Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 737–751 | Cite as

Violence as violation of experiential structures

  • Thiemo BreyerEmail author


Violence has become a prominent topic in recent phenomenological investigations. In this paper, I wish to contribute to this ongoing discourse by looking at violence in a literal sense as violation of experiential structures, insofar as it is intentionally, purposefully, and strategically imposed on a subject by another agent (individual or collective). Phenomenology provides the descriptive methodology for elucidating such structures. The violation can take the form of a radicalization, in which one of the aspects of polar experiential spectra becomes predominant, i.e. the balance between them is shifted to one extreme. I focus on the relationship between self and other on the one hand, and the relationship between body-as-subject and body-as-object on the other, as prominent topoi in the phenomenological literature. With regard to torture and solitary confinement as forms of extreme violence, I analyze how these structures are disturbed.


Embodiment Intersubjectivity Pain Isolation Violence Violation 



I wish to thank the participants of the Mellon Seminar on “Violence and Non-Violence” at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments. The research for this paper was carried out within the research project “Visibility and Empathy” (FN 88318), which was generously funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the HumanitiesUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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