2022 – 2024: The Experience of Alienness: Between Responsivity and Transposability


Recenty, phenomenology proved to be a philosophical movement capable of bringing significant contributions to a wide interdisciplinary landscape. Beyond the ongoing debates concerning the various configurations and adaptations of the phenomenological method to different research fields, there is still a need to better grasp its the boundaries. We set out from the idea that one of these limit-phenomena is alienness (Fremdheit)–a phenomenon that challenges phenomenology regarding a wider perspective of the constitution of intersubjectivity, world, and community. We deal with the experience of alienness in three important moments of phenomenology: Husserl’s theory of intersubjectivity, Waldenfels’ criticism of it, and Heidegger’s early phenomenology. First, we aim to clarify the basic concepts of a phenomenology of alienness as the appear in Husserl’s works on intersubjectivity. In light of this, we discuss Waldenfels’ critical account, emphasizing the main disagreements regarding how Husserl understand the possibility or impossibility of the experience of alienness. We argue that a similar loss of experiential ground takes place with the arising of alienness in Heidegger formal-indicative phenomenological discourse. This is relevant for our project since Heidegger develops a methodology grounded on a notion of self-transposing (sich versetzen) radically different than Husserl’s concept of empathy (Einfühlung) and can shed light on new key aspects of the experience of alienness.


  • Project director: Dr. Alexandru BEJINARIU
  • Project title: The Experience of Alienness: Between Responsivity and Transposability
  • Project code: PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2021-0735
  • Contract no.: PD 38
  • Program: Postdoctoral research (PD) projects
  • Financed by: UEFISCDI
  • Period of Time: April 2022 – March 2024
  • Funding: 249.964 lei


Current team:


  • International conference Phenomenology and the Limits of Experience, University of Bucharest, 21-23 September 2023. Conference is organized with the support of the following projects: PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2021-0735, PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2021-0753, PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2020-0791, PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2020-0479. Organizing Committee: Alexandru Bejinariu, Remus Breazu, Cristian Ciocan, Christian Ferencz-Flatz, Paul Marinescu;

January—March 2024

In the third stage of the project (January 2024 – March 2024), Dr. Alexandru Bejinariu finalized the research conducted in the former stage, focusing on the possibility of a formal indicative approach to Waldenfels’ concept of responsibility. The research concluded by following two main lines:

(1) The development of a formal indicative approach to the phenomenon of the alien

 The goal of this research phase was, on the one hand, to show the compatibility between Heidegger’s early formal indicative phenomenology and Waldenfels’ account of responsivity, and, on the other hand, to specify how the former can overcome some central issues of the latter. For this, we reconstructed the core traits of the theory of responsivity and argued that while it avoids the pitfall of reducing the alien to the self by subsuming it to a common meaning, it does this at the cost of displacing the alien beyond the limits of experience. Hence, what Waldenfels devises as a “responsive reduction” meant to overcome intentionality opens an unbridgeable rift between the basic response and its articulation in the sphere of experience and meaning. To mitigate this issue, we showed that a wider understanding of the meaning-functions of language is required, i.e., that not all language subsumes phenomena to general meanings. This is the case, we argued, with Heidegger’s notion of formalization that, unlike generalization, allows for the phenomenon to express itself in its own words, so to say. We revealed that formalizations, for Heidegger, are described by (a) their uncanny (Unheimlich) character, (b) their non-ordering nature, and (c) by the fact that they facilitate a gaze turning from the “what” of the phenomenon toward the “how” of relating to it—which are all also key moments of Waldenfels’ responsive phenomenology. Finally, this continuity attests the possibility of a formal indicative solution to the highlighted issue.

