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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
David Hume endorses three claims that are difficult to reconcile: (1) sympathy with those in distress is sufficient to produce compassion towards their plight, (2) adopting the general point of view often requires us to sympathize with the pain and suffering of distant strangers, but (3) our care and concern is limited to those in our close circle. Hume manages to resolve this tension, however, by distinguishing two types of sympathy. We feel compassion towards those around us because associative sympathy (...) causes us to mirror their pain and suffering, but our ability to enter into the afflictions of those remote from us involves cognitive sympathy and merely requires us to reflect upon how we would feel in their shoes. This hybrid theory of sympathy receives support from recent work on affective mirroring and cognitive pretense. Hume’s account should appeal to contemporary researchers, therefore, who are interested in the nature of moral imagination. (shrink)
I discuss Husserl’s account of intersubjectivity in the fifth Cartesian Meditation. I focus on the problem of perceived similarity. I argue that recent work in developmental psychology and neuroscience, concerning intermodal representation and the mirror neuron system, fails to constitute a naturalistic solution to the problem. This can be seen via a comparison between the Husserlian project on the one hand and Molyneux’s Question on the other.
Mindreading is the ability to attribute mental states to other individuals. According to the Theory-Theory (TT), mindreading is based on one's possession of a Theory of Mind. On the other hand, the Simulation Theory (ST) maintains that one arrives at the attribution of a mental state by simulating it in one's own mind. In this paper, I propose a ST-TT hybrid model of the ability to attribute disgust on the basis of visual stimuli such as facial expressions, body postures, etc. (...) More precisely, while I defend Goldman's (2006) thesis that the ability to attribute disgust based on observing disgusted facial expressions stems from a mirror-based simulation process, I argue that ST is unable to account for the ability to attribute disgust based on non-facial visual stimuli; I propose, rather, that this latter ability is theory-based. My model is grounded in evidence from individuals suffering from Huntington's Disease. (shrink)
Embodied social cognition (ESC) aims to explicate how our embodiment shapes our knowledge of others, and in what this knowledge of others consists. Although there is much diversity amongst ESC accounts, common to all these accounts is the idea that our normal everyday interactions consist in non-mentalistic embodied engagements. In recent years, several theorists have developed and defended innovative and controversial accounts of ESC. These accounts challenge, and offer deflationary alternatives to, the standard cognitivist accounts of social cognition. As ESC (...) accounts grow in number and prominence, the time has come for a dedicated, sustained debate on ESC and its most controversial and innovative elements. The goal of this special issue is to host such a debate with the aim of bringing clarity to the discussion of social cognition. (shrink)
Abstract: I present empirical evidence suggesting that an infant first becomes aware of herself as the focal center of a caregiver's attending. Yet that does not account for her awareness of herself as agent. To address this question, I bring in research on neonatal imitation, as well as studies demonstrating the existence of a neural system in which parts of the same brain areas are activated when observing another's action and when executing a similar one. Applying these findings, I consider (...) gestural exchanges between infant and caregiver, such as reciprocal smiles and imitative vocalizations. Lacking self-awareness at first, the infant is unaware of her own agency. By returning her unwitting gesture, the caregiver singles out for her—thanks to neural matching—the gesture's kinesthesis. Moreover, the caregiver's smile, imitative vocalization, or other gesture is the form that focusing takes. The kinesthesis of the infant's gesture, in being singled-out, is experienced by the infant as what the caregiver is focusing on. It is experienced as being within the focal center. In this way the infant becomes aware of herself as a bodily entity acting toward the caregiver. Exchanges that involve matching are at first essential, I argue, in making the infant present to herself in action. Matching will cease to be necessary, but self-awareness continues to depend fundamentally on others until the acquisition of language, when the child becomes capable of talking to herself as if she were the caregiver. (shrink)
Recent studies of emotion mindreading reveal that for three emotions, fear, disgust, and anger, deficits in face-based recognition are paired with deficits in the production of the same emotion. What type of mindreading process would explain this pattern of paired deficits? The simulation approach and the theorizing approach are examined to determine their compatibility with the existing evidence. We conclude that the simulation approach offers the best explanation of the data. What computational steps might be used, however, in simulation-style emotion (...) detection? Four alternative models are explored: a generate-and-test model, a reverse simulation model, a variant of the reverse simulation model that employs an “as if” loop, and an unmediated resonance model. (shrink)
