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;


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,” 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 imaginarea 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.