Mirrorneurons are widely regarded as an important key to social cognition. Despite such wide agreement, there is very little consensus on how or why they are important. The goal of this paper is to clearly explicate the exact role mirrorneurons play in social cognition. I aim to answer two questions about the relationship between mirroring and social cognition: What kind of social understanding is involved with mirroring? How is mirroring related to that understanding? I (...) argue that philosophical and empirical considerations lead us to accord a fairly minimal role for mirrorneurons in social cognition. (shrink)
The discovery of mirrorneurons in both primates and humans has led to an enormous amount of research and speculation as to how conscious beings are able to interact so effortlessly among one another. Mirrorneurons might provide an embodied basis for passive synthesis and the eventual process of further communalization through empathy, as envisioned by Edmund Husserl. I consider the possibility of a phenomenological and scientific investigation of laughter as a point of connection that might (...) in the future bridge the gap Husserl feared had grown too expansive between the worlds of science and philosophy. Part I will describe some implications of the discovery of mirrorneurons. Part II will address Husserl’s concept of embodiment as it relates to neuroscience and empathy. Part III will be a primer to investigating laughter phenomenologically. Part IV will be a continuation of the study of laughter and empathy as possible elements helpful in broadening the scope of what Husserl calls the Life-World. (shrink)
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in theories of mindreading. New discoveries in neuroscience have revitalized the languishing debate. The discovery of so-called mirrorneurons has revived interest particularly in the Simulation Theory (ST) of mindreading. Both ST proponents and theorists studying mirrorneurons have argued that mirrorneurons are strong evidence in favor of ST over Theory Theory (TT). In this paper I argue against the prevailing view that mirror (...) class='Hi'>neurons are evidence for the ST of mindreading. My view is that on an appropriate construal of their function, mirrorneurons do not operate like simulation theorists claim. In fact, mirrorneurons are more appropriately understood as one element in an information-rich mindreading process. As such, mirrorneurons fit in better with some sort of TT account of mindreading. I offer a positive account, the Model TT, which better explains the role of mirrorneurons in social cognition. (shrink)
Mindreading is the ability to attribute mental states to other individuals. According to the simulation theory (ST), mindreading is based on the ability the mind has of replicating others' mental states and processes. Mirrorneurons (MNs) are a class of neurons that fire both when an agent performs a goal-directed action and when she observes the same type of action performed by another individual. Since MNs appear to form a replicative mechanism in which a portion of the (...) observer's brain replicates the agent's brain, MNs have been considered evidence in favor of ST. Jacob (2008), however, has maintained that the recent discovery of so-called logically related MNs refutes the hypothesis that MNs form a replicative mechanism. In this paper, I argue that, contrary to what is claimed by Jacob, one can accept the existence of logically related MNs and, at the same time, still maintain that the activity of MNs is replicative. It follows that MNs still support ST. (shrink)
The neurological discovery of mirrorneurons is of eminent importance for the phenomenological theory of intersubjectivity. G. Rizzolatti and V. Gallese found in experiments with primates that a set of neurons in the premotor cortex represents the visually registered movements of another animal. The activity of these mirrorneurons presents exactly the same pattern of activity as appears in the movement of one's own body. These findings may be extended to other cognitive and emotive functions (...) in humans. I show how these neurological findings might be “translated” phenomenologically into our own experienced sensations, feelings and volitions. (shrink)
This paper raises fundamental questions about the claims of art historian David Freedberg and neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese in their article "Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Esthetic Experience." It does so from several perspectives, all of them rooted in the dynamic realities of movement. It shows on the basis of neuroscientific research how connectivity and pruning are of unmistakable import in the interneuronal dynamic patternings in the human brain from birth onward. In effect, it shows that mirrorneurons are (...) contingent on morphology and corporeal-kinetic tactile-kinesthetic experience. Accordingly, it poses and answers the overlooked but seminally important question of how mirrorneurons come to be. The original neuromuscular research of Parma neuroscientists and the findings of Marc Jeannerod concerning kinesthesia support the answer that the "underpinnings" of visual art appreciation are themselves underpinned. An abbreviated phenomenological analysis of movement and its implications regarding the fact that the making of all art is quintessentially contingent on movement, hence a dynamic enterprise, further bolster the given answer as does a brief review of an empirical phenomenological analysis of the natural dynamic congruency of emotions and movement. In the end, the paper shows that movement and life are of a piece in the creation and appreciation of art as in everyday life. (shrink)
Mirrorneurons are neurons which fire in two distinct conditions: (i) when an agent performs a specific action, like a precision grasp of an object using fingers, and (ii) when an agent observes that action performed by another. Some theorists have suggested that the existence of such neurons may lend support to the simulation approach to mindreading (e.g. Gallese and Goldman, 1998, 'Mirrorneurons and the simulation theory of mind reading'). In this note I (...) critically examine this suggestion, in both its original and a revised form (due to Iacoboni et al., 2005, 'Grasping the intentions of others with one's own mirror neuron system'), and argue that the existence of mirrorneurons can in fact tell us very little about how intentional attribution actually proceeds. (shrink)
According to an influential view, one function of mirrorneurons (MNs), first discovered in the brain of monkeys, is to underlie third-person mindreading. This view relies on two assumptions: the activity of MNs in an observer’s brain matches (simulates or resonates with) that of MNs in an agent’s brain and this resonance process retrodictively generates a representation of the agent’s intention from a perception of her movement. In this paper, I criticize both assumptions and I argue instead that (...) the activity of MNs in an observer’s brain is enhanced by a prior representation of the agent’s intention and that their task is to predictively compute the best motor command suitable to satisfy the agent’s intention. (shrink)
Both macaque monkeys and humans have been shown to have what are called ‘mirrorneurons’, a class of neurons that respond to goal-related motor-actions, both when these actions are performed by the subject and when they are performed by another individual observed by the subject. Gallese and Goldman (1998) contend that mirrorneurons may be seen as ‘a part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind- reading ability’, and that of the two competing (...) theories of mind-reading, mirrorneurons lend support to simulation theory. I here offer four reasons why I think mirrorneurons do not provide support for simulation theory over its contender, theory theory. (shrink)
The discovery of mirrorneurons has been hailed as one of the most exciting developments in neuroscience in the past few decades. These neurons discharge in response to the observation of others’ actions. But how are we to understand the function of these neurons? In this paper I defend the idea that mirrorneurons are best conceived as components of a sensory system that has the function to perceive action. In short, mirror (...) class='Hi'>neurons are part of a hitherto unrecognized “sixth sense”. In this spirit, research should move toward developing a psychophysics of mirrorneurons. (shrink)
Single cell recordings in monkeys provide strong evidence for an important role of the motor system in action understanding. This evidence is backed up by data from studies of the (human) mirror neuron system using neuroimaging or TMS techniques, and behavioral experiments. Although the data acquired from single cell recordings are generally considered to be robust, several debates have shown that the interpretation of these data is far from straightforward. We will show that research based on single-cell recordings allows (...) for unlimited content attribution to mirrorneurons. We will argue that a theoretical analysis of the mirroring process, combined with behavioral and brain studies, can provide the necessary limitations. A complexity analysis of the type of processing attributed to the mirror neuron system can help formulate restrictions on what mirroring is and what cognitive functions could, in principle, be explained by a mirror mechanism. We argue that processing at higher levels of abstraction needs assistance of non-mirroring processes to such an extent that subsuming the processes needed to infer goals from actions under the label ?mirroring? is not warranted. (shrink)
Despite the impressive body of evidence supporting the existence of a mirror neuron (MN) system for action, the original claim regarding its crucial role in action understanding remains controversial. Emma Borg has recently launched a sharp attack on this claim, with the aim of demonstrating that neither the original version nor the subsequent revisions of the MN hypothesis tell us very much about how intentional attribution actually works. In this article I take up the challenge she issues in the (...) title of her paper (If MirrorNeurons are the Answer, What was the Question?) and argue that what MNs offer is not as Borg claims 'an extremely limited' picture of action understanding but rather an enriched picture that brings to light aspects of social cognition hitherto ignored in the mind-reading literature, showing how intentional motor components of action can shape social cognition prior to and apart from any forms of deliberate mentalizing. (shrink)
This article distinguishes three archetypal ways of articulating spatial cognition: (1) via metric representation of objective geometry, (2) via somatosensory constitution of the peripersonal environment, and (3) via pragmatic comprehension of the finalistic sense of action. The last one is documented by neuroscientific studies concerning mirrorneurons. Bio-robotic experiments implementing mirror functions confirm the constitutive role of goal-oriented actions in spatial processes.
