Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

Mitverstrickung. Wilhelm Schapp on the Narratological Structure of Intersubjectivity

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Thursday 2 December 2021

11:30 - 12:10

Zoom 1-1

Wilhelm Schapp was one of the first students of Husserl in Göttingen. His doctoral dissertation entitled Contributions to the Phenomenology of Perception (1910) was of some importance in the early reception of Husserl’s thought, but he is best known for his “philosophy of stories,” a trilogy of works (1953–1965), in which he interprets the question of lifeworld and of man’s being in the world from a narratological perspective. In this talk, I will try to argue that the epistemological structure of his “philosophy of stories” can variously be applied to the analysis of intersubjectivity and the experience of alterity. After a brief overview of the ontological view of man that Schapp offers through his concept of “being-entangled-in-stories,” I will explore another renown concept he developed: “co-entanglement-in-stories.” I would like to show how this concept, which reflects the influence of the psychological notion of “empathy,” is employed by the philosopher as an epistemic tool to explain the comprehension of alterity. This can be achieved through the projection of our stories into the other’s story or by our “immersion” in the stories we all share, if only in very different ways and, sometimes, from opposite perspectives. In this sense, Schapp’s work is effective on a double level: firstly, it brings out the importance of our past stories for the comprehension of others and of our own being in the world; secondly, it offers a solid basis to reverse the relation between stories and narratives, showing how a certain historical or even traumatic event may give rise to multiple narratives that represent different ways, in which the same story emerges from contrasting perspectives (e.g., in the case of the so-called “divided memory”). In Schapp’s philosophy, the concept of “entanglement” in a way replaces the Husserlian one of self-givenness, i.e., the pre-given hermeneutical horizon, in which all experiences are embedded. Co-entanglement, then, means the pre-given openness to the others’ stories. The ways, in which the story emerges, gives us different pictures of the times and events that the people involved in it have experienced. Against the background of this wide range of narrative possibilities, there arises the possibility of the encounter with the other, coinciding with all human beings as potential subjects of an emerging story.