Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 187–212 | Cite as

In Defense of Phenomenological Approaches to Social Cognition: Interacting with the Critics

  • Shaun GallagherEmail author


I clarify recently developed phenomenological approaches to social cognition. These are approaches that, drawing on developmental science, social neuroscience, and dynamic systems theory, emphasize the involvement of embodied and enactive processes together with communicative and narrative practices in contexts of intersubjective understanding. I review some of the evidence that supports these approaches. I consider a variety of criticisms leveled against them, and defend the role of phenomenology in the explanation of social cognition. Finally, I show how these phenomenological approaches can solve the “starting problem” of social cognition.


Social Cognition Joint Attention Phenomenological Approach Simulation Theory Folk Psychology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I want to thank Peter Hobson, Dan Hutto, Pierre Jacob, Dorothée Legrand, Jennifer Mundale, Garrett Riggs, Philippe Rochat, Jean-Michel Roy, Dan Zahavi, and the participants of a colloquium at the Institut Jean Nicod where parts of this paper were first presented, for their helpful comments. I also thank the journal editor, Christophe Heintz, and three anonymous reviewers for comments that pushed me to clarify several issues. Thanks also to the support offered by CNRS research grants for my work on this paper while a visiting professor at the Center for the Epistemology of Cognitive Science at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, and visiting researcher at the Centre de Recherche en Epistémelogie Appliquée, École Polytechnique, Paris.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  2. 2.School of HumanitiesUniversity of HertfordshireHatfieldUK

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