Social Space and the Question of Objectivity / Der soziale Raum und die Frage nach der Objektivität

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In speaking of the social dimensions of human experience, we inevitably become involved in the debate regarding how they are to be studied. Should we embrace the first-person perspective, which is that of the phenomenologists, and begin with the experiences composing our directly experienced lifeworld? Alternately, should we follow the lead of natural scientists and take up the third-person perspective? This is the perspective that asserts that we must begin with what is true for everyone, i.e., with what is available to both me and Others (the “they” that forms the grammatical third person). Both perspectives are one sided in that each presupposes the other for its intelligibility. The third-person perspective is Cartesian and, as I show, privileges space, while the first-person perspective is social in Levinas’s sense and presupposes time. Our reality, I argue, embraces both perspectives and is, in fact, set by their intertwining.

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