Proposition 1 is based on the received Aristotelian analysis of intentional action and a commonsense view about understanding. Proposition 2 represents a consensus view among primatologists about the absence of higher order “theory of mind” capacities in monkeys. Proposition 3 reflects a common interpretation of the functions of so-called “mirrorneurons” found in the ventral premotor (F5) cortex of macaque monkeys (e.g., Gallese and Goldman 1998; Rizzolatti and Craighero 2004; Fogassi et al. 2005). Taken at face value, then, (...) this inconsistent triad presents a paradox for understanding the contribution of F5 neurons in macaques to their cognitive capacities. This paradox does not arise for humans because the human analogue to proposition 2 is the obvious candidate for rejection. Nevertheless, the considerations relevant to resolving the paradox for monkeys are also important for a properly skeptical interpretation of the neurological evidence about the mirror neuron system in humans (see Debes, submitted). In this chapter I discuss each of the possibilities for resolving the paradox by rejecting one of the three propositions. Although my philosophical sympathies pError (27674): Unknown form typeError (27725): Unknown form typeError (27815): Unknown form typeresently lie with rejecting proposition 1, some of the arguments depend on empirical knowledge that is presently lacking. Nevertheless, I describe an approach to understanding the functions of F5 mirror.. (shrink)
Phantom limb experiences demonstrate an unexpected degree of fragility inherent in our self-perceptions. This is perhaps most extreme when congenitally absent limbs are experienced as phantoms. Aplasic phantoms highlight fundamental questions about the physiological bases of self-experience and the ontogeny of a physical, embodied sense of the self. Some of the most intriguing of these questions concern the role of mirrorneurons in supporting the development of self–other mappings and hence the emergence of phantom experiences of congenitally absent (...) limbs. In this paper, we will examine the hypothesis that aplasic phantom limb experience is the result of an ontogenetic interplay between body schemas and mirror neuron activity and that this interplay is founded on embedding in a social context. Phantom limb experience has been associated with the persistence of subjective experience of a part of the body after deafferentation through surgical or traumatic removal. We maintain that limited association is inconsistent with the extent to which phantom limb experience is reported by aplasic individuals. (shrink)
The notion that manual gestures played an important role in the evolution of human language was strengthened by the discovery of mirrorneurons in monkey area F5, the proposed homologue of human Broca's area. This idea is central to the thesis developed by Arbib, and lending further support to a link between motor resonance mechanisms and language/communication development is the case of autism and congenital blindness. We provide an account of how these conditions may relate to the aforementioned (...) theory. (shrink)
Mirrorneurons form a poor basis for Arbib's account of language evolution, failing to explain the creativity that must precede imitation, and requiring capacities (improbable in hominids) for categorizing situations and unambiguously miming them. They also commit Arbib to an implausible holophrastic protolanguage. His model is further vitiated by failure to address the origins of symbolization and the real nature of syntax.
We focus on the evolution of action capabilities which set the stage for language, rather than analyzing how further brain evolution built on these capabilities to yield a language-ready brain. Our framework is given by the Mirror System Hypothesis, which charts a progression from a monkey-like mirror neuron system (MNS) to a chimpanzee-like mirror system that supports simple imitation and thence to a human-like mirror system that supports complex imitation and language. We present the MNS2 model, (...) a new model of action recognition learning by mirrorneurons of the macaque brain and augmented competitive queuing, a model of opportunistic scheduling of action sequences as background for analysis of modeling strategies for simple imitation as seen in the great apes and complex/goal-directed imitation as seen in humans. Implications for the study of language are briefly noted. (shrink)
Research on mirror self-recognition where animals are observed for mirror-guided self-directed behaviour has predominated the empirical approach to self-awareness in nonhuman primates. The ability to direct behaviour to previously unseen parts of the body such as the inside of the mouth, or grooming the eye by aid of mirrors has been interpreted as recognition of self and evidence of a self-concept. Three decades of research has revealed that contrary to monkeys, most great apes (humans, common chimpanzees, pygmy chimpanzees (...) and orangutans but not the gorilla) have convincingly displayed the capacity to recognize self by mirrors. The putative discontinuity in phylogeny of the ability suggests the existence of a so-called cognitive gap between great apes and the rest of the animal kingdom. However, methodological and theoretical inconsistencies regarding the empirical approach prevail. For instance, the observation of self-directed behaviour might not be as straightforward as it seems. In addition, the interpretation of mirror self-recognition as an index of self-awareness is challenged by alternative explanations, raising doubt about some assumptions behind mirror self-recognition. To evaluate the significance of the test in discussions of the concept of self this paper presents and analyses some major arguments raised on the mirror task. (shrink)
