Intersubjectivity and Encroachment

CFS Lecture by Sara Heinämaa, Professor of Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Vice President of the Philosophical Society of Finland

Intersubjectivity and Encroachment: Existential-Phenomenological analyses by Merleau-Ponty and Beauvoir

Abstract: The paper explicates two arguments about intersubjectivity that Merleau-Ponty develops in the 1940s on the basis of his reading of Simone de Beauvoir's early novels She Came to Stay (1943) and The Blood of the Others (1945). The first argument concerns the facticity and singularity of human relations. It is mainly targeted against Sartre's analysis of the Gaze or Look, but in principle it questions all approaches that operate on an abstract level of ideas and concepts, talk about otherness in general, and bypass the critical-reflective question about their own factic grounds. The second argument concerns the conative character of our mutual entanglement or "intertwinement" in the world. It challenges the epistemic preconception according to which all human relations are fundamentally or exclusively cognitive in character, and contends instead that our interconnectedness is ultimately conative in nature, instituted in worldly actions and in desires and volitions, expressed in speech. The paper explicates these two arguments put forward by Merleau-Ponty in the 1940s, clarifies their contents, forms, goals and sources, and at the same time studies their indebtedness to Beauvoir's early literary-philosophical experiments.