The Primacy of the "We"?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


The question of the relation between the collective and the individual has had a long but patchy history within both philosophy and psychology. In this chapter we consider some arguments that could be adopted for the primacy of the we, and examine their conceptual and empirical implications. We argue that the we needs to be seen as a developing and dynamic identity, not as something that exists fully fledged from the start. The concept of we thus needs more nuanced and differentiated treatment than currently exists, distinguishing it from the idea of a ‘common ground’ and discerning multiple senses of ‘we-ness’. At an empirical level, beginning from the shared history of human evolution and prenatal existence, a simple sense of pre-reflective we-ness, we argue, emerges from second-person I-you engagement in earliest infancy. Developmentally, experientially and conceptually, engagement remains fundamental to the we throughout its many forms, characterized by reciprocal interaction and conditioned by the normative aspects of mutual addressing.


External organisations
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Copenhagen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy
  • Psychology


  • I-Thou relations, second-person engagements, developmental approaches, joint action, collective intentionality, We-intentionality, plural self-awareness
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmbodiment, Enaction, and Culture
Subtitle of host publicationInvestigating the Constitution of the Shared World
EditorsChristoph Durch, Thomas Fuchs, Christian Tewes
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherMIT Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780262337113
ISBN (Print)9780262035552
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 1
Publication categoryResearch