Primatologists generally agree that monkeys lack higher-order intentional capacities related to theory of mind. Yet the discovery of the so-called “mirrorneurons” in monkeys suggests to many neuroscientists that they have the rudiments of intentional understanding. Given a standard philosophical view about intentional understanding, which requires higher-order intentionality, a paradox arises. Different ways of resolving the paradox are assessed, using evidence from neural, cognitive, and behavioral studies of humans and monkeys. A decisive resolution to the paradox requires substantial (...) additional empirical work and perhaps a rejection of the standard philosophical view. (shrink)
Positing the importance of sensorimotor contingencies for perception is by no means denying the presence and importance of representations. Using the evidence of mirrorneurons we will show the intrinsic relationship between action control and representation within the logic of forward models.
The evolutionary continuity between the prespeech functions of premotor cortex and its new linguistic functions, the main thesis of MacNeilage's target article, is confirmed by the recent discovery of “mirror” neurons in monkeys and a corresponding action-observation/action-execution matching system in humans. Physiological data (and other considerations) appear to indicate, however, that brachiomanual gestures played a greater role in language evolution than MacNeilage would like to admit.
Commonsense says we are isolated. After all, our bodies are physically separate. But Seneca’s colamus humanitatem, and John Donne’s observation that “no man is an island” suggests we are neither entirely isolated nor separate. A recent discovery in neuroscience—that of mirrorneurons—argues that the brain and the mind is neither built nor functions remote from what happens in other individuals. What are mirrorneurons? They are brain cells that process both what happens to or is done (...) by an individual, and, as it were, its perceived “refl ection,” when that same thing happens or is done by another individual. Thus, mirrorneurons are both activated when an individual does a particular action, and when that individual perceives that same action done by another. The discovery of mirrorneurons suggests we need to radically revise our notions of human nature since they offer a means by which we may not be so separated as we think. Humans unlike other apes are adapted to mirror interact nonverbally when together. Notably, our faces have been evolved to display agile and nimble movements. While this is usually explained as enabling nonverbal communication, a better description would be nonverbal commune based upon mirrorneurons. I argue we cherish humanity, colamus humanitatem, because mirrorneurons and our adapted mirror interpersonal interface blur the physical boundaries that separate us. (shrink)
Mirrorneurons are a particular class of visumotorical neurons, originally discovered in area F5 of the monkey premotorical cortex. They discharge both (1) when the animal performs a specific action and (2) when it observes a similar action. Actually, it is often assumed that this unique functioning could explain different abilities ranging from imitation behaviour to faculty of speech. In this article, we discuss the question what is meant by the expression: The neuron x mirrors the action (...) y by perception z . The problem resulted from the fact, that neurons cannot mirror anythingâexcept in the light of a metaphorical description. How can this metaphorical description be dissolved for a distinct and explicit scientific terminology? The basic steps of our argumentation are as follows. (1) The expression to mirror can be defined in mutual relation between different types of actions in respect of at least two participants: the proponent A, who conducts a special action x (e.g. grapping a peanut (A(x)) and the opponent B who observes these actions y (B(y)) and vice versa. (2) In order to detect different tokens as a type of action and to guarantee the changes of the participants there must be constituted a speech act in a dialogue, in which types of actions are defined by the invariance of special equivalence. (3) The change of the participants represents and defines the metaphorical expression to mirror in the light of a non-metaphorical and reproducible schema. (4) Then, the invariance of the type of action can be identified in different speech acts. Three of them (called narratives) were defined paradigmatically: (4.1) the ethological-narrative; (4.2) the neurophysiological-narrative; (4.3) the language-narrative. (5) These narratives are the modelling and explicit formulations of the primarily metaphorical expression: The neuron x mirrors the action y by perception z. (shrink)
