Intersubjectivity and Interpersonal Brighter Side

Look upon other people and see that we are all  humans.  We  roughly appear to have the same forms and physics, the same sets of uniquely  human behaviors ( such as use of language). Upon deeper inspection, by biologists  who study DNA, There are traits and characteristics that are universally Homo Sapien or  human.
Meet and talk with other people and discover that people have cognitive differences of each person; Travel and note the cultural  differences of people.
If  you are one who has used medications and therapies for serious health problems, you will quickly learn the unwritten rule : “what works for one may not work for another, everyone is different“. One can infer each Homo Sapien is  biologically different from the next, Same  goes for their sum total of subjective  experiences. The individual  has characteristics that are unique.

I am  pretty sure  that a universal model does not apply when talking about all people, most of  the time. But we also, in talking about the human race per se , or groups… education  ,communication or interactions ..need to talk about more than just the individual. I certainly want to know more than the individual that is me.

Self and Other, Person to Person

As I am  a subject of my  own permeated world that I participate in,  other persons are the subject of their own. As  subjects we have considerable influence upon the world. a subject acts upon other things.  In  the shared circumstance, such as that  of  a  conversation, or any other interpersonal experience, Each must treat the  “other” as a subject of overlapping or joined existence– an intersubjective circumstance.  Intersubjectivity.

On the hand, a we appreciate, as it were, [another  persons]  otherness, and on the other hand we appreciate the humanness we have in common

Brighter Side of Human Nature. Alfie Kohn chapter titled The Self and Other
Kohn goes on the explain  intersubjectivity in a meeting  (conversation, circumstance, Dasein etc) .  After the two fold contrast of Self and Other arises; and two subjects recognize an intersubjective  meeting, A   twofold attitude with the contrasting  of  sameness and difference arises. This not a state between sameness and difference, according to Kohn, rather a “dynamic tension of the two”.

One  who appreciates both dimensions of otherness and common humanness is able to appreciate a given individuals subjectivity […] a subject is an actor, a knower, a center of experience and while two individuals share  these features each is  also a different subject.

I would postulate  that one is  often comforted in the  sameness beyond humanness in a intersubjective moment.  A subject maybe comforted in the sameness of culture, age, gender, ethnicity, ideology.  Perhaps, for better or for worse,the  Sameness    we find in other people confirms ones own identity.
We are at the same time excited by the novelty of otherness, sometimes startled sometimes curious. If If  man is  to reach  beyond his own hands grasp , it could be said one seeks  out  otherness beyond himself. In interpersonal relationships, we very often find another person’s Otherness, including the persons individual experiences and circumstances, compelling or alluring.

Beyond Objectification

Many Neuroscientists believe that they have located “Mirror neurons” in the human brain. These neurons are believed to active when we observe   other people actions.  In certain developmental stages (the experts argue the exact ages)  one learns by observing others, an interpersonal  action.

The understanding  that: other people  that one contacts (meets and interacts with) in his/her  own experiences,  have  similar  experiences  of their own, more than any stone, tree , structure or object;
and that they impact and influence  as subjects within their own experiences… this is understanding  takes a practical leap of faith.
But this understanding, which requires assumptions supported by a subjects growing experiences, lifts one beyond dull  solipsism and egoism , to the richness of an intersubjective matrix, which is our human world.

Modern Physics may suggest a  “subject:object” or “I:it” outlook as impractical. All things  have influence on all other things in a field, whether the affect is grand or arbitrary.  Any subject acting on a body, whether a stone, tree, another person, earth, sun, is influenced by the other in return. Objects are not static or inert.
For the purpose of interpersonal subject:subject or intersubjective relationship We may  as, Martin Bubers suggest, choose “I:thou” interpretation over “I:it” .

The Brighter Side

The rich understanding of other people in their  Dasein beyond ones own existence is one thing and Learning from others another. We also have to live with each other in space and our societies.  If I am ” to treat others  in the manner I wish to be treated“, Wouldn’t I have to know what is it like to be in another circumstance?

I am Reading Alfie Kohn’s The Brighter side of Human Nature“. Which postulates an individual’s existence is ideally positioned somewhere between the poles of  Egoism and Altruism, and the motivations of an individual lies somewhere between self-interest and pro-social selflessness.
He writes about the importance of  “Perspective  taking” including Empathy (or feeling into)
three types of perspective taking:

  • Spatial and perceptive:  imagining what its like to be in someone else’s physical circumstance.
  • Cognitive:  imaging how another people think and feels from there perspective including strengths, limitations
  • Empathetic: Being affected by another’s circumstance.

Perspective taking is understanding another’s perspective, while Empathy is “feeling into”, or being affected by another persons perspective or circumstance. In quoting by Robert Salmon Perspective taking and Empathy…”Are  form[s] of social cognition intermediate between logical or moral thought ”

Cohn synthesizes the work of scientist(including doctors , biologists) , psychologist, educators, and  philosophers and the book is   heavily annotated.  Cohen further illustrates the importance of  understanding intersubectivity in interpersonal relationships, to promote the pro- social(or altruistic) and motivations and actions of individuals. He makes a strong case for an the Altruistic interests of the individual beyond self interest. I would recommend the book for all, but especially humanists, individualists and existentialists.

To be a subject in Existence is  moral participation. To act upon and with others requires Dignity, Reciprocity, and Tolerance, (Ethics) in addition to subjects self -interests and mutual interests with others.

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About chris
I write because I'm not good at it. I share because, writing without sharing seems empty. Thus, I write and share what I think is meaningful.

4 Responses to Intersubjectivity and Interpersonal Brighter Side

  1. Great post. Final point powerful and to the point. Appreciate these thoughts

  2. Pingback: phenomenology « Pennsylvania Echoes

  3. chris says:

    Reblogged this on Pennsylvania Echoes and commented:

    Thoughts on Alphie Kohn’s —
    “The Brighter Side of Human Nature”

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