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Symposium II – Second person perspectives
Dan Zahavi (Copenhagen) & Katalin Farkas (Central European University)

2023 Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association

birkbeck & the institute of philosophy, university of london

7–9 July 2023

Symposium II – Second person perspectives


dan zahavi


Observation, interaction, communication: The role of the second person

Katalin Farkas

katalin farkas

central european university

The Lives of Others


Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest in the second-person perspective, not only in philosophy of mind, language, law, and ethics, but also in various empirical disciplines such as cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology. A distinctive and perhaps also slightly puzzling feature of this ongoing inquiry is that whereas many of its contributors would insist that a proper consideration of the second-person perspective would impact our understanding of social cognition, joint action, communication, self-consciousness, morality, etc. there remains considerable disagreement about what exactly a second-person perspective amounts to. What is the difference between adopting a second-person and a third-person perspective on another? How does one relate to another as a you and how does that differ from relating to another as a he, she, or they? In the following, I will consider three different proposals and argue that a promising but somewhat overlooked account can be found in the work of Husserl.

On a Cartesian conception of the mind, I could be a solitary being and still have the same mental states as I currently have. This paper asks how the lives of other people fit into this conception. I investigate the second person perspective – thinking of others as ‘you’ while engaging in reciprocal communicative interactions with them – and argue that it is neither epistemically nor metaphysically distinctive. I also argue that the Cartesian picture explains why other people are special: because they matter not just for the effect that they have on us.


Dan Zahavi is Professor of Philosophy and director of the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen. Zahavi’s primary research area is phenomenology and philosophy of mind, and their intersection with empirical disciplines such as psychiatry and psychology. In addition to a number of scholarly works on the phenomenology of Husserl, Zahavi has mainly written on the nature of selfhood, self-consciousness, intersubjectivity, empathy, and most recently on topics in social ontology. His most important publications include Self-awareness and Alterity (1999/2020), Husserl’s Phenomenology (2003), Subjectivity and Selfhood (2005), The Phenomenological Mind (together with Shaun Gallagher) (2008/2012/2021), Self and Other (2014), Husserl’s Legacy (2017), and Phenomenology: The Basics (2019). Since 2020, Zahavi has been the principal investigator on a 5-year research project entitled Who are We? which is supported by the European Research Council and the Carlsberg Foundation. Zahavi’s writings have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Katalin Farkas was born and educated in Budapest, and is currently professor of philosophy at the Central European University in Vienna. In her work on the philosophy of mind, she defended an uncompromising internalism about the mental, and an equally uncompromising conception of the phenomenal availability of mental features. In recent years, she has written a series of papers on the nature of knowledge. She is currently working on a book called The Unity of Knowledge. In 2012, she was elected as a member of the Academia Europaea. From 2020, she serves as the president of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy