Intentionality in the second person: an evolutionary perspective

Juan-Carlos Gomez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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In this paper I address the relation between second person and third person attributions of mental states suggesting that, in their simpler forms, both the second and the third person have in common the possibility of non-inferential attribution via embodied mentalism. Such public availability and transparency is not distinctive of, or derived from, second person attributions, but a property of embodied mentalism irrespective of the “person” it is expressed in. Moreover, I will argue that second person intentional relations, like their third person counterparts, contain opaque mentalistic elements. These are not due to their combination with third person attributions, but are primary constituents of the second person. Indeed, learning about the opacity of mental states may be one of the outcomes and benefits of second person interaction. What is distinctive of second person attributions is the peculiar structure of the intentional relations they generate. In reciprocal interactions between two organisms, which have a long evolutionary history (e.g., mating, predator/prey interactions), two lines of intentionality collide generating, on the one hand, an interactive structure that contains implicitly the cognitive structure of Gricean intentionality, and on the other a set of unique first-person (“ostensive”) experiences that derive from a long evolutionary history of behavioural and expressive mechanisms linked to social interaction. I develop these ideas in the framework of an outline of the evolutionary origins of second person intentionality in nonhuman animals and how it led to the sort of second person intentionality that occurs in human interaction and communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-64
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Intentionality
  • Second person
  • Mental attribution
  • Evolution


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