A very interesting paper on 2nd person perspective

My friend Nick asked me to explain a drawing I did.

It made me look up cool papers on second person perspectives and I ran into this gem, written by Michael Pauen!

In it he writes:

The rise of social neuroscience has brought the second person perspective back into the focus of philosophy. Although this is not a new topic, it is certainly less well understood than the first and the third person perspective, and it is even unclear whether it can be reduced to one the third person perspective.

The present paper argues that no such reduction it possible because the second person perspective provides a unique kind of access to certain facts, namely other persons’ mental states, particularly, but not only, in social contexts.

The paper starts with the idea that perspectives are ways of epistemic access that determine an epistemic subject’s recognition of a certain object. While the first person perspective is subjective because it’s based on, and directed at the epistemic subject’s experiences and the third person which is based on objective evidence and gives access to all kinds of entities is objective, the second person perspective is intersubjective because it is an epistemic relation between an epistemic subject and another sentient being’s mental states. It involves the epistemic subject’s replication of those states, a basic self/other distinction and a basic awareness of the relevant perspectival differences between the epistemic subject and the other being. This is why the second person perspective is a perspective on a perspective, even if second person perspective taking may be subpersonal to a large extent.



“3.4 The Second Person Perspective
I have already indicated that such reasons exist. There are specific epistemic situations
which are quite different both from first person and third person perspective taking.
They occur in social contexts, when epistemic subjects use their own mental
experiences, either explicitly or implicitly, in order to understand other subjects and
their mental experiences. These epistemic acts differ from first person perspective
taking because it is not one’s own mental experience that one tries to understand.
Rather, it’s somebody else’s mental experiences, their beliefs, emotions, and desires,
that are subject to second person perspective taking. But second person perspective
taking differs from third person perspective taking also, because it’s neither theories nor
empirical evidence that these epistemic acts are based upon. Rather, it’s one’s own
experience that is used to understand other persons’ beliefs, desires, and emotions.”

Also see :

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"Conversely, if you improve your understanding of what others experience in contrast to your own feelings, you will improve your understanding of perspectivalness. So there is a direct dependence between your understanding of perspectivalness and your ability to take the second person perspective. It would follow, then, that the second person perspective requires a higher level of reflective perspectival awareness than does the first or the third person perspective. The reason is that taking the second person perspective implies adopting someone else’s perspective. This, in turn, seems to require a basic (maybe implicit) awareness not only of perspectivalness in general, but also of the difference between the other person’s and one’s own perspective. "


Perhaps the increased intensity of perspectival awareness resides in the fact that it unavoidably placed in a direct, interactive relationship to our own. Just a thought.


I think that many debates (atleast politically) is built around winning the argument, but not about truly understanding the other’s view. It is rather that one lets confidence in ones own argument to be pushed onto the other. I always felt that a field so vast as politics is, should regard the 2nd person perspective more intrinsically. To me, philosophy is very good platform to develop awareness of the 2nd person perspective. Listening is crucial.
I would really love to explore 2nd person perspective more as I think that it would also be helpful to solve conflicting dilemmas between people. One would know how to be a good mediator.

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One thought: could the mental perception of objectivity be related with practical perception instead of intuitive perception?

It would explain why one relates to the objective more methodically, example, a dog with its owner have an intuitive bond to eachother while a judge at a dog breed contest view the dog with methodical objectivity, going through criterias to judge the dog from.

If the objective mental perception is related to practical mental perception, it would evolve with in what sense we relate to the practical we are engaged with, in what way “it makes sense” for example, folding kudusama gave me a very interesting practical perception of how intricate folds can be, the objective mental perception can relate this to ways of making sense which can be tested in other occations even in non concrete ways.

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Normally we all have a personal social room where we invite people to engage with us here we can reach 2nd person perspective (theory of mind) . But in collective social rooms we engage differently, we relate socially in 3rd person perspective in collectives. And by doing so, we may forget our own social room have higher potency of engagement than the collective engagement where we all are 3rd person perspectives or some kind of social representatives. “Woman” “Artist” “Anarchist”
And it might be hard once the 3rd person perspective is established about something, it takes more effort to reach understanding beyond the defined character of “as a woman I need to look representative because collective people view you in 3rd person perspective so that is who you seems to be”.
People tries to live up to these social pressure to be representative of a good 3rd perspective like “popular” or “successful” “famous” . All this is 3rd person perspective of the social engagement which affects the self image of “what I want to be seen as” not perhaps knowing that this is not true engagement but an enforcement of the collective order by conforming to the limited social perception such social environment provides.

The collective 3rd person representative becomes the social performance we try to upheld and feel shame and embarresment over when we cannot do so in some way, and the affirmative socialization reeks of this social performance, and this is why they lacks ability to engage in 2nd person perspective to eachother. They are focusing on their performance and thus others becomes feedbackers of positive social responces.