(2) The study of the animal phenomenon as a case of radical alienness

This final phase of our research aimed to clarify the importance of Heidegger’s notions of transposition (sich versetzen) and accompanying (mitgehen) for a formal indicative phenomenology of the alien. To this extent we analysed the use of these concepts in Heidegger’s early lectures, as well as in his later lecture of 1929/30. While the concept of accompanying is Heidegger’s reply to the reflective method of Husserlian phenomenology, transposition represents his own rethinking of the usual concept of empathy. Though already in his early lectures these concepts are connected with experiences of alienness, like that of a foreigner entering the lecture hall, or of the lived-experience of early Christian communities, in the lecture of 1929/30 they relate to an extreme case of alienness, namely that of animality. In this context, we analysed Heidegger’s account of world poverty of the animal which has to do with its refusal to allow any factical (but not principial) transposition and accompanying of its experience. Hence, we argued that the question of how is it possible for the alien’s demand to touch one and determine their basic response can be further elaborated along the lines of transposability and its factical modalizations. This, as we saw in the case of animality, allows for a differentiated understanding of responsivity correlative to the manifold of alien experiences (interspecies, intercultural, etc.).

In this stage we also engaged in editorial tasks regarding the special issue “Phenomenology and the Limits of Experience” (co-edited with Dr. Cristian Ciocan and Dr. Remus Breazu), accepted for publication in the journal Human Studies.


In the second stage of the project (January 2023 – December 2023), Dr. Alexandru Bejinariu focused both on Bernhard Waldenfels’ critique of Husserl’s theory of alien-experience, as well as on his contributions to a new responsive phenomenology of the alien. The research followed two main lines:

1. A reconsideration of Waldenfels’ critique in the context of recent developments in the state-of-the-art:

Our investigations focused on Waldenfels’ approach and critique of some of Husserl’s basic concepts of his theory of alien-experience, such as accessibility, primordial sphere, and analogizing. Considering the way in which Husserl understands intersubjective experience starting from a sphere of total presence, our endeavour developed a new perspective on Waldenfels’ critique by connecting Husserl’s later approach to his earlier account of alien-experience based on indication. Another research direction regarded the status of the primordial sphere in Husserl’s genetic procedure, highlighting its characteristic of abstraction and not as a real stage in the constitution of intersubjectivity. We also studied Waldenfels’ take on Husserl’s conception of the alter ego as an intentional modification that leads to his argument concerning the bursting of alienness in the sphere of ownness due to the self-transgression of the self in apperceiving the other not just as a mere mirroring of itself. By drawing on Husserl’s sensible foundations of alien-experience, we also developed an original approach consisting in a olfactory-centric perspective on the apprehension of the foreigner. To this extent, we also undertook a phenomenological critique of Tellenbach’s consideration on smell and atmospheres, discussed a series of historical studies on the relation between smell and foreigners, and showed how the specific intentional structures of olfaction transform what Waldenfels calls structural foreignness into a radical one thus allowing for the maintaining of the essential alienness of the foreigner. Some of the partial results of our investigations have been presented in the talk “Sensations of foreigness,” Annual NOSP Conference Sensory methodologies, 27–29 April, Reykjavik, Iceland, and further developed in an article currently under review at a WoS journal.

2. A critical investigation of Waldenfels’ fundamental aspects of his responsive theory of alien-experience:

The second activity of this stage developed further the critical analyses of Waldenfels’ basic concepts of his responsive phenomenology of the alien. We focused primarily on what Waldenfels’ identifies as cultural and theoretical strategies of taming alienness, namely the reducing of the alien to the own – like in the case of empathy, mirroring or analogizing –, and the absorption of own and alien into a general. This latter strategy is seen at work by Waldenfels’ in Husserl’s theory of alien-experience that implying an experiencing of the alter ego subsumes it to the encompassing frame of rationality. We further investigated Waldenfels’ own view of the alien as an appeal and unfulfillable claim to which we cannot but respond. The alien thus is no longer considered as a “who” or a “what” but as a “where” (topological approach) from which the event of interpellation occurs. In this context, we brought forth the original hypothesis that a consideration of Husserl’s later theory in light of his earlier account of indications based on obscure motivations and felt connections can show how an experience of the alter ego is possible without its capturing in a sphere of common meaning or inteligibility. Starting from the frame of Waldenfels’ theory of claim and response, we extend our endeavour toward a comparative investigation of what Husserl called “We-subjectivity” and its constitution in the communicative commonalization. In light of this, we approached Waldenfels’ notions of demarcation, inclusion and exclusion as processes of the distinguishing of the alien. Some of the partial results of this activity have been presented in the talk „Jedermann’s View on the Limits of Alien-Experience,” at the international conference Phenomenology and the Limits of Experience, 21–23 September 2023, Bucharest.

