Although both explanatory understanding and recognizing another person’s mental states are clearly important for interpersonal understanding, the guiding assumption of this sub-project is that interpersonal understanding involves more than these two components. In particular, I assume that an essential aspect of interpersonal understanding is understanding what it is like or how it feels for another to be in some situation. I will focus primarily on affective states, firstly, because it is relatively uncontroversial that affective states have phenomenal qualities. Secondly, affects play a central role in a person’s psychology, so that understanding a person’s affective states is a key aspect of interpersonal understanding.
What it means to understand affective states depends on the fact that affects are essentially conscious; it is primarily in virtue of this fact that there is a specific form of understanding which focuses on what it is like for a person to be in her specific state. According to my working hypothesis, then, this is a key reason why interpersonal understanding cannot be reduced to explanatory understanding or propositional knowledge about the target’s mental states. The aim of the subproject is, accordingly, to develop an account of phenomenal understanding of other persons’ psychological, particularly affective states. In doing so, phenomenal understanding will be examined in its relations both to phenomenal knowledge and to other types of understanding, in particular, explanatory understanding.