When the problem of intersubjectivity becomes the solution



Publication Details

Gallagher, S. (2013). When the problem of intersubjectivity becomes the solution. In M. Legerstee, D. W. Haley and M. H. Bornstein (Eds.), The Infant Mind: Origins of the Social Brain (pp. 48-74). United States: Guilford Press.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781462508174


To philosophers it may sound strange to say that there is no problem of other minds, just as it would to psychologists to say that there is no problem of social cognition. People have been thinking about these problems for a long time. Yet in a certain way we should say that there is no problem, if we take the problem to be defined in the standard way, as follows: We have a problem understanding others because we lack any access to the other person's mental states. Since we cannot directly perceive the other's thoughts, feelings, or intentions, we need some extraperceptual cognitive process that will allow us to infer what they are.

I don't think this is the problem, or at least not the central problem of social cognition. And recognizing that this is not the problem becomes part of the solution to the extent that it motivates us to think differently about the phenomenon of intersubjectivity. To be precise, I think the real problem (let's call it that) is that standard approaches think inaccessibility is the problem. If, in fact, we do have access to the other person's mind, then this problem dissipates. So the solution to the real problem is to show that there is no problem defined in terms of access to the other's mind. I realize that this will be a hard sell, precisely because people have been trying to solve the problem of social cognition, understood as inaccessibility, for a long time. I first briefly review how things are understood in the standard approaches. I then point out a number of problems in these standard approaches. Finally, I offer an alternative account that avoids these problems.

Please refer to publisher version or contact your library.