The Things of the World: A Social Phenomenology

The Things of the World: A Social Phenomenology

The Things of the World: A Social Phenomenology

The Things of the World: A Social Phenomenology


What does it mean to be a social being in the ordinary life-world? This clear and compelling introduction to social phenomenology examines the experiential features of the basic things comprising our life-world, namely me, you, abstract others (enemies, communities, and associations), and attributes of the lived-body (emotions, pain, and pleasure). Each of these entities is phenomenologically described, with the aim of reducing reports of personal experiences and other primary documents to the presumed prototypical experience of the thing in question--its "ideal essence." Another aim of this study is to sociologically account for how the various entities of the life-world have been "accomplished," that is, how the prototypical experiences of the things in question have come to be. By showing the life-world to be our joint project rather than a fixed, unalterable coherency, this volume destabilizes our naive attitude towards the things of the world.


This book concerns the things of the world: me, you, we, them, and "it." With respect to me, the book deals first of all with my "mind-stuff," the way I see things, think about them, remember them. Of course, the most beguiling object in my line of sight, the object of my most avid ruminations, the preoccupation of my recollections, is my very own self. What is "self" in its various guises -- identity, esteem, and image? Why are they as they are?

Regarding you, I am interested in what appears to be a simple question, "How do I know you?" I take it for granted that knowing you is unproblematic and natural; rarely do I inquire into the basis for this blithe confidence. Is my knowledge of you rational and objective? Or does it rest on feelings of mutuality?

Besides having a mind, I am endowed with flesh. I emote, enjoy things, suffer. Some of my pains are due to illness. What exactly is an illness? How do illnesses arise? Furthermore, why in treating the misfortunes of sickness do we often resort to administering more pain? Concerning pleasure, if it is truly the satisfaction of desire, then how do desires come to be? In particular, why have the limitless possibilities of pleasure been channeled into sexuality? For what reason do we have these obsessions with homosexuality and addiction?

I share the world with others. Some of these are objects of vili-

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