The Second Person Perspective

Erkenntnis 86 (6):1-19 (2019)
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Recent philosophical developments on personal indexicals reveal a disagreement between those who defend and those who deny the existence of a distinctive class of second person thoughts. In this piece, I tackle this controversy by highlighting two crucial constraints based on paradigmatic felicitous singular uses of the second person pronoun. On the one hand, the Addressing Constraint is brought out by the awareness and action capabilities displayed in successfully addressing another. On the other hand, the Merging Constraint arises, among other things, from the fact that ‘I’/‘you’-exchanges ground intersubjective disagreement. Once these constraints are fully in view, I go on to show that they pose a challenging dilemma for any account of the second person and that the chasm between friends and foes of the distinctness of second person thought is better seen as endorsements of one of the horns of the dilemma. In reaction to this, I outline a way of accommodating both constraints in terms of ‘perspectives’, i.e. ways of thinking of a reference that do not individuate a thought. On the recommended approach, the second person perspective is cognitively distinctive but does not itself signal the existence of a distinctive second person type of thought. By contrast, a single type of thought about selves expressible with personal indexicals—the self-thought type—can be shown to comprise the third, the second and, perhaps surprisingly, the first person perspective. Unlike other perspectival approaches, the here proposed analysis relies on an elucidation of perspectives in terms of specific information on which a thinker draws made available by a concept-individuating reference rule.



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Víctor M. Verdejo
Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Citations of this work

Perspectives on de se immunity.Víctor M. Verdejo - 2021 - Synthese 198 (10):10089-10107.
On the self-ascription of deafferented bodily action.Víctor M. Verdejo - 2023 - Philosophical Explorations 26 (3):324-342.

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