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Varying definitions of Intersubjectivity

The definition of Intersubjectivity as developed in psychology and phenomenology, and accepted by academia (the Wikipedia link Wikipedia page is pretty sparse but I'm too lazy to look further definitions at the moment) is limited to shared ideas or meanings.

The concept has however been developed in much greater detail by Transpersonal Psychologist Christian de Quincey, who external link describes three possible forms of intersubjectivity. These are the standard definition and two others:

de Quincey is external link highly critical of Ken Wilber, another philosopher of intersubjectivity, both regarding his excessively intellectual edifice and his more limited idea of intersubjectivity as limited to his Lower Left quadrant (= Intersubjectivity-1 and 2). However external link according to Sean Esbjorn-Hargens he oversimplifies and misrepresents Wilber. Wilber clearly is a very difficult and cantankerous author to understand, and I don't want to enter into this particular argument. But Esbjorn-Hargens, who does a good job in his co-authored book Integral Ecology of making Wilber more understandable, argues that Wilber's definition is rather more nuanced. Because I'm intersted in trying to find as many definitions as possible, I'll quote Esbjorn-Hargens here, along with some comments:

Wilber uses the same term, "intersubjectivity," to refer to at least five different dimensions of intersubjectivity. Thus, when approaching Wilber on the topic of intersubjectivity one needs to be sensitive to the context, which is often the only indicator of which type of intersubjectivity is being explained. Though this presentation doesn't afford the space for a thorough explanation of these dimensions, let me briefly introduce them with terms I have generated:

1. Intersubjectivity-as-spirit: the transcendental quality of all relationships that allows for any dimension of intersubjectivity to manifest. The only reason that two subjectivities can touch simultaneously (co-presence) is that they are ultimately only one Subject. [MAK: Intersubjectivity as nonduality - this can be added to de Quincey's list, as Intersubjectivity-4.]

2. Intersubjectivity-as-context: the context created by multiple intersubjective structures (i.e., meshworks) which are constitutive of the subject and create the space in which both subjects and objects arise (e.g., physical laws, morphic fields, linguistic, moral, cultural, biological, and aesthetic structures). These cultural contexts, backgrounds, and practices are nondiscursive and inaccessible via direct experience. [MAK: This category would seem to combine de Quincey's ontological intersubjectivity (Intersubjectivity-3) with Wilber's standard Intersubjectivity as Lower Left quadrant]

3. Intersubjectivity-as-resonance: the occurrence of "mutual recognition" and "mutual understanding" between two holons of similar depth. Within this dimension there are Worldspaces and Worldviews.

4. Intersubjectivity-as-relationship: the way we identify with and have relationship with other subjects and objects. Within this dimension there are at least three types of relationships.

It is also helpful to keep in mind a related quality to intersubjectivity, namely:

5. Intersubjectivity-as-phenomenology: the felt-experience of different dimensions of intersubjectivity, including: spirit, resonance, and relationships. Note that intersubjectivity-as-context is not available as "felt-experience" by its very nature of constituting the subject prior to experience. [MAK: This category seems to combine Intersubjectivity-1 (phenomenology) and 3 (process philosophy)]

I have to admit, this Wilber stuff gives me a huge headache. In comparison, de Quincey (who is also quite tecyhnical) is simplicity itself! It is easy to understand why it is so difficult to criticise Wilber, one is confronted with a convoluted labyrinth. As for myself, I prefer to make esoteric and metaphysical ideas as simple as possible

At best Wilber adds one new category, possibly two. A further dimension of Intersubjectivity, curiously not mentioned by Wilber in view of hsi Mahayana Buddhist leanings, is Wikipedia link Tu-shun's non-obstruction of Shih against Shih (Wikipedia link "Indra's Net")

Therefore the following dimensions of Intersubjectivity, from the most trivial to the most profound, can be listed:






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page uploaded 5 November 2009