Various deficits in the cognitive functioning of people with autism have been documented in recent years but these provide only partial explanations for the condition. We focus instead on an imitative disturbance involving difficulties both in copying actions and in inhibiting more stereotyped mimicking, such as echolalia. A candidate for the neural basis of this disturbance may be found in a recently discovered class of neurons in frontal cortex, 'mirrorneurons' (MNs). These neurons show activity in (...) relation both to specific actions performed by self and matching actions performed by others, providing a potential bridge between minds. MN systems exist in primates without imitative and ‘theory of mind’ abilities and we suggest that in order for them to have become utilized to perform social cognitive functions, sophisticated cortical neuronal systems have evolved in which MNs function as key elements. Early developmental failures of MN systems are likely to result in a consequent cascade of developmental impairments characterised by the clinical syndrome of autism. (shrink)
Summary Ideomotor apraxia is a cognitive disorder in which the patient loses the ability to accurately perform learned, skilled actions. This is despite normal limb power and coordination. It has long been known that left supramarginal gyrus lesions cause bilateral upper limb apraxia and it was proposed that this area stored a visualkinaesthetic image of the skilled action, which was translated elsewhere in the brain into the pre-requisite movement formula. We hypothesise that, rather than these two functions occurring separately, both (...) are complementary functions of chains of ‘‘mirrorneurons’’ within the left inferior parietal lobe. We go on to propose that this neural mechanism in the supramarginal gyrus and its projection zones, which originally evolved to allow the creation of a direct map between vision and movement, was subsequently exapted to allow other sorts of cross-domain mapping and in particular those sorts of abstract re-conceptualisation, such as metaphor, that make mankind unique. (shrink)
Falk's hominin mother-infant model presupposes an emerging infant capacity to perceive and learn from afforded gestures and vocalizations. Unlike back-riding offspring of other primates, who were in no need to decenter their own body-centered perspective, a mirrorneurons system may have been adapted in hominin infants to subserve the kind of (m)other-centered mirroring we now see manifested by human infants soon after birth.
Open peer commentary on the target article “Who Conceives of Society?” by Ernst von Glasersfeld. First paragraph: Cognitive psychology, neurobiology, and cognitive systems research provide diverse clues as to how we are able to incrementally construct representations of the perceived environment and how we consequently understand other individuals and society. The construction of an individual’s reality starts with the capability to control one’s own body and to be able to predict the usual sensory effects caused by body movements. To be (...) able to infer the potential intentions of others, mirrorneurons project one’s own behavioral codes onto perceived patterns that are caused by others. Equipped with representations of many other individuals, personal social realities are constructed. In this commentary, I focus on these points for the construction of social reality and the consequent existence of society as a whole. (shrink)
Mirrorneurons fire both when a primate executes a transitive action directed toward a target (e.g., grasping) and when he observes the same action performed by another. According to the prevalent interpretation, action-mirroring is a process of interpersonal neural similarity whereby an observer maps the agent's perceived movements onto her own motor repertoire. Furthermore, ever since Gallese and Goldman's (1998) influential paper, action-mirroring has been linked to third-person mindreading on the grounds that it enables an observer to represent (...) the agent's intention. In this paper, I criticize the prevalent interpretation on two grounds. First, action-mirroring could not result in interpersonal neural similarity unless there was a single mechanism active at different times in a single brain during the execution and the perception of acts of grasping. Second, such a neural mechanism is better conceived as underlying the possession of the concept of grasping than as a basis for mindreading. (shrink)