The recent discovery of so-called “mirror-neurons” in monkeys and a corresponding mirroring “system” in humans has provoked wide endorsement of the claim that humans understand a variety of observed actions, somatic sensations, and emotions via a kind of direct representation of those actions, sensations, and emotions. Philosophical efforts to assess the import of such “mirrored understanding” have typically focused on how that understanding might be brought to bear on theories of mindreading (how we represent other creatures as having (...) mental states), and usually in cases of action. By contrast, this paper assesses mirrored understanding in cases of emotion and its import for theories of <span class='Hi'>empathy</span> and especially <span class='Hi'>empathy</span> in ethical contexts. In particular, this paper argues that the mirrored understanding claim is ambiguous and ultimately misleading when applied to emotion, partly because mirroring proponents fail to appreciate the way in which <span class='Hi'>empathy</span> might serve a distinct normative function in our judgments of what other people feel. The paper thus concludes with a call to revise the mirrored understanding claim, whether in neuroscience, psychology, or philosophy. (shrink)
Abstract The view that mirror self-recognition (MSR) is a definitive demonstration of self-awareness is far from universally accepted, and those who do support the view need a more robust argument than the mere assumption that self-recognition implies a self-concept (e.g. Gallup in Socioecology and Psychology of Primates, Mouton, Hague, 1975 ; Gallup and Suarez in Psychological Perspectives on the Self, vol 3, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, 1986 ). In this paper I offer a new argument in favour of the view that (...) MSR shows self-awareness by examining the nature of the mirror image itself. I argue, using the results of ‘symbol-mindedness’ experiments by Deloache (Trends Cogn Sci 8(2):66–70, 2004) , that where self-recognition exists, the mirror image must be functioning as a symbol from the perspective of the subject and the subject must therefore be ‘symbol-minded’ and hence concept possessing. Further to this, according to the Concept Possession Hypothesis of Self-Consciousness (Savanah in Conscious Cogn 2011 ), concept possession alone is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of self-awareness. Thus MSR as a demonstration of symbol-mindedness implies the existence of self-awareness. I begin by defending the ‘mark test’ protocol as a robust methodology for determining self-recognition. Then follows a critical examination of the extreme views both for and against the interpretation of MSR as an indication of self-awareness: although the non-mentalistic interpretation of MSR is unconvincing, the argument presented by Gallup is also inadequate. I then present the symbol-mindedness argument to fill in the gaps in the Gallup approach. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-17 DOI 10.1007/s10539-012-9318-2 Authors Stephane Savanah, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867. (shrink)
Emotions and actions are powerfully contagious; when we see someone laugh, cry, show disgust, or experience pain, in some sense, we share that emotion. When we see someone in distress, we share that distress. When we see a great actor, musician or sportsperson perform at the peak of their abilities, it can feel like we are experiencing just something of what they are experiencing. Yet only recently, with the discover of mirrorneurons, has it become clear just how (...) this powerful sharing of experience is realised within the human brain. This book provides, for the first time, a systematic overview of mirrorneurons, written by the man who first discovered them. -/- In the early 1990's Giacomo Rizzolatti and his co-workers at the University of Parma discovered that some neurons had a surprising property. They responded not only when a subject performed a given action, but also when the subject oberved someone else performing that same action. These results had a deep impact on cognitive neuroscience, leading the neuroscientist VS Ramachandran to predict that 'mirrorneurons would do for psychology what DNA did for biology'. The unexpected properties of these neurons have not only attracted the attention of neuroscientists. Many sociologists, anthropologists, and even artists have been fascinated by mirrorneurons. The director and playwright Peter Brook stated that mirrorneurons throw new light on the mysterious link that is created each time actors take the stage and face their audience - the sight of a great actor performing activates in the brain of the observer the very same areas that are active in the performer - including both their actions and their emotions. -/- Written in a highly accessible style, that conveys something of the excitement of this groundbreaking theory, Mirrors in the brain is the definitive account of one the major scientific discoveries of the past 50 years. (shrink)
