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Martin Lenz

Socializing the Mind

Intersubjectivity in Early Modern Philosophy

(Book project, 2015-2017)

How did early modern philosophers understand the way the human mind relates to the world? This book argues that key figures in early modern philosophy endorsed a social view of the human mind. According to this view, the way we categorise the world around us is crucially determined by the fact that we are part of a community. This means that we cannot simply conceptualize things as they objectively are or in accordance with subjective experience. In other words, intentional states are neither objectively nor subjectively but intersubjectively determined. Someone thinking of things such as gold, dogs or murder applies categories that depend on the acceptance of other members of society. Such intersubjectivist views are widely held today. But it is commonly assumed that they were not even considered before the 19th and 20th centuries.

While scholarship on early modern philosophy of mind is on the rise again, most recent works do not question the subjectivist lines of interpretations promoted especially by Ryle, Rorty and Taylor. Contrary to this still widespread understanding of early modern philosophy of mind as the era of Cartesian subjectivism, this book will show that many influential thinkers started out from intersubjectivist premises. We begin to see this, I argue, once we recognise the deep connections between theoretical and practical philosophy in the historical context. Drawing on such connections, the book will start out by showing why intersubjectivity matters in contemporary debates (part one), before zooming in on the early modern period (part two). In portraying especially Spinoza, Locke and Hume as holding different variants of intersubjectivism, this book will present concerted case studies aiming at a novel understanding of early modern philosophy and its relation to contemporary debates about intersubjectivity.

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Last modified:17 March 2020 3.45 p.m.