AuthorChambliss, Bryan Christopher
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 04/30/2021
AbstractImagine that as you are sitting down to eat a sandwich, you hear someone issue a command: “Stop that this instant!” Perplexed, you look up to see a stranger glaring at you, and come to believe that they told you to stop eating. But in the midst of your ongoing interaction with this person, your thought about the stranger doesn’t seem to represent them as either a mere object or agent. Instead, it seems natural to think of them in a second-person way, as a “you” or an agent with whom I am interacting. I argue that during face-to-face interactions with other agents, some of our thoughts represent these agents in an irreducibly second-person way. My dissertation defends an account of these irreducibly second-person thoughts. Chapter 2 introduces second-person thought. I argue that irreducibly second-person thought employs an irreducibly second-person mode of presentation, and that this mode of presentation should itself be understood in terms of its function: recognizing its object as an agent with whom I am engaged in interaction. This recognition-based account is superior to competing accounts that model the second-person mode of presentation in terms of paradigmatic interactions, like communicative interactions (e.g., linguistic exchanges which employ the second-person pronoun ‘you’), or cooperative interactions. Chapters 3 and 4 defend a basic argument for the irreducibility of second-person thought. Among others, John Perry and David Lewis argue that irreducibly first-person thought—variously called essentially indexical thought or de se thought—plays an essential role in the explanation of action and yields a distinctive form of self-knowledge. While prominent defenses of the irreducibility of such thought extend only to self-directed thought, chapter 3 develops an analogous argument for thought about other agents, contending that irreducibly second-person thought plays an analogous role in the explanation of interaction and yields a distinctive form of knowledge of others. Thus, the same kinds of reasons that have driven many philosophers to accept irreducibly first-person thought can be expanded to give structurally identical arguments for irreducibly second-person thought. Chapter 4 then defends a basic argument for irreducibly second-person thought. Perry and Lewis have taught us that irreducibly first-person thought exists. But the arguments for irreducibly first and second-person thought stand and fall together, so if irreducibly first-person though exists, then irreducibly second-person thought exists too. Thus, irreducibly second-person thought exists. Having established that irreducibly second-person thought exists, Chapter 5 develops an account of it. Extending the account of Francois Recanati, my account of second-person thought captures the cognitive significance of the second-person mode of presentation as a “mental file” containing distinctively second-person information. The mental files linked to second-person thoughts are populated with information by what Recanati calls “epistemically-rewarding relations” that hold between the thought’s thinker and the thought’s object. Perceptual acquaintance is the paradigmatic epistemically-rewarding relation, but, in irreducibly second-person thought, the distinctively second-person information results from the thinker’s being directly engaged with the agent with whom they are interacting. Finally, the referent of a second-person thought is determined not by satisfying the information in the mental file (which could be inaccurate), but by bearing the epistemically rewarding relation to the thought’s thinker. This dissertation argues that while philosophers have rightly recognized irreducibly first-person thought as a distinctive form of thought, they have incorrectly restricted this irreducibility to the first-person perspective. Instead, analogous considerations show that both first- and second-person thought are irreducible. The result is that thought about other agents is different when interacting with them, as opposed to merely observing them. This capacity to recognize an agent as a partner in interaction is characteristic of a distinctively social form of thought, which lies at the root of interpersonal morality.
Degree ProgramGraduate College