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Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 21, 2021

From Witnessing to Testimony

Gert-Jan van der Heiden
Pages 21-39

Testimony and Engagement: On the Four Elements of Witnessing

In order to develop a hermeneutic-phenomenological analysis of testimony, this essay will first argue that testimony is “said in many ways” without being homonymous and that contemporary epistemological approaches to testimony are not capable of accounting for all paradigmatic forms of testimony. Second, it is argued, following and extending the work of Paul Ricoeur, that by emphasizing the sense of engagement or Bezogenheit as a basic characteristic of testimony, we may find another approach to testimony that offers a phenomenological alternative to the observational model of witnessing and the accompanying conception of testimony as report. Third, this approach is further developed and analyzed in terms of the four elements of testimony, namely, subject matter, witness, act of testifying, and addressee.