Moral obligation, testimony and the second person
That said, I will make do here with underscoring what I take to be one key idea that unites them, the claim that there is a kind of thinking about another that can only occur when one is in fact standing to that person in a relation that warrants and makes appropriate the use of ‘you’. One way of bringing out the import of this emphasis on relationality is to see it as analogous to the central claim made by so-called ‘relational’ theories of perceptual consciousness. In the latter case, the claim is that the way to take on board what might be called the ‘essential relationality’ of perception is to recognize that we need to refer to properties of perceived objects in describing how things are for the subject, from within her conscious perspective, when she has a perceptual experience. Subtract the perceived object and there is no perceptual phenomenology there to describe, though there may be similar and related phenomenologies. Analogously, one, minimally strong way of formulating the relational import of the you-indexicality claim is this. There is a kind of thinking about another, you-thinking, which is essentially relational in the following sense. In order to get right how things are from A’s self-conscious perspective when she thinks of B in this way, we need to refer to B and to B’s self-conscious thinking. Subtract B and her thoughts and there is, at best, a simulacrum of the kind of thinking A is employing in the relational case.