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The Phenomenology of Twinship: An Investigation into the exceptional intersubjective capacities found in twin-twin social interactions.

Hoctor, James W. (2019) The Phenomenology of Twinship: An Investigation into the exceptional intersubjective capacities found in twin-twin social interactions. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Kent. (KAR id:82096)


The overall aim of this thesis is to describe the exceptional intersubjective capacities we find in cases of twin-twin social interaction. Phenomenological approaches to intersubjectivity and empathy provide rich, varying and often competing conceptual resources for such a project, however, the chief focus of these accounts up until this point has been to describe the intersubjective capacities found in the social interactions between single-born persons. Thus, there is a lack of phenomenological literature that is explicitly concerned with outlining intersubjectivity in twins. Yet, recent literature in the sciences of mind as well as first person accounts from twins and their observers, point to important and unique variances in the manifestation of intersubjectivity between twins when compared to the intersubjective capacities of singletons.

In essence, I contend prior phenomenological accounts are underpinned by a concept of passive synthesis or operative intentionality that is too narrow. Instead, I argue that if we are to fully appreciate twins and their social interactions without pathologising twinship, we need to expand these concepts to account for cases of exceptional mutual understanding (EMU) we find between them. In short, I argue that in twins (particularly in monozygotic twins), a more robust passive synthesis or a novel operative intentionality enables the kinds of EMU we find in their relations. Put differently, twins are highly attuned to one another's contextualised expressive bodily phenomena, which means they can directly experience greater aspects of their co-twin's mental and emotional life. This novel operative intentionality initially manifests in gestation as a result of a reciprocal and transformative influencing or coupling of each twin's body schema, and continues to develop and form the basis of their interactions throughout their respective lives. This means the primary and secondary intersubjective capacities of twins are highly developed when compared to single-born persons, and this allows them to rapidly exploit the implicit and nuanced narratives they have about each other to immediately grasp one another in the here and now.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Corfield, David
Thesis advisor: Mei, Todd
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2020 09:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2022 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Hoctor, James W..

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