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Intercorporeity and the first-person plural in Merleau-Ponty

  • Philip J. WalshEmail author
Article

Abstract

A theory of the first-person plural occupies a unique place in philosophical investigations into intersubjectivity and social cognition. In order for the referent of the first-person plural—“the We”—to come into existence, it seems there must be a shared ground of communicative possibility, but this requires a non-circular explanation of how this ground could be shared in the absence of a pre-existing context of communicative conventions. Margaret Gilbert’s and John Searle’s theories of collective intentionality capture important aspects of the We, but fail to fully account for this shared ground of communicative possibility. This paper argues that Merleau-Ponty’s concept of intercorporeity helps reconcile the positive aspects of these accounts while also explaining how the genesis of the social world is continuous with perceptual life in general. This enables an account of the first-person plural as dependent on reciprocal communicative interaction (à la Gilbert) without the need to posit a primitive or primordial “we-mode” of consciousness (à la Searle). “Intercorporeity” designates a bodily openness to others that is not fundamentally different in kind from the general style of bodily comportment found in Merleau-Ponty’s rich analyses of perceptual life.

Keywords

First-person plural Collective intentionality Intercorporeity Merleau-Ponty Social cognition Communication 

Notes

Abbreviations

SB

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1963. The Structure of Behavior. Translated by Alden Fischer. Pittsburgh: Dusquene University Press. Structure du Comportment. 1942. Paris: Les Presses Universitaires de France

PhP

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2012. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Donald Landes. New York: Routledge. Phénoménologie de la perception. 1945. Paris: Gallimard

PrP

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History and Politics. Edited by James Edie. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Les relations avec autrui chez l’enfant. 1960. Paris: Centre de Documentation Universitaire

CPP

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2010. Child Psychology and Pedagogy: The Sorbonne Lectures 19491952. Translated by Talia Welsh. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Psychologie et pédagogie de l’enfant: Cours de Sorbonne 19491952. 2001. Paris: Editions Verdier

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fordham UniversityNew YorkUSA

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