We argue that theory-of-mind (ToM) approaches, such as “theory theory” and “simulation theory”, are both problematic and not needed. They account for neither our primary and pervasive way of engaging with others nor the true basis of our folk psychological understanding, even when narrowly construed. Developmental evidence shows that young infants are capable of grasping the purposeful intentions of others through the perception of bodily movements, gestures, facial expressions etc. Trevarthen’s notion of primary intersubjectivity can provide a theoretical framework for (...) understanding these capabilities and his notion of secondary intersubjectivity shows the importance of pragmatic contexts for infants starting around one year of age. The recent neuroscience of resonance systems (i.e., mirrorneurons, shared representations) also supports this view. These ideas are worked out in the context of an embodied “Interaction Theory” of social cognition. Still, for more sophisticated intersubjective interactions in older children and adults, one might argue that some form of ToM is required. This thought is defused by appeal to narrative competency and the Narrative Practice Hypothesis (or NPH). We propose that repeated encounters with narratives of a distinctive kind is the normal route through which children acquire an understanding of the forms and norms that enable them to make sense of actions in terms of reasons. A potential objection to this hypothesis is that it presupposes ToM abilities. Interaction Theory is deployed once again to answer this by providing an alternative approach to understanding basic narrative competency and its development. (shrink)
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)
This paper describes the historical background to contemporary discussions of empathy and rationality. It looks at the philosophy of mind and its implications for action explanation and the philosophy of history. In the nineteenth century, the concept of empathy became prominent within philosophical aesthetics, from where it was extended to describe the way we grasp other minds. This idea of empathy as a way of understanding others echoed through later accounts of historical understanding as involving re-enactment, noticeably that of R. (...) G. Collingwood. For much of the late twentieth century, philosophers of history generally neglected questions about action explanation. In the philosophy of mind, however, Donald Davidson inspired widespread discussions of the role of folk psychology and rationality in mental causation and the explanation of actions, and some philosophers of history drew on his ideas to reconsider issues related to empathy. Today, philosophers inspired by the discovery of mirrorneurons and the theory of mind debate between theory theorists and simulation theorists are again making the concept of empathy central to philosophical analyses of action explanation and to historical understanding. (shrink)
The strong predominance of right-handedness appears to be a uniquely human characteristic, whereas the left-cerebral dominance for vocalization occurs in many species, including frogs, birds, and mammals. Right-handedness may have arisen because of an association between manual gestures and vocalization in the evolution of language. I argue that language evolved from manual gestures, gradually incorporating vocal elements. The transition may be traced through changes in the function of Broca's area. Its homologue in monkeys has nothing to do with vocal control, (...) but contains the so-called “mirrorneurons,” the code for both the production of manual reaching movements and the perception of the same movements performed by others. This system is bilateral in monkeys, but predominantly left-hemispheric in humans, and in humans is involved with vocalization as well as manual actions. There is evidence that Broca's area is enlarged on the left side in Homo habilis, suggesting that a link between gesture and vocalization may go back at least two million years, although other evidence suggests that speech may not have become fully autonomous until Homo sapiens appeared some 170,000 years ago, or perhaps even later. The removal of manual gesture as a necessary component of language may explain the rapid advance of technology, allowing late migrations of Homo sapiens from Africa to replace all other hominids in other parts of the world, including the Neanderthals in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia. Nevertheless, the long association of vocalization with manual gesture left us a legacy of right-handedness. Key Words: cerebral dominance; gestures; handedness; hominids; language evolution; primates; speech; vocalization. (shrink)
In a New York Times article last month, entitled Cells that read minds, the neuroscience reporter, Sandra Blakeslee (January 10, 2006) provided a list of all the things that mirrorneurons can explain. As we know, mirrorneurons, discovered by Rizzolattis group in Parma, are neurons that are activated when we engage in action, and when we perceive intentional movement in another person. According to Blakeslee and the scientists she interviewed, mirrorneurons explain (...) not only how we are capable of understanding another persons actions, but also language, empathy, how children learn, why people respond to certain types of sports, dance, music and art, why watching media violence may be harmful and why many men like pornography. Let me set aside the controversial questions about whether mirrorneurons can explain all of these things, and accept that mirrorneurons are clearly smart little cells. But let me ask whether Blakeslee and her scientists are expressing things in the right way. (shrink)
