Who Are We?

Self-identity, Social Cognition, and Collective Intentionality

The guiding idea of the ERC project is that a systematic account of the we must be embedded in a more comprehensive investigation of selfhood and social cognition.

Central research questions

  • Does a we-perspective have a stable first-person singular perspective as its necessary precondition, or is it independent of, and perhaps even before, individual subjectivity? How does one come to experience oneself as ‘one of us’, and how precisely does such a process of group identification alter the first-person perspective singular?
  • What kind of understanding of and relation to others is of relevance for the emergence of a we-perspective? Is second-person engagement, relating to another as you, of particular importance? How does effective sharing come about?
  • What is the relation between an ephemeral form of we that is bound to the here and now of concrete face-to-face interaction and a more enduring, but at the same time also more normatively mediated and impersonal form of collective identity? Does the latter depend on the former, or does it have its originality and irreducibility?


Mikko Salmela

Dynamic interrelations of emotions, identities, and values

My work in is the intersection of philosophical psychology and social sciences, and its main themes are affective sharing and we, identities and identification, and the consolidation of we from face-to-face encounters to enduring groups. I have been developing a theory of emotional mechanisms that incorporates all these themes as it takes emotions to be drivers of dynamic transformations of values and identities that are reinforced by affective sharing and the formation of collective identities. I am also keen to apply my research into empirical study of social and political phenomena.

Line Ryberg Ingerslev

Responding to the past: philosophical reflections on collective memory

In the attempt to understand how we-identities endure, I investigate the relation between collective remembering, affectivity, and forms of commitment. I draw on my earlier work on mourning, trauma, and weaker forms of agency in order to understand the role of memory for enduring we-identities. Further, I draw on Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis to shed light on these questions.

Patrizio Lo Presti

The relative fundamentality of stages of ‘I’ and ‘we’

My research focus is on providing an account of the processual becoming of different kinds of ‘we’ through stages of pre-reflective collective self-awareness, to reflective collective self-awareness, to collective self-expressive self-awareness and finally to collective self-(re)defining self-awareness. The ultimate aim is to explicate the phenomenological, cognitive, and normative (dis-)similarities and overlaps between those stages in order thereby to be able to gain a fine-grained conception of different senses of ‘we.’

Julia Zaenker

The Second Person: Phenomenological and Critical Theoretical Accounts of Sociality and its Grounds - from Reinach and Husserl to I.M. Young

Some human activities such as promises, requests, commands, greetings and invitations crucially involve a second person. In my project I examine the importance of the second person relation to account for sociality and its grounds. How can phenomenology approach the second person as a topic that highlights the importance of reciprocal social constellations for understanding human sociality? In particular, I am interested in the contested normative character of the second person.

Tris Hedges

Us and Them: Alienation and Normalisation in Intergroup Relations

In this project, I investigate different forms of group identity, the constitutive significance of the 'Them' or the 'Third' for we-experiences, and I explore how power relations modulate, motivate, and obscure the ways in which we identify with/against each other.

Felipe Leon

We-identities, second-person relations, and joint attention

My work revolved around the question of how to understand the relationship between the first-person singular and the first-person plural perspectives, by focusing on three main topics: (1) Collective or we-identities, particularly in the context of intimate groups (such as groups of friends and romantic partners); (2) Second-person relations; (3) Triadic joint attention, with a specific focus on the relationship between joint attention and communication.

Patricia Meindl

Communication and the second-person relation

My research carried out in the Who are We? project aimed at advancing our current understanding of second-person engagements and their role in building communities. By investigating the underexplored issue of communication in the writings of Edmund Husserl, the idea was defended that communicative acts establish a unique kind of intersubjective connection which provides the basis for more complex, long-lasting forms of communities to emerge. Further, my research aimed at providing a phenomenological account of second-person relations that allows us to describe and conceptualize communicative encounters with non-human agents, such as social robots.




