chapter  5
18 Pages

Collective intentionality and the roots of human societal life


What can we learn from animals? In this chapter, I would like to pursue the more specific question: What can we learn from other animals about what kind of social animals we are, and how we become so? Obviously, human sociality is quite unique. Our cooperative, societal, and institutional forms of life clearly set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. From an ontogenetic point of view, I will inquire into the potential cognitive underpinnings of such unique sociality and its development. The ontogeny of different forms of intentionality in early childhood will be traced, with a comparative eye on common primate and uniquely human aspects. The picture that emerges will be this: We share with other animals, in particular great apes, basic forms of individual intentionality, and probably even simple forms of individual second-order intentionality that develop in human ontogeny in the course of the first one and a half years. What lies at the heart of uniquely human cognition, though, and what lays the foundation for uniquely human sociality, is the ability to enter into collective “WE”-intentionality, which develops from the second year on.