This paper discusses supportive neurological and social evidence for 'collective consciousness', here understood as a shared sense of being together with others in a single or unified experience. Mirrorneurons in the premotor and posterior parietal cortices respond to the intentions as well as the actions of other individuals. There are also mirrorneurons in the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortices which have been implicated in empathy. Many authors have considered the likely role of such (...)mirror systems in the development of uniquely human aspects of sociality including language. Though not without criticism, Menant has made the case that mirror-neuron assisted exchanges aided the original advent of self-consciousness and intersubjectivity. Combining these ideas with social mirror theory it is not difficult to imagine the creation of similar dynamical patterns in the emotional and even cognitive neuronal activity of individuals in human groups, creating a feeling in which the participating members experience a unified sense of consciousness. Such instances pose a kind of 'binding problem' in which participating individuals exhibit a degree of 'entanglement'. (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)
"You are really getting under my skin!" This exclamation suggests a series of psychological, philosophical, and metaphysical questions: What is the nature and development of human emotion? How does emotion arise in social interaction? To what extent can interactive situations shape our embodied selves and intensify particular affective states? With these questions in mind, William James begins to investigate the character of emotions and to develop a model of what he terms the social self. James's studies of mimicry and his (...) interest in phenomena now often investigated using biofeedback begin to explain how affective states develop and how it might be possible for something to "get under one's skin." I situate these studies in the history of psychology between the psychological schools of structuralism and behaviorism. More important, I suggest continuity between James's Psychology and recent research on mirrorneurons, reentrant mapping, and emotional mimicry in the fields of clinical psychology and cognitive neuroscience. This research supports and extends James's initial claims in regard to the creation of emotions and the life of the social self. I propose that James's work in the empirical sciences should be read as a prelude to his metaphysical works that speak of a coordination between embodied selves and wider environmental situations, and his psychological studies should be read as a prelude to his reflections on spiritual transcendence. (shrink)
Plato’s dialogues are self-defined as works of mimetic art, and the ancients clearly consider mimesis as working naturally before reason and beneath it. Such aview connects with two contemporary ideas—Rene Girard’s idea of the mimetic basis of culture and neurophysiological research into mirrorneurons. Individualityarises out of, and can collapse back into our mimetic origin. This para-rational notion of mimesis as that in which and by which all our knowledge is framed requires we not only concern ourselves with (...) Socrates’s arguments and distinctions, but also see how the dramatic interaction of the characters is working (or not) on/in the characters, and consider how watching the interaction, hearing the parables and myths, and thinking through the arguments and interactions is meant to effect us. That Plato creates mimeses means he aims at passional conversion not merely argumentative worth, since mimesis aims to (and does) work on the passions. (shrink)
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)
We believe that an account of the role of mirrorneurons in language evolution should involve a greater emphasis on the auditory properties of these neurons. Mirrorneurons in premotor cortex which respond to the visual and auditory consequences of actions allow for a modality-independent and agent-independent coding of actions, which may have been important for the emergence of language.
The condition, known as mirror-touch synesthesia, is related to the activity of mirrorneurons, cells recently discovered to fire not only when some animals perform some behavior, such as climbing a tree, but also when they watch another animal do the behavior. For "synesthetes," it's as if their mirrorneurons are on overdrive.
Charmed by Corballis's presentation, we challenge the use of mirrorneurons as a supporting platform for the gestural theory of language, the link between vocalization and cerebral specialization, and the relationship between gesture and language as two separate albeit coupled systems of communication. We revive an alternative explanation of lateralization of language and handedness.
Simulation theories of social cognition abound in the literature, but it is often unclear what simulation means and how it works. The discovery of mirrorneurons, responding both to action execution and observation, suggested an embodied approach to mental simulation. Over the last years this approach has been hotly debated and alternative accounts have been proposed. We discuss these accounts and argue that they fail to capture the uniqueness of embodied simulation (ES). ES theory provides a unitary account (...) of basic social cognition, demonstrating that people e their own mental states or processes represented with a bodily format in functionally attributing them to others. (shrink)
Mirrorneurons may play a role in representing not only signs but also their meaning. Because actions are the only aspect of behavior that are inter-individually accessible, interpreting meanings in terms of actions might explain how meanings can be shared. Behavioral evidence and artificial life simulations suggest that seeing objects or processing words referring to objects automatically activates motor actions.
