Sharing Time in We-Experiences: A Critical Merleau-Pontian Re-Reading of Schütz’ Tuning-In Relationship


  • Rachel Elliott University of Exeter



Schütz’ tuning-in relationship designates sharing time as the ground of we-experiences, but the Husserlian account of time that he relies upon for this argument seems to undermine the very possibility of doing so. I argue that Merleau-Ponty’s conception of temporality offers a more plausible account of shared time via the ‘transferability’ of the body schema. Disability theorists and critical phenomenologists, however, would remind us that any account of we-experiences must recognize bodily difference. I argue that bodies of diverse motilities can come to share a body schema without risk of ‘forced time compliance’ if we jettison synchronization and embrace improvisation as a paradigm for schematic sharing: I use the example of collective free improvisation to illustrate flexible, emergent, and bidirectional body schemas that, I claim, circumvent the assimilationist tendencies looming in any account of we-experiences premised upon bodily sameness.

Peer review process: Double-anonymous peer review


Angelino, Lucia. 2019. “Motor Intentionality and the Intentionality of Improvisation: A Contribution to a Phenomenology of Musical Improvisation.” Continental Philosophy Review 52 (2): 203–224.

———. 2020. “Collective Intentionality and the Further Challenge of Collective Free Improvisation.” Continental Philosophy Review 53 (1): 49–65.

Borgo, David. 2002. “Negotiating Freedom: Values and Practices in Contemporary Improvised Music.” Black Music Research Journal 22 (2): 165–88.

———. 2022. Sync or Swarm: Improvising Music in a Complex Age, rev. ed. Bloomsbury Academic.

Bratman, Michael. 1987. Intention, Plans, and Practical Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

———. 2014. Shared Agency: A Planning Theory of Acting Together. Oxford University Press.

Fanon, Frantz. 2008. Black Skin White Masks. Pluto Books.

Fuchs, Thomas. 2014. “The Virtual Other: Empathy in the Age of Virtuality.” Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (5–6): 152–73.

Gallagher, Shaun. 2005. How the Body Shapes the Mind. Oxford: Clarendon.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. 1999. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

Gilbert, Margaret. 1990. “Walking Together: A Paradigmatic Social Phenomenon.” MidWest Studies in Philosophy 15: 1–14.

Guenther, Lisa. 2019. “Critical Phenomenology.” In 50 Concepts for a Critical Phenomenology, edited by Gail Weiss, Ann V. Murphy, and Gayle Salamon, 11–17. Northwestern University Press.

Higgins, Kathleen Marie. 2012. The Music between Us: Is Music a Universal Language? Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1990. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. Translated by Richard Taft. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Husserl, Edmund. 1964. The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness. Translated by James S Churchill Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

———. 1982. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated by F. Kersten. The Hague, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.

———. 2001. Analysis Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis. Translated by Anthony J. Steinbok. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Kelly, Michael R. 2015. “The Subject as Time: Merleau-Ponty’s Transition from Phenomenology to Ontology.” In Time, Memory, Institution: Merleau-Ponty’s New Ontology of Self, edited by David Morris and Kym Maclaren, 199–216. Ohio University Press.

Kim, Joohan. 2001. “Phenomenology of Digital-Being.” Human Studies 24 (1/2): 87–111.

Kortooms, Antonie J. M. 2011. Phenomenology of Time: Edmund Husserl’s Analysis of Time-Consciousness. Dordrecht: Springer.

Kozak, Mariusz. 2020. Enacting Musical Time: The Bodily Experience of New Music. Oxford University Press.

Krueger, Joel. 2012. “Seeing Mind in Action.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11 (2): 149–73.

Lewis, George E. 1996. “Improvised Music after 1950: Afrological and Eurological Perspectives.” Black Music Research Journal 16 (1): 91–122.

Lohmar, Dieter, and Ichiro Yamaguchi. 2010. On Time: New Contributions to the Husserlian Phenomenology of Time. Dordrecht: Springer.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1945. Phénoménologie de la perception. Gallimard.

———. 1962. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Colin Smith. New York, NY: Routledge.

———. 1968. The Visible and the Invisible. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

———. 1971. The Primacy of Perception: And Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics. Translated by James M. Edie. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

———. 1988. Merleau-Ponty à la Sorbonne : résumé de cours, 1949–1952. Paris: Cynara.

———. 2010. Child Psychology and Pedagogy: The Sorbonne Lectures 1949–1952. Northwestern University Press.

Morris, David. 2004. The Sense of Space. Albany: State University of New York Press.

———. 2018. Merleau-Ponty’s Developmental Ontology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Osler, Lucy. 2020. “Feeling Togetherness Online: A Phenomenological Sketch of Online Communal Experiences.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (3): 569–88.

Osler, Lucy, and Joel Krueger. 2021. “Taking Watsuji Online: Betweenness and Expression in Online Spaces.” Continental Philosophy Review 1: 1–23.

Polite, Brandon. 2019. “Shared Musical Experiences.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 59 (4): 429–47.

Rodemeyer, Lanei M. 2006. Intersubjective Temporality: It’s About Time. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Saladin, Matthieu. 2012. “Between Affects: Improvised Dialogism and Collective Production,” In The Tiger’s Mind, edited by Beatrice Gibson and Will Holder, 41–52. Berlin: Sternberg Press.

Searle, John. Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Schütz, Alfred. 1972. Collected Papers I: The Problem of Social Reality. Edited by Maurice Natanson. Springer: Netherlands.

———. 1976. Collected Papers II: Studies in Social Theory. Edited by Arvid Brodersen. The Hague, The Netherlands: Martin Nijhoff.

Solli, Mattias and Thomas Netland. 2021. “Enacting a Jazz Beat: Temporality in Sonic Environment and Symbolic Communication.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 61 (4): 485–504.

St. Pierre, Joshua. 2015. “Distending Straight‐Masculine Time: A Phenomenology of the Disabled Speaking Body.” Hypatia 30 (1): 49–65.

Tarr, Bronwyn, Jacques Launay, and Robin I.M. Dunbar. 2016. “Silent Disco: Dancing in Synchrony Leads to Elevated Pain Thresholds and Social Closeness.” Evolution and Human Behavior 37 (5): 343–49.

Tuomela, Raimo. 2013. Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wehrle, Maren. 2020. “Being a Body and Having a Body. The Twofold Temporality of Embodied Intentionality.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (3): 499–521.

Weiss, Gail. 2011. “Sharing Time across Unshared Horizons.” In Time in Feminist Phenomenology, edited by Christina Schües, Dorothea E. Olkowski, and Helen A. Fielding, 171–88. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Zahavi, Dan. 2014. Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———. 2019. “Second-Person Engagement, Self-Alienation, and Group-Identification.” Topoi 38 (1): 251–60.