Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Situational confidence is a quality of tact.


The interesting thing about tact is precisely that it is insensitive to traditional theory-practice distinctions. At the same time we know intuitively that tact must always remain receptive to the experiential and situated context of human life. In other words, tact should neither be seen as a theoretical form of knowledge nor as pretheoretical social practice; and while the notion of tact is inherently a factor of personal style of individuals, it is also at the same time inherently an intersubjective, social, and cultural ethical notion.


The more thoughtful and reflective a person stands in life, and the more a person has been formed by hermeneutic and phenomenological understandings, the more likely that this person wil be able to act confidently in situations marked by contingency and uncertainty. In fact, one could regard the “knowledge” of tact as a certain kind of confidence: of knowing how to act in unexpected situations and relations. Thus phenomenological learning provides the person with situational confidence (rather than with a set of behavioral codes or skills).