Being Perceived and Being “Seen”: Interpersonal Affordances, Agency, and Selfhood

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Are interpersonal affordances a distinct type of affordance, and if so, what is it that differentiates them from other kinds of affordances? In this paper, I show that a hard distinction between interpersonal affordances and other affordances is warranted and ethically important. The enactivist theory of participatory sense-making demonstrates that there is a difference in coupling between agent-environment and agent-agent interactions, and these differences in coupling provide a basis for distinguishing between the perception of environmental and interpersonal affordances. Building further on this foundation for understanding interpersonal affordances, I argue that in line with some enactivist work on social cognition, interpersonal affordances ought to be considered as those that are afforded by agents and are recognized as such. Given this distinction, I also make the point that because our social conventions establish persons as more than mere agents, the direct perception of interpersonal affordances may also involve seeing others as embodied selves. Distinguishing between types of affordances thus also matters ethically: there can be harms done when an agent is not perceived as an agent, and there can be harms done when an agent is not perceived as a self.
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Archival date: 2020-08-06
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