Intersubjectivity and the Second Person Katherine McGovern & Bernard Baars

While our personal consciousness is basic, understanding the subjectivity of others carries us into a wider realm. Human infants show very early abilities to “mentalize” and communicate with others as conscious experiencers. These abilities are impaired in autism, schizophrenia, and personality disorders. Studies of Rumanian orphans strongly suggest that human infants need the intersubjective perspective to develop and prosper. Such interactions are vital for constructing ourselves from childhood onwards. Brain studies show regions involved in primary consciousness, but also those needed to perceive the intentions of other human beings, and to attune our actions and emotions to theirs. In these images we can begin to see the neural bases of empathy, intentionality, and the “I-Thou” stance described by Martin Buber. Finally, for students of consciousness themselves, the second person perspective brings along a unique set of ethical imperatives.