Ingerslev, L.R.: What the Experience of Transience Tells Us About the Afterlife. In TheoLogica, SI: Death and the Afterlife, (eds.) M. Sławkowski-Rode and D. Came. Online first

Zahavi, D.: I, You, and We: Beyond Individualism and Collectivism. Australasian Philosophical Review, in press

Zahavi, D., Zelinsky, D.: Experience, Subjectivity, Selfhood: Beyond a Meadian Sociology of the Self. Journal for the Theory of Social BehaviourOnline first


Capelos, T., Salmela, M., Sullivan, G.B., & Chrona. S. (2024). The Anti-Social Triad of Grievance Politics: An Integrated Model of Reactionism, Ressentiment, and Collective Narcissism. Americal Behavioral Scientist 0(0) [online first]. https://doi.org/10.1177/00027642241240351

Capelos, T., Salmela, M., Talalakina, A., & Cotena, O. (2024). Ressentiment in the Manosphere: Conceptions of Morality and Avenues for Resistance in the Incel Hatred Pipeline. Philosophies 2024, 9(36). https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies9020036

Salmela, M., Vienni-Baptista, B., & Cheas, K. (2024). Tieteidenväliset ja transtieteiset tutkijat: tieteen rikkaruohoja vai sen queerejä edelläkävijöitä? [“Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary researchers: ill weed of science or its queer pioneers?”] Tiedepolitiikka, 1/2024, 7-20. https://journal.fi/tiedepolitiikka/article/view/132011/91735

Hedges, T. (2024). Expectation and judgment: towards a phenomenology of discrimination. Continental Philosophy Review, 1-23. 


Capelos, T., Nield, E., & Salmela, M. (2023). Narratives of success and failure in ressentiment: Assuming victimhood and transmuting frustration among young Korean men. Social Sciences, 12(5), 259. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12050259

Nagatsu, M., Kaaronen, R.O., Salmela, M. & MacLeod, M. (2023). Cultural niche construction as a framework for reorienting human-environment relations. In B.C. Malt & A. Majid (Eds), Topic: Conceptual Foundations of Sustainability. Topics in Cognitive Science, 15(3), 412-432. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tops.12674

Hedges, T. (2023). We and us: The power of the third for the first-person pluralEuropean Journal of Philosophy, 1–14

Meindl, P., Zahavi, D.: "From communication to communalization: A Husserlian account." Continental Philosophy Review 56/3, 2023, 343-359.

Meindl, P., Szanto, T., Zahavi, D. (eds.): Husserl and Community. Special issue of Continental Philosophy Review 56/3, 2023, 335-504.

Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A. (eds.): Emotional Self-Knowledge. London, New York: Routledge, 2023.

Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A. "Introduction." In Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A (eds.), Emotional Self-Knowledge (pp.1-13). London, New York: Routledge, 2023.

Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A.: "Self-understanding and moral self-improvement in individual shame and shame based on group identification." In Fussi, A. & Rodogno, R. (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Shame. Rowman and Littlefield, 2023.

Morgan, B., Rokotnitz, N., Budelmann, F., Zahavi, D.: "I and We: Hannah Arendt, Participatory Plurality, and the Literary Scaffolding of Collective Intentionality." Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 25/2, 2023, 235–264.

Osler, L., Zahavi, D.: Sociality and embodiment: Online communication during and after Covid-19Foundations of Science, 28, 2023, 1125-1142.

Salice, A. & Montes Sánchez, A.: "Envy, Racial Hatred and Self-Deception." In Montes Sánchez, A. & Salice, A (eds.), Emotional Self-Knowledge (pp. 188-208). London, New York: Routledge, 2023.

Zahavi, D. "Observation, Interaction, Communication: The Role of the Second Person." Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 97/1, 2023, 82-103.

Zahavi, D.: "Empathy, Alterity, Morality." In M. Englander & S. Ferrarello (eds.): Empathy and Ethics (pp. 489-500). Rowman & Littlefield, 2023.

