Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Interpretive sensibility is a quality of tact.


Tact consists in a certain perceptiveness and this perceptiveness depends on the sensitive ability of interpreting inner thoughts, understandings, feelings, and desires from indirect clues or evidence such as gestures, demeanor, expressions, and body language. But this is not necessarily an abstract, detached, or even explicitly cognitive process. Tact involves the ability of immediately “seeing through” motives or cause and effect relations. A tactful person is able to “interpret” or “read” as it were the inner life of the other person. The competence of tact consists in this ability to interpretively sensing the psychological and social significance of the features of the inner life.


Moreover, tact grows out of a reflective life. Consequently, a tactful person tends to also have reflective or scholarly tact. For example, tact would know how to interpret the phenomenological significance of shyness, hostility, frustration, rudeness, joy, anger, tenderness, grief (etc.) for particular persons in concrete situations.