On the Self, Others, and Experience: Understanding Our Relations with Others as Perceptual Powers Open Access

Belinsky, Scott (Spring 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/2n49t266p?locale=en


This thesis represents a phenomenological study of the self. The thesis provides a developmental account of our sense of self from infancy through adulthood. Primarily drawing upon Merleau-Ponty’s conceptions of intentionality, embodiment, and habit, as well as Russon’s analysis of our familial and social structures, the thesis employs the phenomenological method to study our sense of self as we experience it. From this experienced-based account, I fundamentally propose three core arguments: first, that our sense of self is not as independent from other people as we typically conceive it to be, but instead that our sense of self is an intersubjective accomplishment that is contingent upon our experience of others. Second, that many of our relations with others should not be understood as mere objects of perception, but that these relationships are perceptual in themselves; we do not primarily experience our relationships with other people as mere objects, but rather, we experience the world through these relationships. Lastly, in light of this intersubjective understanding of both the self and the world, the thesis studies language as a form of expression. Ultimately I argue that language should not be understood as merely representational of the self, but rather, as a critical element of our relations with others and, by extension, our very sense of self.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I. The Development of the Self 6

1. Developing a Phenomenological Framework 6

2. Distinction Between Self and Other 13

3. Family as the Originary Other 18

4. Transcendence into the Social World 31

II. Bonds with Others 37

1. Dynamic Nature of the Self 37

2. The Expressive Power of the Bond 42

3. The Integrative Power of the Bond 46

4. Freedom and Creativity 51

5. Conflicting Bonds 57

III. Language as an Intersubjective Power 62

1. Language and Intersubjectivity 62

2. Language as a Perceptual Power 63

3. The Pre-Established Nature of Language 68

4. Expressive and Integrative Powers of Language 71

5. The Creative Power of Language 80

6. The Clarity of Language 85

7. Language and the Self 91

Works Cited 95

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files