It is often claimed that the discovery of mirrorneurons supports simulation theory (ST). There has been much controversy about this, however, as there are various competing models of the functional contribution of mirror systems, only some of which characterize mirroring as simulation in the sense required by ST. But a brief review of these models reveals that they all include simulation in some sense . In this paper, I propose that the broader conception of simulation articulated (...) by neo-empiricist theories of concepts can subsume the more specific conceptions of simulation presented by ST and by these other models, thereby offering a framework in which each of these models may play a role. According to neo-empiricism, conceptual thought in general involves simulation in the sense that it is grounded in sensory, motor, and other embodied systems (Barsalou, Behavioral and Brain Sciences , 22 , 577–609, 1999 , Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences , 364 , 1281–1289, 2009 ; Barsalou et al., Trends in Cognitive Sciences , 7 (2), 84–91, 2003 ; Prinz 2002 , Mind & Language , 25 (5), 612–621, 2010 ; Glenberg and Robertson, Journal of Memory and Language , 43 , 379–401, 2000 ). Crucially, the term “simulation” here refers not to simulations of a target agent’s experience in the sense endorsed by simulation theory but to the activation of sensory, motor, affective, and introspective representations. This difference does not entail that neo-empiricism must be in competition with ST—indeed, I will propose that ST can be embedded as a special case within neo-empiricism. (shrink)
Four distinct models of the functional contribution of mirrorneurons to social cognition can be distinguished: direct matching, inverse modeling, response modeling, and predictive coding. Each entails a different way in which an agent's own capacities for action and affective experience contribute to understanding and/or predicting others' actions and affective experience. In this paper, the four models and their theoretical frameworks are elucidated, empirical data and theoretical arguments bearing upon each are reviewed, and falsifiable predictions that could help (...) to distinguish empirically among the models are proposed. (shrink)
Mirrorneurons and systems are often appealed to as mechanisms enabling mindreading, i.e., understanding other people’s mental states. Such neural mirroring processes are often treated as instances of mental simulation rather than folk psychological theorizing. I will call into question this assumed connection between mirroring and simulation, arguing that mirroring does not necessarily constitute mental simulation as specified by the simulation theory of mindreading. I begin by more precisely characterizing “mirroring” (Sect. 2) and “simulation” (Sect. 3). Mirroring results (...) in a neural process in an observer that resembles a neural process of the same type in the observed agent. Although simulation is often characterized in terms of resemblance (Goldman, Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading, 2006), I argue that simulation requires more than mere interpersonal mental resemblance: A simulation must have the purpose or function of resembling its target (Sect. 3.1). Given that mirroring processes are generated automatically, I focus on what is required for a simulation to possess the function of resembling its target. In Sect. 3.2 I argue that this resemblance function, at least in the case of simulation-based mindreading, requires that a simulation serve as a representation or stand-in of what it resembles. With this revised account of simulation in hand, in Sect. 4 I show that the mirroring processes do not necessarily possess the representational function required of simulation. To do so I describe an account of goal attribution involving a motor mirroring process that should not be characterized as interpersonal mental simulation. I end in Sect. 5 by defending the conceptual distinction between mirroring and simulation, and discussing the implications of this argument for the kind of neuroscientific evidence required by simulation theory. (shrink)
In this paper, I critically assess the thesis that the discovery of mirror neuron systems (MNSs) provides empirical support for the simulation theory (ST) of social cognition. This thesis can be analyzed into two claims: (i) that MNSs are involved in understanding others’ intentions or emotions; and (ii) that the way in which they do so supports a simulationist viewpoint. I will be giving qualified support to both claims. Starting with (i), I will present theoretical and empirical points in (...) support of the view that MNSs play a substantial role and are perhaps neces¬sary although not sufficient for understanding at least some intentions or emo¬tions. Turning to (ii), I will argue that the work on MNSs best supports a fairly weak version of ST, according to which social