Being With

Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):4–24 (2011)
Abstract
What is it for two or more people to be with one another or together? And what role do empathic psychological processes play, either as essential constituents or as typical elements? As I define it, to be genuinely with each other, persons must be jointly aware of their mutual openness to mutual relating. This means, I argue, that being with is a second-personal phenomenon in the sense I discuss in The Second-Person Standpoint. People who are with each other are in one another's presence, where the latter is a matter of second-personal standing or authority, as in the divine presence or in the king's presence. To be with someone is, therefore, to give the other second-personal standing, implicitly, to claim it for oneself and, thus, to enter into a relation of mutual accountability. Second-personal relating, I argue, requires a distinctive form of empathy, projective empathy, through which we imaginatively occupy others' perspectives and view ourselves as if from their point of view. Projective empathy is thus an essential constituent of “being with.” But it is not the only form of empathy that being with typically involves. Further, I discuss ways in which emotional contagion, affect attunement, as well as projective empathy typically enter into the complex psychological (and ethical) phenomenon of being with another person.
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