Felipe León / Shared experiences and other minds

photo-on-30-09-16-at-19-40-smallIn spite of the increasing attention that the we-perspective and shared experiences have gained across different disciplines, the interpersonal foundations of shared experiences have remained, somewhat surprisingly, considerably unexplored in the philosophical literature. The fact that influential accounts of agency address shared agency as a follow-up topic, i.e., mainly against the backdrop of already worked-out accounts of individual agency, seems to have led to a double lacuna: firstly, of varieties of sharing different from shared intentions, and, secondly, of how certain forms of shared agency may build upon more elementary forms of interpersonal engagements, such as joint attention and affective sharing.

In my PhD thesis, Shared experiences and other minds, I address mainly the first lacuna by focusing on joint attention and interpersonally shared emotions. I first discuss three philosophical approaches to understanding joint attention and argue for one of them insofar as it is able to meet a set of independently motivated desiderata. However, in spite of its advantages, the approach that I favor doesn’t shed much light on two desiderata that, I suggest, are equally crucial: Phenomenology and Other Minds. I then argue that this approach can be supplemented by some ideas derived from Alfred Schutz’ analysis of the we-relationship, more specifically, by his proposal that the latter is constituted by a pre-reflective interlocking of different subjects’ experiences, arising from the reciprocal, embodied and unmediated apprehension of one another as a ‘you’.

I further propose that this framework for thinking about the structure of interpersonally shared experiences can be enriched by considering how processes of interpersonal attunement and group identification may lead to a tighter integration of participants in experiential sharing and to more stable we-identities.

Finally, I explore how the proposed account stands with respect to some pathological disruptions of shared experiences in autism and schizophrenia. Instead of conceptualizing some of the social impairments in autism and schizophrenia as consequences of a deficit in meta-representational capacities, the proposed account of interpersonally shared experiences suggests that the problem is located in the capacity to partake in pre-reflective second-personal engagement with others, and to attune to them in reciprocal interactions.

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