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Relatedness and Alienation in Interpersonal Understanding: A Phenomenological Account



This thesis aims to provide a phenomenological exploration of relatedness and alienation in interpersonal understanding, which elucidates and supports recent interdisciplinary critiques of more traditional accounts of interpersonal understanding. Orthodox accounts of folk psychology, namely theory and simulation theories, have focused on the role of attributing mental states in understanding others. This focus has led to a neglect of how interaction and forms of relatedness contribute to the task of interpersonal understanding. Building on recent interdisciplinary research, my work aims to rectify this neglect through an exploration of how various forms of relations, particularly interactive relations between interlocutors, support interpersonal understanding. My account, therefore, emphasises understanding as a shared process, moving away from the spectatorial orientation of the orthodox accounts. My approach is distinctive in its use of Gadamerian hermeneutics to offer a novel and detailed account of the central role played by collaborative refinement of interpretative presuppositions. Examining face-to-face interaction, it becomes apparent that affective interactions often frame and underpin an ability to attribute mental states. I explore how, in conversational instances of interpersonal relatedness, understanding involves a continual collaborative refinement of interpretive presuppositions, resulting in a modification of understanding. From this my work broadens, taking into account how reciprocal embodied expression, space, and stance tacitly support an ability to relate to and understand others, in virtue of jointly inhabiting mutually meaningful social situations. To clarify the ways in which affective interaction and shared situation are partly constitutive of ability to understand others, I consider impaired forms of interpersonal understanding in the illnesses schizophrenia and depression. Examination of these instances highlights the central role held by an ability to dynamically engage and inhabit relations with others

Topics: Interpersonal Understanding, Intersubjectivity, Phenomenology, Psychiatry, Philosophy of Mind, Hermeneutics, Relatedness, Alienation
Year: 2011
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Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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