Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 245–266 | Cite as

Individualism versus interactionism about social understanding

  • Judith Martens
  • Tobias Schlicht


In the debate about the nature of social cognition we see a shift towards theories that explain social understanding through interaction. This paper discusses autopoietic enactivism and the we-mode approach in the light of such developments. We argue that a problem seems to arise for these theories: an interactionist account of social cognition makes the capacity of shared intentionality a presupposition of social understanding, while the capacity of engaging in scenes of shared intentionality in turn presupposes exactly the kind of social understanding that it is intended to explain. The social capacity in question that is presupposed by these accounts is then analyzed in the second section via a discussion and further development of Searle’s ‘sense of us’ and ‘sense of the other’ as a precondition for social cognition and joint action. After a critical discussion of Schmid’s recent proposal to analyze this in terms of plural pre-reflective selfawareness, we develop an alternative account. Starting from the idea that infants distinguish in perception between physical objects and other agents we distinguish between affordances and social affordances and cash out the notion of a social affordance in terms of “interaction-oriented representations”, parallel to the analysis of object affordances in terms of “action-oriented representations”. By characterizing their respective features we demonstrate how this approach can solve the problem formulated in the first part.


Social cognition Enactivism Interaction Joint action Affordances Sense of us We-mode Sense of the other 


  1. Apperly, I., & Butterfill, S. A. (2009). Do humans have Two systems to track beliefs and belief-like states? Psychological Review, 116(4), 953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barresi, J., & Moore, C. (1996). Intentional relations and social understanding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 19, 107–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Butterfill, S. A. (2013). Interacting mindreaders. Philosophical Studies, 165(3), 841–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Butterfill, S. A., & Apperly, I. A. (2013). How to construct a minimal theory of mind. Mind and Language, 28(5), 606–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carey, S. (2009). The origin of concepts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chemero, A. (2003). An outline of a theory of affordances. Ecological Psychology, 15(2), 181–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chemero, A. (2009). Radical embodied cognitive science. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, A. (1997). Being there: Putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Costall, A. (1995). Socializing affordances. Theory & Psychology, 5(4), 467–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Csibra, G., & Gergely, G. (2009). Natural pedagogy. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(4), 148–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. de Jaegher, H., & Di Paolo, E. (2007). Participatory sense-making. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6(4), 485–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. de Jaegher, H., Di Paolo, E., & Gallagher, S. (2010). Can social interaction constitute social cognition? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(10), 441–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eilan, N. (ed.) (2014). The Second Person. Special Issue of Philosophical Explorations 17(3).Google Scholar
  14. Frith, C. D. (2007). Making up the mind: How the brain creates Our mental world. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. Frith, C. D., Frith, U. (2012). Mechanisms of social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 287–313.Google Scholar
  16. Gallagher, S. (2001). The practice of mind: Theory, simulation or primary interaction? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8(5–7), 83–108.Google Scholar
  17. Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gallotti, M., & Frith, C. (2013). Social cognition in the We-mode. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4), 160–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  20. Goldman, A. (2006). Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldman, A., & de Vignemont, F. (2009). Is social cognition embodied? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(10), 154–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gopnik, A., & Wellman, H. M. (1992). Why the Child’s theory of mind really is a theory. Mind and Language, 7(1–2), 145–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gordon, R. M. (1986). Folk psychology as simulation. Mind and Language, 1(2), 158–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gunther, Y. (ed.) (2003). Essays on nonconceptual content. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Heider, F., & Simmel, M. (1944). An experimental study of apparent behavior. The American Journal of Psychology, 57(2), 243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hutto, D. D. (2004). The limits of spectatorial folk psychology. Mind and Language, 19(5), 548–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hutto, D. D., & Myin, E. (2013). Radicalizing enactivism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jaegher, H. de, DiPaolo, E., Adolphs, R. (2016).What does the interactive brain hypothesis mean for social neuroscience. A dialogue. Phil. Trans. Royal Society B 371, 20150379 (manuscript).Google Scholar
  29. Johnson, M. H. (2005). Subcortical face processing. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 6(10), 766–774.Google Scholar
  30. Johnson, M. H., Dziurawiec, S., Ellis, H., & Morton, J. (1991). Newborns’ preferential tracking of face-like stimuli and its subsequent decline. Cognition, 40(1–2), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kinzler, K., & Spelke, E. (2007). Core systems in human cognition. Progress in Brain Research, 164, 257–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Luhmann, N. (2008). The autopoiesis of social systems. Journal of Sociocybernetics, 6(2), 84–95.Google Scholar
  33. Meltzoff, A. N. (2007). “Like me”: a foundation for social cognition. Developmental Science, 10(1), 126–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Millikan, R.G. (1995). Pushmi-pullyu representations. In: Philosophical Perspectives 9: AI, connectionism, and philosophical psychology. 185200.Google Scholar
  35. Millikan, R. G. (2004). Varieties of meaning. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Noë, A. (2004). Action in perception. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  37. Overgaard, S., & Michael, J. (2013). The interactive turn in social cognition research: A critique. Philosophical Psychology. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2013.827109.Google Scholar
  38. Raczaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., & Rohlfing, K. J. (2013). Young children's dialogical actions: the beginnings of purposeful intersubjectivity. IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development, 5(3), 210–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ramsey, W. M. (2007). Representation reconsidered. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  40. Reddy, V. (2008). How infants know minds. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Reed, E. S. (1996). Encountering the world. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rietveld, E., & Kiverstein, J. (2014). A rich landscape of affordances. Ecological Psychology, 26(4), 325–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rochat, P., Querido, J. G., & Striano, T. (1999). Emerging sensitivity to the timing and structure of protoconversation in early infancy. Developmental Psychology, 35(4), 950–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sartre, J.-P. (1956). Being and nothingness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Schilbach, L., Timmermans, B., Reddy, V., Costall, A., Bente, G., Schlicht, T., & Vogeley, K. (2013). Toward a second-person neuroscience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(4), 393–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schmid, H. B. (2014). Plural self-awareness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 13(1), 7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Searle, J. R. (1983). Intentionality: An essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Searle, J. R. (2002). Collective intentions and actions. In Consciousness and language (pp. 90–105). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shoemaker, S. (1968). Self-reference and self-awareness. Journal of Philosophy, 65, 555–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Siegel, S. (2010). The contents of visual experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Siegel, S. (2014). Affordances and the content of perception. In B. Brogaard (Ed.), Does perception have content? Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Spelke, E. (2000). Core knowledge. American Psychologist, 55, 1233–1243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Harvard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Timmermans, B., Schlicht, T., & Schilbach, L. (2013). Social interaction builds the we-mode. Comment on: Gallotti & frith, social cognition in the We-mode. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4), 160–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tollefsen, D., & Dale, R. (2011). Naturalizing joint action: A process-based approach. Philosophical Psychology, 25(3), 385–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Harvard: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Tronick, E., Als, H., Adamson, S., & Brazelton, B. (1978). The infant’s response to entrapment between contradictory messages in face-to-face interaction. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 17, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Turvey, M. T. (1992). Affordances and prospective control: An outline of the ontology. Ecological Psychology, 4(3), 173–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wheeler, M. (2005). Reconstructing the cognitive world: The next step. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  60. Zahavi, D. (2014). Self and other: Exploring subjectivity, empathy, and shame. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Philosophy IIRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany

Personalised recommendations