The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect, and Accountability (Darwall, 2006)

"Call the second-person standpoint the perspective you and I take up when we make and acknowledge claims on one another's conduct and will...  whether explicit and voiced... or only implicit and felt... the I-you-me structure of reciprocal address runs throughout thought and speech from the second-person point of view." (Darwall, 2006, p. 3)

This thought-provoking philosophical project nicely complements the scientific foundations to teaching that unify training, education, and leader development (see While the precise technical terminology will make this work somewhat inaccessible to non-philosophers, it is well worth your patience.

I would merely add that the nuanced differences between this project and other philosophical arguments that are highlighted throughout this book can be viewed in quite a different light by considering shared experience of persons that is grounded in an intersubjectively verifiable reality. This is shared reality in which persons are meaningfully engaged together over time. It is a common ground in which their respective conduct and will is constrained, and reciprocally interdependent, in ways that are observable. It is a source of inescapable accountability that is not speculative and not authentically negotiable.

In other words, the second-person standpoint is not limited to thought and speech. Reciprocal address is at least as powerful in perception and action with other individuals who are addressed as such (from the second-person standpoint) in the shared context of a group and within the situation in which the group, as such, has meaning. The second-person perspective takes on deeper meaning through verbal and nonverbal communication about the shared context, that is, collaborative reflection on the shared experience. It implies that written and spoken communication during such reflection should be conducted preferentially in the "I-you-me structure of reciprocal address."

Whether or not there is explicit reciprocity in communication about a shared experience, collaborative reflection should be approached with the assumption of reciprocity. The "authority" or momentary "standing" that is assumed and acknowledged in the second-person perspective is the privilege of a different perspective that is inaccessible to the addressee, even if only momentarily. More broadly, given the assumptions of crystallization, all parties in collaborative reflection can have authority albeit different kinds of authority deriving from complementary perspectives (i.e., propositions that are not logically inconsistent). From a realist perspective, such complementarity is verifiable over time in a shared experience.

These ideas have direct relevant to topics of intense contemporary interest such as collaborative innovation and collective intelligence (see and creativity and innovation (see <a href="</p>


Gary Riccio

As a partner and as a consultant, I deliver value by identifying, aggregating, and developing previously undervalued assets--people and systems, internal and external, public and private, scientific and technical--for exceptional impact.