Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

On Imagining Being Someone Else

Date: 24 November 2020

Time: 16:00

Place: Online


In philosophical and psychological literature, it is common to distinguish two kinds of perspective taking, imagining oneself in another person’s situation: in-their-shoes perspective-shifting, and imagining being the other person in their situation: empathetic perspective-shifting. Peter Goldie has cast doubt on the distinction and argues that empathetic perspective-shifting is conceptually impossible. This paper first presents Goldie’s view and then argues that while we can distinguish two different aims in perspective-taking, the underlying processes are similar, and the only challenges we face are epistemic and psychological in nature. As a consequence, skepticism towards empathetic perspective-shifting leads to skepticism towards in-their-shoes perspective-shifting, and optimism towards the second justifies optimism with respect to the first. Using the example of perspective taking with fictional characters, I finally show how an epistemically ideal context can pose psychological challenges, and how an epistemically less ideal context can make it easier to imagine being someone else.