I N T RO D U CTI O N
I When philosophers talk about the external world, they typically populate it with small-tomedium-sized dry-goods: chairs, pens, desks, sticks, and so on. So our perceptual openness to the world is conceived, primarily, in terms of the disclosure of facts about such things. Yet much of our lives is occupied with far more exotic creatures, namely, living things, and particularly, living human beings. I think it would be misleading to conceive our being with others simply in terms of the perceptual disclosure of a thing of some kind, a thing among things. We characteristically talk of many living things as having and not merely being a body – or, even more strikingly, as having a soul. Whatever stance one takes with respect to notions like the soul, it seems clear that a satisfactory account of our being with others must do justice to its distinctive and familiar phenomenology. That is, it must do justice to the fact that, in everyday life, certain entities are disclosed not as mere environmental bodies but as others. In this book I try to provide such an account. The aim is to explain how it can be that what is disclosed in our perception of certain things in the world does not fall short of facts about others. Others: that is, living things which are not merely in the world, but which are there too and there with oneself. Hot on the heels of bent-looking sticks, this topic is normally treated under the title of the problem of scepticism concerning other minds. However, as I will try to explain in this introduction, the critical focus of this book is not simply scepticism but, casting the net more widely, the conceptual or metaphysical framework within which the threat of scepticism is a live one. In virtue of the special emphasis and elevated position that it accords human beings, I will come to call this framework ‘humanism’. In a certain way humanism begins where I, too, want to begin – namely, with a rejection of the idea that others are simply a kind of thing in the world among other things. It thus rejects what can be called the baldly naturalistic assumption that a human being is merely an environmentally occurring organism.1 What distinguishes humanism, however, is the proposal that this insufficient definition can be overcome or offset by outfitting such organisms with immortal souls or by adjoining minds to their bodies.