This commentary points to the lack of sound data supporting Corballis's thesis that there is a general left-hemisphere dominance for nonverbal vocal production in mammals. I also point out that area F5 in the rhesus monkey, which Corballis considers as homologous to Broca's area, contains not only visual “mirror” neurons but also auditory “mirror” neurons. This weakens Corballis's thesis that language developed exclusively at the gestural level.
The paper describes the theory of mirrorneurons system and reminds selected empirical researches made in its context. Author evaluates the theory from the theo-retical and methodological point of view. The background of undertaken analysis and evaluation is Lakatos' and Kuhn's methodology and philosophy of science.
Against any obscurantist stand, denying the interest of natural sciences for the comprehension of human meaning and language, but also against any reductionist hypothesis, frustrating the specificity of the semiotic point of view on nature, the paper argues that the deepest dynamic at the basis of meaning consists in its being a mechanism of ‘potentiality navigation’ within a universe generally characterized by motility. On the one hand, such a hypothesis widens the sphere of meaning to all beings somehow endowed with (...) the capacity of moving and/or perceiving movement. On the other hand, through a new evolutionist interpretation of the concept of generativity, such a hypothesis preserves the peculiarity of human meaning, meant as essentially founded on a certain intuition of infinity. Two corollaries stem from this hypothesis: first, religiosity can be considered as a matrix of grammars of infinity, aiming at regimenting its flight of potentialities. Second, non-genetic transmission of cultural information exerts determinant influence also at the level of that very deep mechanism of the human predicament that is the cognitive navigation of motor potentialities. A re-reading of the structuralist epistemology, scientific literature on the nervous cells of jellyfish, and some recent experiments on the mirrorneurons of dancers, as well as certain intuitions of Teilhard de Chardin, are the main arguments of the paper. (shrink)
This review of John Russon's Human Experience: Philosophy, Neurosis, and the Elements of Everyday Life focuses on Russon's position that experience is open (having a developmental, situated and dynamic, rather than fixed, structure) and figured (having a structure inseparable from forms of bodily function), and that mind is something learned in the process of working out experience as figured and open. These themes are drawn together in relation to recent scientific discussions (e.g., of bodily dynamics, mirrorneurons, robotic (...) systems and thermodynamics), to show how Russon's view challenges deep philosophical assumptions in prevailing accounts of mind, body and experience. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have been impressed with the thought that moral saints and moral monsters—or, evil people, to put it less sensationally—“mirror” one another, in a sense to be explained. Call this the mirror thesis. The project of this paper is to cash out the metaphorical suggestion that moral saints and evil persons mirror one other and to articulate the most plausible literal version of the mirror thesis. To anticipate, the most plausible version of the (...)mirror thesis implies that evil persons mirror moral saints insofar as the characters of each are marked by similar aretaic properties: suffering from extremely vicious character traits—in a sense to be explained—suffices for being evil whereas possessing extremely virtuous character traits similarly suffices for moral sainthood. (shrink)
This article brings out certain philosophical difficulties in Lacan’s account of the mirror stage, the initial moment of the subject’s development. For Lacan, the “original organization of the forms of the ego” is “precipitated” in an infant’s self-recognition in a mirror image; this event is explicitly prior to any social interactions. A Hegelian objection to the Lacanian account argues that social interaction and recognition of others by infants are necessary prerequisites for infants’ capacity to recognize themselves in a (...)mirror image. Thus mutual recognition with another, rather than self-recognition in a mirror, is what makes possible subsequent ego-formation and self-consciousness. This intersubjective critique suggests that many of the psychoanalytic consequences that Lacan derives from the mirror stage (e.g., alienation, narcissism, and aggressivity) may need to be rethought. (shrink)
The dominance of string theory in the research landscape of quantum gravity physics (despite any direct experimental evidence) can, I think, be justified in a variety of ways. Here I focus on an argument from mathematical fertility, broadly similar to Hilary Putnam’s ‘no miracles argument’ that, I argue, many string theorists in fact espouse. String theory leads to many surprising, useful, and well-confirmed mathematical ‘predictions’—here I focus on mirror symmetry. These predictions are made on the basis of general physical (...) principles entering into string theory. The success of the mathematical predictions are then seen as evidence for framework that generated them. I attempt to defend this argument, but there are nonetheless some serious objections to be faced. These objections can only be evaded at a high (philosophical) price. (shrink)
Empathy is the phenomenal experience of mirroring ourselves into others. It can be explained in terms of simulations of actions, sensations, and emotions which constitute a shared manifold for intersubjectivity. Simulation, in turn, can be sustained at the subpersonal level by a series of neural mirror matching systems.
