There has recently been a resurgence of philosophical and scientific interest in the foundations of self-consciousness, with particular focus on its altered, anomalous forms. This paper looks at the altered forms of self-awareness in Depersonalization Disorder (DPD), a condition in which people feel detached from their self, their body and the world (Derealisation). Building upon the phenomenological distinction between reflective and pre-reflective self-consciousness, we argue that DPD may alter thetransparencyof basic embodied forms of pre-reflective self-consciousness, as well as the capacity (...) to flexibly modulate and switch between the reflective and pre-reflective facets of self-awareness. Empirical evidence will be invoked in support of the idea that impaired processing of bodily signals is characteristic of the condition. We provide first-hand subjective reports describing the experience of self-detachment or fracture between an observing and an observed self. This split is compared with similar self-detachment phenomena reported in certain Buddhist-derived meditative practices. We suggest that these alterations and changes may reveal the underlying and tacit transparency that characterises the embodied and basic pre-reflective forms of self-consciousness, in the same way that a crack in a transparent glass may indicate the presence of an unnoticed window. (shrink)
In his paper “Whatever next? Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science,” Andy Clark seminally proposed that the brain's job is to predict whatever information is coming “next” on the basis of prior inputs and experiences. Perception fundamentally subserves survival and self-preservation in biological agents, such as humans. Survival however crucially depends on rapid and accurate information processing of what is happening in the here and now. Hence, the term “next” in Clark's seminal formulation must include not (...) only the temporal dimension (i.e., what is perceivednow) but also the spatial dimension (i.e., what is perceivedhereor next-to-my-body). In this paper, we propose to focus on perceptual experiences that happen “next,” i.e., close-to-my-body. This is because perceptual processing of proximal sensory inputs has a key impact on the organism's survival. Specifically, we focus on tactile experiences mediated by the skin and what we will call the “extended skin” or “second skin,” that is, immediate objects/materials that envelop closely to our skin, namely, clothes. We propose that the skin and tactile experiences are not a mere border separating the self and world. Rather, they simultaneously and inherently distinguishandconnect the bodily self to its environment. Hence, these proximal and pervasive tactile experiences can be viewed as a “transparent bridge” intrinsically relating and facilitating exchanges between the self and the physical and social world. We conclude with potential implications of this observation for the case of Depersonalization Disorder, a condition that makes people feel estranged and detached from their self, body, and the world. (shrink)
In recent years there has been an increasing focus on a crucial aspect of the ‘meeting of minds’ problem :160–165, 2013), namely the ability that human beings have for sharing different types of mental states such as emotions, intentions, and perceptual experiences. In this paper I examine what counts as basic forms of ‘shared experiences’ and focus on a relatively overlooked aspect of human embodiment, namely the fact that we start our journey into our experiential life within the experiencing body (...) of a second person, i.e. our mothers. For example, Zahavi and Rochat recently draw on phenomenological insights and developmental studies in order to support the idea that empathy must be considered a central precondition for experiential sharing. Here I suggest that the defence of the primacy of empathy over experiential sharing might reveal how we are often mislead in our understanding of more basic forms of shared experiences. I argue that while previous approaches mainly defined experiential sharing by using the case of visual experience as a paradigmatic example of ‘togetherness’, it is fruitful to consider the case of pregnancy and intersubjective touch in early infancy as a more basic model of experiential sharing in general. I conclude that shared experiences are phenomena emerging first and foremost from a ‘meeting of bodies’ rather than of minds and as such they precede rather than presuppose empathetic abilities. (shrink)
This paper proposes a qualitative study exploring anomalous self and world-experiences in individuals with high levels of depersonalization experiences. Depersonalization (DP) is a condition characterized by distressing feelings of being a detached, neutral and disembodied onlooker of one’s mental and bodily processes. Our findings indicate the presence of a wide range of anomalous experiences traditionally understood to be core features of DP, such as disembodiment and disrupted self-awareness. However, our results also indicate experiential features that are less highlighted in previous (...) work, such as faster time perception and blurriness of the self/other boundaries which may play a key role in altering one’s sense of self and sense of presence in the world. Our qualitative study provides an in-depth examination of self-reported disturbances of one’s relatedness to one’s self and the world, thereby shedding further light on the nature of altered subjective experiences in DP. In doing so, this paper draws attention to key aspects yet overlooked that may prove valuable for shedding further light into the phenomenon of depersonalization. We conclude by highlighting limitations of this study and a number of open questions that further work needs to address in the future. (shrink)
This article focuses on the question of the function of imitation and whether current accounts of imitative function are consistent with our knowledge about imitation's origins. We first review theories of imitative origin concluding that empirical evidence suggests that imitation arises from domain‐general learning mechanisms. Next, we lay out a selective account of function that allows normative functions to be ascribed to learned behaviours. We then describe and review four accounts of the function of imitation before evaluating the relationship between (...) the claim that imitation arises out of domain‐general learning mechanisms and theories of the function of imitation. (shrink)
A target question for the scientific study of consciousness is how dimensions of consciousness, such as the ability to feel pain and pleasure or reflect on one’s own experience, vary in different states and animal species. Considering the tight link between consciousness and moral status, answers to these questions have implications for law and ethics. Here we point out that given this link, the scientific community studying consciousness may face implicit pressure to carry out certain research programs or interpret results (...) in ways that justify current norms rather than challenge them. We show that because consciousness largely determines moral status, the use of nonhuman animals in the scientific study of consciousness introduces a direct conflict between scientific relevance and ethics—the more scientifically valuable an animal model is for studying consciousness, the more difficult it becomes to ethically justify compromises to its well-being for consciousness research. Finally, in light of these considerations, we call for a discussion of the immediate ethical corollaries of the body of knowledge that has accumulated and for a more explicit consideration of the role of ideology and ethics in the scientific study of consciousness. (shrink)
Several studies demonstrated that children younger than 3 years of age, who consistently fail the standard verbal false-belief task, can anticipate others’ actions based on their attributed false beliefs. This gave rise to the so-called “Developmental Paradox”. De Bruin and Kästner recently suggested that the Developmental Paradox is best addressed in terms of the relation between coupled and decoupled processes and argued that if enactivism is to be a genuine alternative to classic cognitivism, it should be able to bridge the (...) “cognitive gap”, i.e. to provide us with a convincing account of how low-level sensorimotor practices transform into higher-order representational skills. This paper defends, against De Bruin and Kästner, an enactive response to the Developmental Paradox. I argue that 3-year olds’ failure to verbally report their false-belief understanding does not arise from stronger decoupling demands. Rather, they fail because the elicited response false-belief trials involve representational decoupling tout court and what is more, under pressure. (shrink)
Assigning to Pearl blankets an instrumental, a “pure” formal role, tacitly delegates the thorny question of mapping the “murky” territory to empirical sciences. But this move side-lines the problem, and does not offer a solution to the question: How do we relate the formal properties of an agent's model of the world to the real properties of the world itself?