Perspectives and Persons: Ontological, Constitutive Possibilities
In contemporary developmental psychology, perspective taking is understood as an important process or mechanism by which we come to know that others are people with minds of their own–intentional agents whose goals, strategies, commitments, and orientations bear both similarities to and differences from our own. In this chapter, we will argue that perspective taking is more than a powerful epistemic mechanism of this sort. It is also and more foundationally, ontologically constitutive of us as social, psychological persons and rational, moral agents. On this account, human persons are understood as interactive kinds (Hacking, 1999) who care about and react to the ways in which they are described and classified, and such uniquely human care and reactivity are consequences of our perspectivity. It is because we are able to occupy and take perspectives that we are persons at all. It is by means of perspective taking that we are constituted as selves and agents and that we simultaneously also come to differentiate and understand others.