Phenomenology and naturalism in autopoietic and radical enactivism: exploring sense-making and continuity from the top down

Synthese 198 (Suppl 9):2323-2343 (2018)
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Abstract

Radical and autopoietic enactivists disagree concerning how to understand the concept of sense-making in enactivist discourse and the extent of its distribution within the organic domain. I situate this debate within a broader conflict of commitments to naturalism on the part of radical enactivists, and to phenomenology on the part of autopoietic enactivists. I argue that autopoietic enactivists are in part responsible for the obscurity of the notion of sense-making by attributing it univocally to sentient and non-sentient beings and following Hans Jonas in maintaining a phenomenological dimension to life-mind continuity among all living beings, sentient or non-sentient. I propose following Merleau-Ponty instead, who offers a properly phenomenological notion of sense-making for which sentience is a necessary condition. Against radicalist efforts to replace sense-making with a deflationary, naturalist conception of intentionality, I discuss the role of the phenomenological notion of sense-making for understanding animal behavior and experience.

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Hayden Kee
Chinese University of Hong Kong