Intersubjectivity is something which is shared by two or more subjects.


Intersubjectivity is "The sharing of subjective states by two or more individuals." [1]

The term is used in three ways:

  1. Firstly, in its weakest sense it is used to refer to agreement. There is said to be intersubjectivity between people if they agree on a given set of meanings or definition of the situation.
  2. Secondly, and somewhat more subtly it has been used to refer to the "common-sense," shared meanings constructed by people in their interactions with each other and used as an everyday resource to interpret the meaning of elements of social and cultural life. If people share common sense, then they share a definition of the situation. [2]
  3. Thirdly, the term has been used to refer to shared (or partially shared) divergences of meaning. Self-presentation, lying, practical jokes, and social emotions, for example, all entail not a shared definition of the situation, but partially shared divergences of meaning. Someone who is telling a lie is engaged in an intersubjective act because they are working with two different definitions of the situation. Lying is thus genuinely inter-subjective (in the sense of operating between two subjective definitions of reality).

Intersubjectivity emphasizes that shared cognition and consensus is essential in the shaping of our ideas and relations. Language is viewed as communal rather than private. Hence it is problematic to view the individual as partaking in a private world, which is once and for all defined.

Intersubjectivity is today an important concept in modern schools of psychoanalysis, where it has found application to the theory of the interrelations between analyst and analysand.

Intersubjectivity in psychoanalysis

Among the early authors who use in psychoanalysis this conception, in explicit or implicit way, we can mention Heinz Kohut, Robert Stolorow, George E. Atwood, Jessica Benjamin in United States and Silvia Montefoschi in Italy. Adopting an intersubjective perspective in psychoanalysis means, above all, to give up what Robert D. Stolorow defines “the myth of isolate mind”.

Since the late 1980s, a direction in psychoanalysis often referred to as relational psychoanalysis or just relational theory has developed. A central person is Daniel Stern [3]. Empirically, the intersubjective school is inspired by research on the non-verbal communication of infants [4]. A main issue is how central relational issues is communicated at a very fast pace in a non-verbal fashion. They also stress the importance of real relationships with two equivalent partners. The journal Psychoanalytic Dialogues is devoted to relational psychoanalysis.

Intersubjectivity in philosophy


In phenomenology, intersubjectivity performs many functions. It is available to us through empathy, which in phenomenology involves experiencing another body as another subject, and not just an object among objects. In doing so, one also experiences oneself as seen by the Other, and the world in general as a shared world instead of one that is only available to oneself.

Early studies on the phenomenology of intersubjectivity were done by Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. However, it was his student, Edith Stein, who studied its basis in empathy thoroughly in her 1917 doctoral dissertation On the Problem of Empathy (Zum Problem der Einfuhlung).

Through intersubjectivity one thus experiences oneself as different from the Other and at the same time available to him. This is a key component in the constitution of one's own existence as objectively existing subjectivity. What has already been implied is how intersubjectivity also helps in the constitution of objectivity: In the experience of the world as available not only to oneself, but also to the Other, the constitution of the world and its objects as objectively existing objects is constituted. This also includes the existence of Others, although they are constituted, much in the way oneself is constituted, as objectively existing subjectivities.

See also

Intersubjectivity and philosophy:

Intersubjectivity in psychoanalysis:


  1. ^ Scheff, Thomas et al. (2006). Goffman Unbound!: A New Paradigm for Social Science (The Sociological Imagination), Paradigm Publishers (ISBN 978-1594511967)
  2. ^ Clive Seale. Glossary, Researching Society and Culture
  3. ^ Stern, Daniel (2004). The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0393704297.
  4. ^ Beebe, Beatrice (2002). Infant Research and Adult Treatment. Co-constructing Interactions. London: Analytic Press. ISBN 9780881632453. ((cite book)): Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)

Further reading

Intersubjectivity in psychoanalysis

Intersubjectivity and philosophy