Joint attention and understanding others

Synthesis Philosophica 29 (2):235-251 (2014)
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In this paper I criticize theory-biased and overly individualist approaches to understanding others and introduce the PAIR account of joint attention as a pragmatic, affectively charged intentional relation. I argue that this relation obtains in virtue of intentional contents in the minds of the co-attenders, and – against the received understanding of intentional states as propositional attitudes – that we should recognize what I call “subject mode” and “position mode” intentional content. Based on findings from developmental psychology, I propose that subject mode content represents the co-attenders as co-subjects, who are like them and who are at least disposed to act jointly with them. I conclude by arguing that in joint attention we experience and understand affective, actional and perceptual relations at a non-conceptual level prior to the differentiation of mind and body.

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Michael Schmitz
University of Vienna


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