10. The co-evolution of intersubjectivity and bodily mimesis

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This chapter presents an evolutionary and developmental model, according to which intersubjectivity is intimately tied to <i>bodily mimesis – </i>the use of the body for communicative and representational purposes <i>– </i>to an extent that intersubjectivity can be said to co-evolve with it. I review some relevant evidence concerning non-human primates which shows that feral and captive apes are capable of the first two levels (involving e.g. empathy, shared attention and imitation), but not of the third level which involves an understanding of communicative signs, i.e. triadic mimesis. In contrast, enculturated language-trained apes show some aspects of triadic mimesis, suggesting how our predecessors could have bootstrapped themselves to this level without language (and without a “theory of mind”). The emergence of language, on the other hand, opens the way to the highest two levels of intersubjectivity, bringing forth the understanding of “beliefs” and the use of folk psychology.


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