The emergence of a shared action ontology: Building blocks for a theory

Consciousness and Cognition 12 (4):549-571 (2003)
To have an ontology is to interpret a world. In this paper we argue that the brain, viewed as a representational system aimed at interpreting our world, possesses an ontology too. It creates primitives and makes existence assumptions. It decomposes target space in a way that exhibits a certain invariance, which in turn is functionally significant. We will investigate which are the functional regularities guiding this decomposition process, by answering to the following questions: What are the explicit and implicit assumptions about the structure of reality, which at the same time shape the causal profile of the brain's motor output and its representational deep structure, in particular of the conscious mind arising from it (its ''phenomenal output'')? How do they constrain high-level phenomena like conscious experience, the emergence of a first-person perspective, or social cognition? By reviewing a series of neuroscientific results and integrating them with a wider philosophical perspective, we will emphasize the contribution the motor system makes to this process. As it will be shown, the motor system constructs goals, actions, and intending selves as basic constituents of the world it interprets. It does so by assigning a single, unified causal role to them. Empirical evidence demonstrates that the brain models movements and action goals in terms of multimodal representations of organism-object-relations. Under a representationalist analysis, this process can be conceived of as an internal, dynamic representation of the intentionality-relation itself. We will show how such a complex form of representational content, once it is in place, can later function as a functional building block for social cognition and for a more complex, consciously experienced representation of the first-person perspective as well
Keywords Brain  Cognition  Consciousness  Decomposition  Function  Ontology
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DOI 10.1016/S1053-8100(03)00072-2
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A. Goldman (1989). Interpretation Psychologized. Mind and Language 4 (3):161-85.

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