chapter  3
1 Pages

Learning to use ‘you’

We are interested in what, if anything, might be meant by ‘second person thought’. At this point, I should make clear that in this paper I am using liberal notions of ‘thought’, and of related terms like ‘content’. In the sense used here attribution of thoughts (roughly ¼ states with representational content) can be justified by patterns in skilful action. Given a liberal notion of thought, we may distinguish within it rich forms, ‘conceptual thought’, for which language is by definition necessary, and less sophisticated forms, ‘non-conceptual thought’, for which skilful action alone may suffice. It is, of course, much debated what kinds of representational states we can attribute to non-language users on the basis of skilful action and how exactly we should understand terms like ‘thought’ or ‘content’ when used in the liberal way. But here we shall ignore all such issues. Our question is about what would underpin attribution of one kind of content, second person, as opposed to another, third person. So we shall just take for granted the propriety of attributing thought and content (in some sense) on the basis of skilful behaviour and we shall concentrate on differences between kinds of behaviour which might illuminate the contrast of second and third person.