The concept of a perspective is a common currency not only in philosophy but across a range of disciplines. But what is a perspective, what types of perspective are there, and how are they related? My thesis undertakes a study into the nature and variety of perspectives. More specifically, I am concerned to show how to integrate studies of first-person, third-person, and second-person perspectives into a comprehensive account.
This is a crucial issue. The first-person perspective has long played a crucial role within the philosophical and psychological study of the mind. The first-person perspective specifies the location from which one perceives, experiences the surrounding world, and is self-aware. It characterises the boundary between myself and others, allowing one to discriminate between what is mine – including body, thoughts, memories, and personal history – and what is not. The first-person perspective also makes it possible for one to pick out a subject and self-refer using the first-person pronoun ‘I’. In addition, the study of the second-person perspective has recently become prominent, with some philosophers arguing that it represents a sui generis way of thinking and experiencing. My study will bring these issues together in an illuminating way.
My study can be broken into two parts. The first will focus on the impersonal perspective: I argue that this is the fundamental building block from which different personal perspectives can be constructed. This account is drawn from studies of ‘observer perspective’ in memory and dreams. The second part shows how the impersonal perspective relates to the more familiar first-, second-, and third-person perspectives. This second part includes a consideration of both our embodied experience and also of ourselves in the context of others, including the possibility of role-switching and perspective-taking in imagination, dreams and memories.