Intersubjectivity- Merlau-Ponty

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Jul 22 15:23:12 MDT 1995


My interest in this thread was in a previous form: whether there
is a common psychological field which provides the ground for the working
both of the law of value and for a much wider set of all human interactive
processes. A previous title of the thread was "Value, psychological and

I found Seamus's references to intersubjectivity intriguing but too
allusive and elusive. Kerry I found helpful where he says

"It would seem to me that Marxism has an implicit theory of
intersubjectivity - materialism.  As meaning and intent are grounded and
arise out of the relations between people who are situated in particular
locations of their material reality which constitute their
"consciousness", the theory necessarily is implied, IMO."

Unlike Jon and Jukka, I will buy that pat. I am fully satisfied that
there is a continuity between this and the marxist epistemological
theory of reflection, in the tangle of neurones that is the only
material basis for our minds.

And because in the patterns sustained and modified constantly in our
10^11 neurones, this includes reflection upon mirrored reflection of the
consciousness of others, there is indeed a continuum between the individual
consciousness and the social.

This is vital for demystifying the capitalist economy and the law of
value. Whereas trade in most substances between precapitalist societies
relates in a fairly conscious way to their labour content, the
circulation of commodities in a capitalist society relates *consciously*
to their prices, and it is through the *non-conscious* network of all
human connections that the law of value *manifests* itself.

As for intersubjectivity:

I am glad that Jukka thinks I may clarify things. I find some of the
discussion so allusive that I am lost. I have however tracked down the
one occasion when I read about intersubjectivity and it impressed me.
It was a private paper by a group analyst drawing parallels between
Foulkes's theory of the individual, group, and social matrix, and inter-
subjectivity. The latter concept was particularly developed by
Maurice Merlau-Ponty, and at the risk of giving Ralph the vapours
or more probably flatulence [Ralph, that is a rather French-sounding
surname you have,  unlike my sound Anglo-Saxon one!] I will lift some
quotes by this French phenomenologist from the original paper.

To the extent
that this represents a systematic statement of a concept of subjectivity,
then people can perhaps comment on whether it is compatible with marxism
or not. (It is however more complex than Kerry's stab at a

"Dfn:	Intersubjectivity - the capacity of knowing what another person
actually intended."


"When I think of Paul, I do not think of a flow of private sensations
indirectly related to mine through the medium of interposed signs, but of
someone who has a living experience of the same world as mine, as well as
the same history, and with whom I am in communication through that world
and that history ... the world is the *field* of our experience!
[1962, pp 405/6]

"Solipsism would be strictly true only of someone who managed to be
tacitly aware of his existence without being or doing anything, which
is impossible, since existing is being in and of the world ...
subjectivity is a revealed subjectivity, revealed to itself and to
others, and it is for that reason an intersubjectivity." [1962, p361]

"(The) subject is no longer alone, is no longer consciousness in general
or pure being-for-itself. He is in the midst of other consciousnesses
which likewise have a situation." [1964, p134]

"In the experience of dialogue, there is constituted between the other
person and myself a common ground; my thought and his are interwoven
into a single fabric, my words and those of my interlocutor are
called forth by the state of the discussion, and they are inserted
into a shared opinion of which neither of us is the creator." [1962, p354]

Sounds rather like this list.

Marxist? Why not?

Chris Burford, London

References: Maurice Merlau-Ponty

1962: "Phenomenology of Perception" tr. by Colin Smith, Routledge, London.

1964: "Sense and Non-Sense" tr. by H.L. and Patricia Allen Dreyfus,
Northwestern University Press, USA.

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