Imagining Oneself Being Someone Else: The Role of the Self in the Shoes of Another

Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (9-10):205-225 (2014)
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Proceeding from a distinction between imagining oneself in another person’s situation and imagining oneself being someone else, this article attempts to elucidate what the latter type of imagining consists in. Previous attempts at spelling out the phenomenon fail to properly account for the role of the self, or rather every individual’s unique point of view. An alternative view is presented, where the concept of imagining oneself being someone else is explained in terms of a distinction between and a co-running of the imaginer’s own perspective and that of the target individual. It is further argued that while we can imagine about an individual without imagining her having any of her actual properties, to meaningfully imagine oneself being someone else the imaginer needs to ascribe at least some qualitative property to the target individual for the imaginative project to get off the ground. Finally, the concept of empathy is used to illustrate the analysis provided, and the imagining oneself being someone else is in turn used to cast light on what is to be understood as genuine empathy.
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