Infant imitation and the self—A response to Welsh

Philosophical Psychology (2):1-23 (2012)
Abstract
Talia Welsh (2006) argues that Shaun Gallagher and Andrew Meltzoff's (1996) application of neonatal imitation research is insufficient grounds for their claim that neonates are born with a primitive body image and thus an innate self-awareness. Drawing upon an understanding of the self that is founded upon a ?theory of mind,? Welsh challenges the notion that neonates have the capacity for self-awareness and charges the supposition with an essentialism which threatens to disrupt more social constructionist understandings of the self. In this paper, I initially defend Gallagher and Meltzoff's (1996) application of infant imitation to understandings of neonatal self-awareness by explaining how body image schemas can be understood as non-representational embodied cognitive phenomena that challenge ?theory of mind? theory. I then further develop the claim that neonates are born self-aware with reference to my own work in fetal development. I conclude that Welsh's political concerns are unfounded by showing how the conclusion that a neonate is self-aware does not signal a return to an essentialist understanding of self-awareness, but rather introduces into philosophical and psychological discourse possible alternate understandings of an embodied sense of self that are embedded within intersubjective contexts
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