Intersubjectivity in the lifeworld

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Adequate accounts of intersubjectivity must recognise that it is a social, cognitive, and affective phenomenon. I draw on Jürgen Habermas’ formal-pragmatic theory of meaning and of the lifeworld as an alternative to phenomenological approaches. However, his conception of the lifeworld reflects a cognitivist bias. Intersubjectivity cannot be adequately conceptualised merely in terms of our mutual accountability and exchange or reasons; the affective dimension of our social interactions must also be recognised. I propose to redress this shortcoming by taking account of empirical research on intersubjectivity, joint attention, and attachment. This leads me to suggest supplementing the three Habermasian validity claims to truth, normative rightness, and sincerity with a fourth, a claim to attachment, which fits with understanding the earliest infant interactions in terms of altercentric participation. Since an adequate account of the social nature of linguistic communication must do justice not only to the lifeworld as a shared background of intelligibility, but also as a background against which differences in point of view are articulated, I conclude with a brief look at the ontogeny of perspective. Keywords: lifeworld; intersubjectivity; validity claims; attachment; cognition; affect; perspective; J. Habermas; M. Merleau-Ponty


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