6. The Primacy of the “We”?
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II  Intersubjectivity, Selfhood, and Persons 6  The Primacy of the “We”? Ingar Brinck, Vasudevi Reddy, and Dan Zahavi The capacity to engage in collective intentionality is a key aspect of human sociality. Social coordination might not be distinctive of humans—various nonhuman animals engage in forms of cooperative behavior (e.g., hunting together)—but humans seem to possess a specific capacity for intentionality that enables them to constitute forms of social reality far exceeding anything that can be achieved even by nonhuman primates. Consider, for example , how a piece of paper or a string of code in certain contexts, such as financial transactions or insurance policies, is constituted as money by the sheer intentional act of “collective acceptance.” During the past few decades, collective intentionality has been discussed under various labels in a number of empirical disciplines including social, cognitive, and developmental psychology, economics, sociology, political science, anthropology, ethology, and the social neurosciences. Much of the empirical work in the area has relied on and drawn inspiration from the theoretical work of a few influential philosophers such as Searle, Bratman, Gilbert, Pettit, and Tuomela. Building on these standard proposals, a rich philosophical discussion has emerged, further exploring the nature of shared or collective intentions, collective emotions , group and corporate agency, the constitution of social and institutional facts, and the status of group and corporate personhood. Despite all this work, however, many foundational issues remain controversial and unresolved . In particular, it is by no means clear exactly how to characterize the nature, structure, and diversity of the we to which intentions, beliefs, emotions, and actions are often attributed . Is the we or we-perspective independent of, and perhaps even prior to, individual subjectivity , or is it a developmental achievement that has a first- and second-person-singular perspective as its necessary precondition? Is it something that should be ascribed to a single owner, or does it perhaps have plural ownership? Is the we a single thing, or is there a plurality of types of we? 132 I. Brinck, V. Reddy, and D. Zahavi 1  A Prereflective “Sense of Us” Let us start our investigation by first considering a recent proposal by Hans Bernhard Schmid. In various publications, Schmid has argued that the we is conceptually and developmentally foundational. It does not originate in any kind of agreement or commitment or communication or joint action. It is not founded on any form of social cognition and does not presuppose any experience or givenness of another subject, let alone any kind of reciprocal relation between I and you or self and other. Rather, the we, the “sense of us” or “plural self-awareness,” precedes the distinction between yours and mine, is prior to any form of intersubjectivity or mutual recognition (Schmid 2005, 138, 145, 149, 296), and is itself the irreducible basis for joint action and communication.1 One consideration that might support Schmid’s reluctance to let the we arise out of any I-you relation is the following: Consider a couple enjoying a movie together. Their focus of attention is precisely on the movie and not on each other. What is salient here is not the relation between the two of them, but the extent to which they jointly share a perspective on a common object. As Schmid argues, in the case of shared experiences, there is a sense in which my experience isn’t really mine, and yours isn’t yours, but ours. That is, shared experiences are experiences whose subjective aspect is not singular (“for me”) but plural (“for us”) (Schmid 2014, 9), or to put it differently, the what-it-is-like of experiential sharing is necessarily a what-it-is-like-for-us. In “Plural Self-Awareness,” Schmid acknowledges the transitory character and status of the we: “Two people team up spontaneously and thereby think and act from a common perspective, based on a ‘sense of “us”’; barely a minute later, they part ways never to meet 1.  Ideas found in some parts of phenomenology are reflected in Schmid’s proposal. On the one hand, Schmid often draws on Scheler and in particular references a place in The Nature of Sympathy where Scheler denies that shared emotions can be analyzed as a mere conjunction of matching individual experiences and reciprocal knowledge and instead employs the notion of a feeling-in-common (Scheler 2008, 12–13). Schmid has interpreted this passage in support of what we might call the token identity account of emotional sharing (Schmid 2009, 69...


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