Volume 45, 2018
Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences
Social Perception and the Problem of Other Minds
How do we understand other people’s minds? This is a descriptive problem of other minds, a question concerning the descriptive nature of social cognition or interpersonal understanding. There are currently three prominent approaches to this problem, namely, the theory theory approach (TT), the simulation theory approach (ST) and the direct perception approach (DP). Instead of trying to resolve the conflict between them, I will conduct a preliminary exploration concerning the nature of social perception or the experience of seeing other people. TT, ST and DP are all implicitly or explicitly committed to a particular conception of social perception. Thus, it is necessary to look into the nature of social perception in developing a theory of social cognition. I claim that social perception involves the following three characteristics: In social perception, (i) other people are given to us; (ii) other people are given as transcendent; (iii) other people are given as transcendent but potentially accessible. They respectively constitute the Immediacy constraint, the Transcendence constraint, and the Accessibility constraint on theories of social cognition. I suggest that TT and ST fail to do justice to the Immediacy constraint and the Accessibility constraint, while DP does not pay due attention to the Accessibility constraint.