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  1. Dan Zahavi and,
  2. Søren Overgaard

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee274

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Zahavi and, D. and Overgaard, S. 2013. Intersubjectivity. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


The notion of intersubjectivity is a relatively new concept. The German term Intersubjektivität made its first sporadic appearance in 1885 in a work by Johannes Volkelt. It was picked up by James Ward and first used in English in 1896. Initially, the concept was used to describe something with universal validity, something that was valid for everybody, something that was valid independently of every subject. This sporadic use of the term subsequently found its way into philosophy of science. The first systematic and extensive philosophical discussion and treatment of the notion of intersubjectivity can, however, be found in the work of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology (see Husserl, Edmund). Although Husserl remained deeply interested in the link between intersubjectivity and objectivity, he ultimately used the former term to designate a plurality of subjects and the relation that exists between them (Husserl 1973). This understanding of the term, which was subsequently taken up by later phenomenologists and which then (through the work of Schütz) found its way into sociology and social theory, places the term alongside related terms such as sociality, social cognition, and interpersonal understanding.


  • twentieth century;
  • continental philosophy;
  • ethics