cognition involves simulation simply because conceptual thought in gen¬eral has a simulationist component. In elucidating this idea, I appeal to Law¬rence Barsalou’s embodied theory of concepts (1999, 2005). Crucially, the term “simula¬tion” here refers not to simulations of a target agent’s experience, nor even spe¬cifically to one’s own experience in a similar counterfactual situation, but to simulations of experience in general - activating sensory, motor, proprioceptive, affective, and introspective representations that match representations one would have when perceiving, carrying out actions, experiencing emotions, etc. I then sketch an expanded simulationist framework for understanding the contribution of MNSs to social cognition. The ap¬peal to empirical work on MNSs in support of ST is therefore a two-edged sword; making this appeal persuasive requires us to modify our understanding of simulation to make it line up with the empirical work. (shrink)
This commentary validates the fundamental evolutionary interconnection between the emergence of imitation and the mirror system. We present a novel computational framework for studying the evolutionary origins of imitative behavior and examining the emerging underlying mechanisms. Evolutionary adaptive agents that evolved in this framework demonstrate the emergence of neural “mirror” mechanisms analogous to those found in biological systems.
This article presents two different phenomenological paths leading from ego to alter ego: a Husserlian and a Merleau-Pontian way of thinking. These two phenomenological paths serve to disentangle the conceptual–philosophical underpinning of the mirrorneurons system hypothesis, in which both ways of thinking are entwined. A Merleau-Pontian re-reading of the mirrorneurons system theory is proposed, in which the characteristics of mirrorneurons are effectively used in the explanation of action understanding and imitation. This (...) proposal uncovers the remaining necessary presupposition of a minimalized version of the Husserlian concept of pairing and its recent and improved version in terms of the intermodal system. This leads to a layered approach to the constitution of intersubjectivity. (shrink)
Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi have recently argued against a simulationist interpretation of neural resonance. Recognizing intentions and emotions in the facial expressions and gestures of others may be subserved by e.g. mirror neuron activity, but this does not mean that we first experience an intention or emotion and then project it onto the other. Mirrorneurons subserve social cognition, according to Gallagher and Zahavi, by being integral parts of processes of enactive social perception. I argue that (...) the notion of enactive social perception does not yet explain why social perception is subserved by mirroring. I also argue that this problem cannot be avoided by means of an appeal to multiple realization. Instead, I propose a holistic model of neural resonance-based social cognition that does give an explanatory role to mirroring by allowing for a partial experiential overlap between experiencing and recognizing emotions and intentions. This account avoids the simulationist step-wise conception of social cognition and recognizes the qualitative difference between first- and third-person emotion and intention attribution. It does capture too much of the simulationist intuitions, however, to warrant the label ‘social perception’. (shrink)
In the Western aesthetic canon, the still life enjoys a certain prestige; its place in the museum and on the pages of the art history text is secure. Art aficionados who appreciate the character of Cezanne's apples help to ensure the lofty standing of the still life, as do students who admire the dewdrops still glistening on flowers picked and painted in the nineteenth century. For some students, however, it is difficult to understand such veneration. Despite the coaxing of dedicated (...) art or museum educators, these students find apples nestled among drapery folds or translucent petals in a spring bouquet to be "boring." No matter how compelling the apples, how exquisitely rendered the blossoms, the still life is .. (shrink)
Neurophysiological studies in monkeys and neuroimaging studies in humans support a model of empathy according to which there exists a shared code between perception and production of emotion. The neural circuitry critical to this mechanism is composed of frontal and parietal areas matching the observation and execution of action, and interacting heavily with the superior temporal cortex. Further, this cortical system is linked to the limbic system by means of an anterior sector of the human insular lobe.
