McDowell's claim that "in mature human beings, embodied coping is permeated with mindedness",1 suggests a new version of the mentalist myth which, like the others, is untrue to the phenomenon. The phenomena show that embodied skills, when we are fully absorbed in enacting them, have a kind of non-mental content that is non-conceptual, non-propositional, non-rational and non-linguistic. This is not to deny that we can monitor our activity while performing it. For solving problems, learning a new skill, receiving coaching, and (...) so forth, such monitoring is invaluable. But monitoring what we are doing as we are doing it degrades performance to at best competence. On McDowell's view, there is no way to account for such a degradation in performance since the same sort of content would be involved whether we were fully absorbed in or paying attention to what we were doing. McDowell claims that it is an advantage of his conceptualism that it avoids any foundationalist attempt to build up the objective world on the basis of an indubitable Given or any other ground-floor experience. And, indeed, if the world is all that is the case and our minds are unproblematically open to it, all experience is on the same footing. But one must distinguish motor intentionality, and the interrelated solicitations our coping body is intertwined with, from conceptual intentionality and the world of propositional structures it opens onto. The existential phenomenologist can then agree with McDowell in rejecting traditional foundationalisms, while yet affirming and describing the ground-floor role of motor intentionality in providing the support on which all forms of conceptual intentionality are based. (shrink)
_Internet_ is een van de eerste boeken waarin het filosofische inzicht -van Plato tot Kierkegaard - betrokken wordt op het debat over de mogelijkheden en onmogelijkheden van het internet. Dreyfus laat zien dat de onstoffelijke, 'vrij zwevende' websurfer zijn oorsprong vindt in Descartes' scheiding van geest en lichaam, en hoe Kierkegaards inzichten in de opkomst van het moderne leespubliek vooruitlopen op de nieuwsgierige, maar elk risico vermijdende internet-junkie. Uitgaande van recente onderzoeken naar het isolement dat veel internetgebruikers ervaren, toont Dreyfus (...) aan hoe het internet, door zijn nadruk op privé-ervaringen, gebruikers berooft van wezenlijke, belichaamde vermogens zoals vertrouwen, stemmingen en betrokkenheid bij met anderen gedeelde lokale aangelegenheden. _Internet_ is verplichte kost voor iedereen die on line is en is geïnteressseerd in onze plaats in de 'e-revolutie'. (shrink)
Existential phenomenologists hold that the two most basic forms of intelligent behavior, learning, and skillful action, can be described and explained without recourse to mind or brain representations. This claim is expressed in two central notions in Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception: the intentional arc and the tendency to achieve a maximal grip. The intentional arc names the tight connection between body and world, such that, as the active body acquires skills, those skills are stored, not as representations in the mind, (...) but as dispositions to respond to the solicitations of situations in the world. A phenomenology of skill acquisition confirms that, as one acquires expertise, the acquired know-how is experienced as finer and finer discriminations of situations paired with the appropriate response to each. Maximal grip names the body's tendency to refine its responses so as to bring the current situation closer to an optimal gestalt. Thus, successful learning and action do not require propositional mental representations. They do not require semantically interpretable brain representations either.Simulated neural networks exhibit crucial structural features of the intentional arc, and Walter Freeman's account of the brain dynamics underlying perception and action is structurally isomorphic with Merleau-Ponty's account of the way a skilled agent is led by the situation to move towards obtaining a maximal grip. (shrink)
Back in 1950, while a physics major at Harvard, I wandered into C.I. Lewis’s epistemology course. There, Lewis was confidently expounding the need for an indubitable Given to ground knowledge, and he was explaining where that ground was to be found. I was so impressed that I immediately switched majors from ungrounded physics to grounded philosophy.
This book is the first to provide a sustained, coherent analysis of Foucault's work as a whole. To demonstrate the sense in which Foucault's work is beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, the authors unfold a careful, analytical exposition of his oeuvre. They argue that during the of Foucault's work became a sustained and largely successful effort to develop a new method - "interpretative analytics" - capable of explaining both the logic of structuralism's claim to be an objective science and the apparent (...) validity of the hermeneutical counterclaim that the human sciences can proceed only by understanding the deepest meaning of the subject and his tradition. (shrink)
Can we accept John McDowell’s Kantian claim that perception is conceptual “all the way out,” thereby denying the more basic perceptual capacities we seem to share with prelinguistic infants and higher animals? More generally, can philosophers successfully describe the conceptual upper floors of the edifice of knowledge while ignoring the embodied coping going on on the ground floor? I argue that we shouldn’t leave the conceptual component of our lives hanging in midair and suggest how philosophers who want to understand (...) knowledge and action can profit from a phenomenological analysis of the nonconceptual embodied coping skills we share with animals and infants, as well as the nonconceptual immediate intuitive understanding exhibited by experts. (shrink)
We argue that heterophenomenology both over- and under-populates the intentional realm. For example, when one is involved in coping, one’s mind does not contain beliefs. Since the heterophenomenologist interprets all intentional commitment as belief, he necessarily overgenerates the belief contents of the mind. Since beliefs cannot capture the normative aspect of coping and perceiving, any method, such as heterophenomenology, that allows for only beliefs is guaranteed not only to overgenerate beliefs but also to undergenerate other kinds of intentional phenomena.
