In an empathic experience, I become aware of a unique experience through empathic awareness. Then, being led by this experience, I experience an intimate connection through empathic fulfillment. And when this is finished, a new level commences, which I call empathic comprehension.
For Edith Stein, there are three (3) levels of empathic experience. This would mean that empathy lets the subject go through a unique experience, so unique that Stein would say that it is sui generis.
The third, and final, level of empathic experience is the “comprehensive objectification of the explained experience.” This refers to a comprehension of the unique experience of empathy. What happens here is that the subject has finished grasping the other’s experience and therefore recognize it as foreign. In other words, it is the completion of empathy where I recognize the experience as the other’s experience.
Only at this level that I become aware of the non-primordiality of the experience (i.e. the experience is not mine all along). Of course, Stein would say that there is never a fusion of the two subjects (i.e. they do not become one and the same). Nevertheless, the recognition of alterity in an empathic experience happens only at this level.
This level, thus, lets the subject return to how it was in the first level. In the first level, the subject faces the object and connects with it through empathy. Here at the third level, the subject faces the object again, but with a new kind of objectification: a comprehensive understanding of the situation of the other.
Empathic Comprehension In Practice
What does this level look like in practice?
In practice, it looks like this: when after you have “put yourself in the other’s shoes,” you as if say to yourself, “That is his problem, not mine” (of course, not in an insensitive way). There is just, thus, a recognition that the experience that you have undergone through empathy (the second level) is not yours but the other’s.
It is, then, just like coming to your senses.
P.S. A disclosure: “empathic comprehension” is my term as I describe the third level of empathic experience.