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date: 19 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Defenders of a view called “direct social perception” (DSP) argue that our social-cognitive capacities rest on our ability to directly perceive others’ mental states—their emotions, desires, intentions, etc.—embodied in their expressive, goal-directed behavior. DSP thus challenges the widespread assumption that mental states are intracranial phenomena, perceptually inaccessible to everyone but their owner. In this chapter, I consider a version of DSP that draws upon phenomenology, 4E cognition, and empirical work in cognitive science. I first examine DSP in its historical context, focusing on its development in the hands of phenomenologists like Husserl, Scheler, and Merleau-Ponty. I then consider some supporting arguments and empirical evidence—particularly work suggesting that embodied expressions of emotions (e.g., facial expressions, gestures, etc.) may constitute part of the emotion itself. I conclude by defending DSP against several objections.

Keywords: phenomenology, Husserl, Scheler, Merleau-Ponty, 4E cognition, social perception, social-cognitive capacities, direct social perception, DSP, emotions, expressions of emotion

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