A premise of Corballis's theory is that speech arose when vocalization co-opted existing gestural functions in the left ventral premotor cortex. Yet, visuomotor functions in this region remain largely unchanged between humans and macaques and have no discernible connection to gestural communication. This functional continuity suggests that language production is not the result of modifying existing motor functions in this region.
Historical explanation after Hempel came to be discussed in terms of a contrast between nomic explanations and rationalizations, and later between cause and narrative. This period can be taken as an historical parenthesis, in which the notion of cause narrowed and the notion of historical understanding as empathic dropped out. In the present philosophical landscape there are different models of cause available, especially in the causal modeling literature, and a revived appreciation, through the philosophy of mind and in light of (...) such discoveries as mirrorneurons, of empathy. The newer causal modeling literature foregrounds the problem of confounding or overdetermination, but solves it in ways inimical to historical explanation. Empathy, however, represents an alternative solution, available to the historian, in which causal relevance can be assessed and established in terms of its role in the reenacted experience of the historical subject. This suggests the idea that the art of history is using historical evidence to show what people might have thought and felt under past circumstances, in ways that engage our capacities to mind-read - capacities established by cognitive science. (shrink)
My hypothesis is that the cognitive challenge posed by death might have had a co-evolutionary role in the development of linguistic faculties. First, I claim that mirrorneurons, which enable us to understand others’ actions and emotions, not only activate when we directly observe someone, but can also be triggered by language: words make us feel bodily sensations. Second, I argue that the death of another individual cannot be understood by virtue of the mirror neuron mechanism, since (...) the dead provide no neural pattern for mirroring: this cognitive task requires symbolic thought, which in turn involves emotions. Third, I describe the symbolic leap of the human species as a cognitive detachment from the here and now, allowing displaced reference: through symbols the human mind can refer to what is absent, possible, or even impossible (like the presence of a dead person). Such a detachment has had a huge adaptive impact: adopting a coevolutionary standpoint can help explain why language is as effective as environmental inputs in order to stimulate our bodily experience. In the end I suggest a further coevolutionary reversal : if language is necessary to understand the death of the other, it might also be true that the peculiar cognitive problem posed by the death of the other (the corpse is present, but the other is absent) has contributed to the crucial transition from an indexical sign system to the symbolic level, i.e., the cognitive detachment . Death and language, as Heidegger claimed, have an essential relation for humans, both from an evolutionary and a phenomenological perspective: they have shaped the symbolic consciousness that make us conceive of them. (shrink)
The communication of emotion in music has with few exceptions, as L. B. Meyer´s Emotion and Meaning in Music (1956) and the contour theory (Kivy 1989, 2002), focused on music structure as representations of emotions. This implies a semiotic approach - the assumption that music is a kind of language that could be read and decoded. Such an approach is largely restricted to the conscious level of knowing, understanding and communication. We suggest an understanding of music and emotion based on (...) action-perception theory - present moment perception, implicit knowledge and imitation. This theory does not demand consciousness or the use of signs. Neuroscientific findings (adaptive oscillators, mirrorneurons) are in concordance with our suggestion. Recently these findings have generated articles on empathy – relevant to the understanding of music and emotion. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the recent work on mirrorneurons illuminates the character of our capacities for a politics of resonant receptivity in ways that both help us to comprehend the damages of our contemporary order and suggest indispensable alternative ethical-strategic registers and possible directions for organising a powerful movement towards radical democracy. In doing so, neuroscience simultaneously contributes to our understanding of the possibility and importance of a more durable (less fugitive) radically democratic habitus. While (...) the trope, ‘radically democratic habitus’, may seem oxymoronic in light of Bourdieu’s extensive rendering of ‘habitus’, I suggest that research on mirrorneurons discloses ways in which iterated practices and dispositional structures are crucial for democratic freedom. Keywords: radical democracy; mirrorneurons; receptivity; political resonance; habitus; resonance machine; mimesis; affect (Published: 23 December 2011) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 4 , No. 4, 2011, pp. 273-293. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v4i4.14447. (shrink)