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Phenomenology's Depiction of the Three-Layered Structure of Human Relationships

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Phenomenology in a Co-creative Workplace


In this chapter, the final chapter of Part 1, adult human relationships were explained through a three-layered structure: the first stage of passive intersubjectivity formed by affective communication established in infancy, the second stage of active intersubjectivity through linguistic communication facilitating social activities, and the third stage where the most creative human activities occur. This three-layer structure integrates Martin Buber's distinction between I–Thou and I–It relationships. Affective communication at the first stage is developed during the I–Thou relationships of infancy, while the second stage, driven by linguistic communication, predominantly involves I–It relationships, within which the I–Thou relationships of adults can emerge. Thus, the realization of I–Thou relationships in the workplace necessitates three conditions: (1) the establishment of a conducive workplace environment, (2) genuine dialogue where individuals wholeheartedly engage in problem-solving through a thorough I–It relationship, and (3) understanding the establishment of workplace relationships through the interplay of affective and linguistic communication. Finally, the chapter discusses the SECI model by Ikujirō Nonaka, which utilizes Michael Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge and highlights the incorporation of phenomenological intersubjectivity theory to promote collaborative research between spiral knowledge creation and phenomenological eidetic intuition.

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  1. 1.

    For an English translation, I recommend Walter Kaufmann’s translation, I and Thou (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970).

  2. 2.

    For Husserl's basic theory of human relationships, please refer to Chapter 8, To “feel” the pain of others, in Ichiro Yamaguchi's The Beginning of Phenomenology.

  3. 3.

    Eugen Herrigel (1884–1955), a neo-Kantian philosopher, was invited to Tohoku University as a visiting professor in 1924 and taught philosophy until 1929. During this time, he studied Japanese archery under Awa Kenzo, who advocated Kyu(bow) Zen Unity, and mastered the fifth rank. This experience is described in Zen in the Art of Archery.

  4. 4.

    See Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery, Translated by R. Hull (Penguin Books, 1988).

  5. 5.

    For a phenomenological analysis of the process leading up to the realization of this mindless bow, see Ichiro Yamaguchi, The Culture-living Body (in Japanese) (Chisen Shokan, 2004), pp. 100–109.

  6. 6.

    See Masao Maekawa and Ikujiro Nonaka, Why Maekawa Jumps (pp. 178–179) for a discussion of the establishment of work in which the entire group is united in mindless co-creation.

  7. 7.

    See Csikszentmihalyi  (1990).

  8. 8.

    See M. Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Perennial, 1996).

  9. 9.

    See M. Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (Routledge, 1966).

  10. 10.

    For a detailed discussion contrasting tacit knowledge and Husserl's concept of passive synthesis, see Ichiro Yamaguchi, The Origin and Aim of Emergence (in Japanese) (Chisen Shokan, 2018), Part II, Chapter 3, Tacit Knowledge and Passive Synthesis.

  11. 11.

    See Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation (Oxford University Press, 1995). For a co-creative study between phenomenology and business management, see Ikujiro Nonaka and Ichiro Yamaguchi, Management by Eidetic Intuition: Dynamic Management Theory Predicated on the “Philosophy of Empathy” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).


  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.

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Correspondence to Emiko Tsuyuki .

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Tsuyuki, E., Yamaguchi, I. (2024). Phenomenology's Depiction of the Three-Layered Structure of Human Relationships. In: Phenomenology in a Co-creative Workplace. Springer, Singapore.

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