In Thinking of Others, Ted Cohen argues that the
ability to imagine oneself as another person is an indispensable
human capacity--as essential to moral awareness as it is to
literary appreciation--and that this talent for identification is
the same as the talent for metaphor. To be able to see oneself as
someone else, whether the someone else is a real person or a
fictional character, is to exercise the ability to deal with
metaphor and other figurative language. The underlying faculty,
Cohen argues, is the same--simply the ability to think of one thing
as another when it plainly is not.
In an engaging style, Cohen explores this idea by examining
various occasions for identifying with others, including reading
fiction, enjoying sports, making moral arguments, estimating one's
future self, and imagining how one appears to others. Using many
literary examples, Cohen argues that we can engage with fictional
characters just as intensely as we do with real people, and he
looks at some of the ways literature itself takes up the question
of interpersonal identification and understanding.
An original meditation on the necessity of imagination to moral
and aesthetic life, Thinking of Others is an important
contribution to philosophy and literary theory.