Rorty -- The mirror of nature -- The origins of the mirror -- The antipodeans -- The origins of philosophy -- Linguistic holism -- Naturalized epistemology : psychology -- Naturalized epistemology : language -- Science and pluralism -- The power of strangeness.
According to Roy Sorensen [Philosophical Studies 100 (2000) 175–191] an object cannot differ aesthetically from its mirror image. On his view, mirror-reversing an object – changing its left/right orientation – cannot bring about any aesthetic change. However, in arguing for this thesis Sorensen assumes that aesthetic properties supervene on intrinsic properties alone. This is a highly controversial assumption and nothing is offered in its support. Moreover, a plausible weakening of the assumption does not improve the argument. Finally, Sorensen’s (...) second argument is shown to be formally flawed. As a result, the case for the aesthetic irrelevancy of orientation seems still open. (shrink)
This essay draws on a wide range of feminist, psychoanalytic and other anti-racist theorists to work out the specific mode of space as contained and the ways it grounds dominant contemporary forms of racism i.e. the space of phallicized whiteness. Offering a close reading of Lacans primary models for ego-formation, the mirror stage and the inverted bouquet, I argue that psychoanalysis can help us to map contemporary power relations of racism because it enacts some of those very dynamics. Casting (...) the production of subjectivity on the field of the visual, Lacan performs some of the fundamental conceptions of space and embodiment that ground the dominant forms of racism in these cultural symbolics. Namely, he articulates a body that is bound by skin, structured by a logic of containment, cathected through aggression and distance, and read primarily through the way it looks both how it appears and how it beholds the appearances of other bodies. Unraveling this nexus of power relations, I argue that a fundamental anti-racist strategy is to interrupt, interrogate and re-deploy this interpellation of images. Key Words: ego-formation embodiment historicity Lacan ontological phallus race/racial difference/racism space visual whiteness. (shrink)
In this journal, Luke Russell defends a sophisticated dispositional account of evil personhood according to which a person is evil just in case she is strongly and highly fixedly disposed to perform evil actions in conditions that favour her autonomy. While I am generally sympathetic with this account, I argue that Russell wrongly dismisses the mirror thesis—roughly, the thesis that evil people are the mirror images of the morally best sort of persons—which I have defended elsewhere. Russell’s rejection (...) of the mirror thesis depends upon an independently implausible account of moral sainthood, one that is implausible for reasons that Russell himself suggests in another context. Indeed, an account of moral sainthood that parallels Russell’s account of evil personhood is plausible for the same reasons that his account of evil personhood is, and that suggests that Russell himself is actually committed to the mirror thesis. (shrink)
People in the ancient world thought of vision as both an ethical tool and a tactile sense, akin to touch. Gazing upon someone—or oneself—was treated as a path to philosophical self-knowledge, but the question of tactility introduced an erotic element as well. In The Mirror of the Self , Shadi Bartsch asserts that these links among vision, sexuality, and self-knowledge are key to the classical understanding of the self. Weaving together literary theory, philosophy, and social history, Bartsch traces this (...) complex notion of self from Plato’s Greece to Seneca’s Rome. She starts by showing how ancient authors envisioned the mirror as both a tool for ethical self-improvement and, paradoxically, a sign of erotic self-indulgence. Her reading of the Phaedrus , for example, demonstrates that the mirroring gaze in Plato, because of its sexual possibilities, could not be adopted by Roman philosophers and their students. Bartsch goes on to examine the Roman treatment of the ethical and sexual gaze, and she traces how self-knowledge, the philosopher’s body, and the performance of virtue all played a role in shaping the Roman understanding of the nature of selfhood. Culminating in a profoundly original reading of Medea , The Mirror of the Self illustrates how Seneca, in his Stoic quest for self-knowledge, embodies the Roman view, marking a new point in human thought about self-perception. Bartsch leads readers on a journey that unveils divided selves, moral hypocrisy, and lustful Stoics—and offers fresh insights about seminal works. At once sexy and philosophical, The Mirror of the Self will be required reading for classicists, philosophers, and anthropologists alike. (shrink)
