of togetherness. This would seem a problem unless we allow for the possibility that feelings of this type need not exist at every moment. That is, if I have been concentrating only on my work for the past few minutes, I have been feeling neither isolated nor accompanied and there is no absurdity here. This response is somewhat suspect, but as there is a stranger critique and a deeper problem still to come, we press on.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    This is the way it happens in adult intentionality, at least. Whether an infant’s burgeoning consciousness has these same structures is a question we will turn to shortly.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Theunissen(1984), 84.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Theunissen(1984), 84.Google Scholar
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    At this level, however, it must be remembered that the Other’s physical body is not yet taken as belonging to the Other, for we have not yet constituted him. We have distinguished a physical body but as of yet cannot assign ownership—indeed, the notion of ownership is basically meaningless at this level.Google Scholar
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    Theunissen(1984), 66.Google Scholar
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    Theunissen(1984), 66.Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    This might explain, for example, the difference between being slapped across the face by a friend and mindlessly stroking one’s own arm. It also speaks to the different experiences of erotic touching. Since self-stimulation only results in one’s self as touching (and not as being touched) it is, on many levels, inevitably less rich than being with a partner who makes possible the experience of touching and being touched at the same moment. Alphonso Lingis (1985) and Thomas Nagel (1969) are sympathetic to such a notion. In Nagel’s terms, self-stimulation would be a perversion because there is no possibility of being aroused by another’s arousal—no possibility of being the object of another subject’s desire. That is, there is no possibility of being touched. But as will be shown, the instance of self-stimulation results in a touched/touching rather than a touching, and this is still far less enriching than a true touched.Google Scholar
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    Husserl (1952); translation by James G. Hart.Google Scholar
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    Merleau-Ponty (1962), 93.Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    Theunissen(1984), 63.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Peter Steeves
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State UniversityFresnoUSA

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