In this stage we also undertook a research stay (12 June – 23 July) at the Husserl and Waldenfels Archives at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and co-organized the international conference Phenomenology and the Limits of Experience.

April—December 2022

In the first stage of the project (April 2022 – December 2022), Dr. Alexandru Bejinariu focused on the experiential grounds of Husserl’s polysemic concept of alien and proceeded following three main thematic lines:

1. A study of the role of experience in Husserl’s phenomenological approach to alienness

The research started from the way in which the theory of alien experience appears and is developed for the first time in Husserl’s thought in the first edition of his Logical Investigations (LI, 1900/01). This endeavour sheds light on an aspect of this theory that was mostly neglected until now in the literature, namely the relation between Husserl’s methodological framework of the LI and his account of our intuitive access to alien mental life. For this, we investigated the main traits of how Husserl establishes phenomenology as a scientific method aimed at elucidating logical concepts and the specific way in which he conceives the experience of the alien on the basis of indication in the frame of his more general goal of elaborating a theory of meaning.

 2. The analysis of the fundamental concepts of the phenomenology of alienness in the context of Husserl’s theory of empathy

The main goal of this activity was to develop a new approach to the Husserlian theory of empathy (developed from 1905 onwards) from the until now obscure continuities between it and Husserl’s fundamental concepts that defined his phenomenology of alienness in his earlier account of LI. Although Husserl no longer conceives empathy in terms of indication, the results of our analysis of the indicative alien experience in the LI and how it functions on the base of association highlight a series of complicities between these accounts that can shed a new light on the development of Husserl’s thought. At the same time, this complicities reveal an important challenge that Husserl’s account of alien experience as an indication of the alien mind raises for the reductive method of LI. Some of the results concerning this issue were presented by the project director in his talk “Phenomenology as a science and the challenge of the alien,” at the Annual Conference of the Central and East European Society for Phenomenology: Phenomenology and Science, 13-15 September 2022, University of Padova.

3. An investigation into Husserl’s theory of anomality and liminal experiences as species of alienness

Bringing together the results of the former research lines, this final topic of our investigation approaches Husserl’s later thought and themes of his genetic phenomenology like habituality, typification and their relation to his mature theory of alien experience and the constitution of the norms that guide our relation with the other. We thus reframe our research questions in terms of the essential absence of the other in our primordial sphere. In this context, we investigated how the specific class of empathic presentification relate to other types of presentifications like memories, anticipations, or image consciousness. Regarding the latter, we studied in light of Husserl’s theory of image consciousness the fictitious liminal imagistic experience instantiated in Edgar Allan Poe’s Oval Portrait and identified what can be called the “alienness of image” as a species of the radical absence at the heart of alien experience. In this final activity of the stage, the project director participated with the talk “Stranietatea imaginii și imaginea străinului” (“The alienness of the image and the imagination of the alien”) at the Annual Conference of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology: Imaginea ca problemă fenomenologică (The image as a phenomenological problem), 25-26 November 2022, Faculty of Philosophy, Bucharest, and submitted the paper “On Husserl’s Theory of Alien Experience in the Logical Investigations” for publication in the journal Philosophia (WoS – AHCI Q3).




  • Alexandru Bejinariu, Stranietatea imaginii și imaginarea străinului, at the Annual Conference of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology: Imaginea ca problemă fenomenologică, 25-26 November 2022, Faculty of Philosophy, Bucharest;
  • Alexandru Bejinariu, Phenomenology as a science and the challenge of the alien, at the Annual Conference of the Central and East European Society for Phenomenology: Phenomenology and Science, 13-15 September 2022, University of Padova.