The mechanism by which humans perceive others differs greatly from how humans perceive inanimate objects. Unlike inanimate objects, humans have the distinct property of being “like me” in the eyes of the observer. This allows us to use the same systems that process knowledge about self-performed actions, self-conceived thoughts, and self-experienced emotions to understand actions, thoughts, and emotions in others. The authors propose that internal simulation mechanisms, such as the mirror neuron system, are necessary for normal development of recognition, (...) imitation, theory of mind, empathy, and language. Additionally, the authors suggest that dysfunctional simulation mechanisms may underlie the social and communicative deficits seen in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. (shrink)
A flop is a picture that mirror reverses the original scene. Some flops are reversed copies. For instance, mirror reversal is systematic with technologies that require contact between a template and an imprint surface. Other flops are just pictures that have undergone the operation of flopping. For example, a slide that is inserted backwards into a projector is a flop.
Chaotic dynamics can be related to analog computation. A possibility of electronically implementing the chaos-driven contracting system in the target article is explored with an analog electronic circuit with inevitable noise from the viewpoint of analog computation with chaotic neurons.
While corporate failures, such as Enron and WorldCom, have focused attention on issues of business ethics, corporate governance and risk management, there is nothing intrinsically new in the reasons behind their collapse. Neither is there anything fresh in the media's rush to identify a scapegoat. An examination of the financial collapse of Mirror Group Newspapers and Barings Bank, demonstrates failures within both these companies' corporate cultures and management systems, which allowed, if not encouraged, unethical behaviour by key individuals. It (...) is argued that a combination of legislation, regulation, effective risk management and appropriate sanctions are needed, if such unethical behaviour, and resulting corporate failure, is to be prevented in future. (shrink)
As presently implemented, the neuron doctrine (ND) portrays the brain's neurons and chemical synapses as fundamental components in a computer-like switching circuit, supporting a view of brain = mind = computer. However, close examination reveals individual neurons to be far more complex than simple switches, with enormous capacity for intracellular information processing (e.g., in the internal cytoskeleton). Other poorly appreciated factors (gap junctions, apparent randomness, dendritic-dendritic processing, possible quantum computation, the living state) also suggest that the ND grossly (...) oversimplifies neuronal functions. In the quest to understand consciousness, the presently implemented ND may throw out the baby with the bath water. (shrink)
In the article two viewpoints on the mind’s influence on perception are considered. One of them was developed on the assumption that perception is a nonproblematic source of knowledge about the world, which is free from mind’s influence—perception as a mirror-image. Another viewpoint is perception as action, i.e. active search and gathering the relevant information, its processing and evaluation. First viewpoint has dominated in philosophy for a long time, the second one has been developing in (...) psychology from the 80th of the 20th century. The aim of the paper is to examine some philosophically significant corollaries from both positions concerning objectiveness, epistemological status of an observation, truth, meaning of name. Analysis showed that perception as action is non-compatible with many traditional concepts, and it goes both against empiricism and against realism as it involves some critical arguments, e.g. theory ladenness of observations, underdetermination of theory by facts, the historical development of a scientific fact. (shrink)
Challenges for extending the mirror system hypothesis include mechanisms supporting planning, conversation, motivation, theory of mind, and prosody. Modeling remains relevant. Co-speech gestures show how manual gesture and speech intertwine, but more attention is needed to the auditory system and phonology. The holophrastic view of protolanguage is debated, along with semantics and the cultural basis of grammars. Anatomically separated regions may share an evolutionary history.
Heyes argues that nonhuman primates are unable to imitate, recognize themselves in mirrors, and take another's perspective, and that none of these capabilities are evidence for theory of mind. First, her evaluation of the evidence, especially for imitation and mirror self-recognition, is inaccurate. Second, she neglects to address the important developmental evidence that these capabilities are necessary precursors in the development of theory of mind.