"Successful social interaction is the key to all aspects of our modern life, from everyday activities to highly complex cultural, technological, and economic phenomena. One central research question, spanning philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, psychiatry and anthropology, therefore is: how do we understand other human beings? The project proposes to address the issue by developing an original theoretical framework which focuses on basic forms of understanding other minds by understanding the others’ embodied intentionality or skilful bodily engagement with the world. The goal is to develop a theory of basic forms of intersubjectivity as active engagement between embodied social agents and to clarify the dependency of understanding others on one's own abilities of interaction. The central hypothesis of the project is that there is an immediate form of understanding other minds by understanding the others’ embodied intentionality which draws upon one’s own interaction abilities. The project discusses two intertwined themes, namely, the phenomenon of empathy and the role and mechanisms of perceptual cognition in enabling an immediate understanding of the other’s embodied intentionality. The project combines philosophical analyses with discussions of empirical studies primarily in psychology and neuroscience to address two main themes: 1) uncover the nature of the phenomenon of empathy as an immediate experiential access to other minds by understanding the other’s embodied intentionality and identify its possible cognitive mechanisms with special focus on mechanisms of action-understanding drawing on one’s own interaction abilities, 2) understand the significance of one’s perceptual knowledge of the other’s embodied intentionality for attributing mental states to the other by focussing on the mechanisms of perception-action coupling. Thus the project will investigate social cognition as an active engagement of an embodied social agent in enabling social interactions."
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