Zahavi, D., Dolezal, L.: "What is "we"? Dan Zahavi in conversation with Luna Dolezal." In A. Morgan (eds.): What matters most: Conversations on the Art of Living (pp. 61-69). Agenda Publishing, 2023.

Zahavi, D.: "Group-identification, collectivism, and perspectival autonomy." The Southern Journal of Philosophy 61 (suppl. 1), 2023, 66-77.


Zahavi, D.: "Individuality and community: The limits of social constructivism.Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 50/4, 2022, 392-409.

León, F., Zandersen, M., Meindl, P., Zahavi, D.: "The distinction between second-person and third-person relations and its relevance for the psychiatric diagnostic interview"  In M. Biondi, A. Picardi, M. Pallagrosi, L. Fonzi (eds.): The Clinician in the Psychiatric Diagnostic Process (pp. 51-69). Springer: Cham.

León, F.: "Attention in Joint Attention: From Selection to Prioritization". In M. Wehrle, D. D'Angelo, & E. Solomonova (Eds.), Access and Mediation. Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Attention. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2022, pp. 65-90.  


Meindl, P.: "From the Thou to the We: Rediscovering Martin Buber’s Account of Communal Experiences". Human Studies 44 (3), 2021, 413-431.

Nguyen, C., Salmela, M., & von Scheve, C.: From specific worries to generalized anger: the emotional dynamics of right-wing political populism. In M.T. Oswald (Ed.), Palgrave Handbook of Populism (pp. 145-160). Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

Salmela, M., & Capelos, T.: "Ressentiment: A Complex Emotion or an Emotional Mechanism of Psychic Defences?" Politics and Governance, 9(3), 2021, 191-203.

León, F.: "Collective Intentionality, We-identity, and the Role of Narratives in the Constitution of Friendship". In J. Noller (ed.), The Unity of a Person: Philosophical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2021, 185-206.

Salmela, M. & Capelos, T.: "Ressentiment: A Complex Emotion or an Emotional Mechanism of Psychic Defences?" Politics and Governance 9(3), 2021, 191-203.

Zahavi, D.: "We in me or me in we? Collective intentionality and selfhood". Journal of Social Ontology 7/1, 2021, 1-20.

León, F.: "Joint Attention Without Recursive Mindreading: On the Role of Second-Person Engagement". Philosophical Psychology, 34(4), 2021, 550-580.

Overgaard, S. and Salice, A.: “Consciousness, Belief, and the Group Mind Hypothesis”. Synthese 198, 2021, 1597-1621.

Salice, A., Henriksen, M.G.: "Disturbances of Shared Intentionality in Schizophrenia and Autism." Frontiers in Psychiatry 11, 2021, 570597.

Gallagher, S., Zahavi, D.: The Phenomenological Mind. 3rd edition. London: Routledge, 2021. (p. 294).


Zahavi, D.: "We and I". The Philosopher 108/4, 2020, 19-24.

León, F.: "For-me-ness, For-us-ness, and the We-relationship". Topoi, 39/3, 2020, 547-558

Zahavi, D.: "Shame". In T. Szanto & H. Landweer (eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Emotions. London: Routledge, 2020, 349-357.



Name Title Image
Hass, Vibeke Skjødt Centre Coordinator Billede af Hass, Vibeke Skjødt
Hedges, Tris PhD Fellow Billede af Hedges, Tris
Ingerslev, Line Ryberg Postdoc Billede af Ingerslev, Line Ryberg
Lo Presti, Patrizio Ulf Enrico Postdoc Billede af Lo Presti, Patrizio Ulf Enrico
Salmela, Mikko Associate Professor Billede af Salmela, Mikko
Zaenker, Julia PhD Fellow Billede af Zaenker, Julia

Former staff

León, Felipe
Meindl, Patricia

Recurrent visiting professors

Heinämaa, Sara
Loidolt, Sophie

Research associate

Salice, Alessandro


European Research Council

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 832940).

Project period: 01 January 2020 – 31 December 2025.

PI: Professor Dan Zahavi