Body and World is the definitive edition of a book that shouldnow take its place as a major contribution to contemporary existentialphenomenology. Samuel Todes goes beyond Martin Heidegger and MauriceMerleau-Ponty in his description of how independent physical natureand experience are united in our bodily action. His account allows himto preserve the authority of experience while avoiding the tendencytoward idealism that threatens both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty.Todes emphasizes the complex structure of the human body ;front/back asymmetry, the need to balance in a (...) gravitational field, and so forth ;and the role that structure plays in producing the spatiotemporal field of experience and in making possible objective knowledge of the objects in it. He shows that perception involves nonconceptual, but nonetheless objective forms of judgment. One can think of Body and World as fleshing out Merleau-Ponty's project while presciently relating it to the current interest in embodiment, not only in philosophy but also in psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and anthropology. Todes's work opens new ways of thinking about problems such as the relation of perception to thought and the possibility of knowing an independent reality ;problems that have occupied philosophers since Kant and still concern analytic and continental philosophy. (shrink)
Our contemporary nihilism -- Homer's polytheism -- From Aeschylus to Augustine : monotheism on the rise -- From Dante to Kant : the attractions and dangers of autonomy -- Fanaticism, polytheism, and Melville's "evil art" -- David Foster Wallace's nihilism -- Conclusion : lives worth living in a secular age.
Martin Heidegger's major work, Being and Time, is usually considered the culminating work in a tradition called existential philosophy. The first person to call himself an existential thinker was Soren Kierkegaard, and his influence is clearly evident in Heidegger's thought. Existential thinking rejects the traditional philosophical view, that goes back to Plato at least, that philosophy must be done from a detached, disinterested point of view. Kierkegaard argues that our primary access to reality is through our involved action. The way (...) things show up for a detached thinker is a partial and distorted version of the way things show up to a committed individual. (shrink)
In this four part exchange, Evan Selinger starts by stating that Collins’s empirical evidence in respect of linguistic socialization and its bearing on artificial intelligence and expertise is valuable; it advances philosophical and sociological understanding of the relationship between knowledge and language. Nevertheless, he argues that Collins mischaracterizes the data under review and thereby misrepresents how knowledge is acquired and understates the extent to which expert knowers are embodied. Selinger reconstructs the case for the importance of the body in the (...) initial acquisition of language and challenges Collins to show how a disembodied entity could become fluent in any language at all.Collins responds by accepting that his approach does not demonstrate quite as much about the irrelevance of the body as he thought it did but that even though he accepts all of Selinger’s claims, ‘the body’ as needed by the philosophical approach set out by Selinger is still a vestigial thing. Collins’s main point, however, is that the philosophical view of the body—the world is divided into embodied agents and unembodied entities—distracts attention from the more interesting empirically researchable question of how the ability to become socialized diminishes, if it does, as the body become more and more minimal. The right research question is not about whether a person can extrapolate from minimal sensory input but how much extrapolation is possible under different circumstances and how it is done.Dreyfus, having seen the whole of the exchange so far, agrees that both have a point but argues that Collins’s approach still misses the well established importance of bodily engagement for full understanding.Collins responds to this by trying to set out more clearly the position associated with the idea of interactional expertise.Keywords: Interactional expertise; Phenomenology; Turing test; Embodiment; Tacit knowledge; Socialization. (shrink)
Ways of the Hand tells the story of how David Sudnow learned to improvise jazz on the piano. Because he had been trained as an ethnographer and social psychologist, Sudnow was attentive to what he experienced in ways that other novice pianists are not. The result, first published in 1978 and now considered by many to be a classic, was arguably the finest and most detailed account of skill development ever published.Looking back after more than twenty years, Sudnow was struck (...) by the extent to which he had allowed his academic background to shape the book's language. He realized that he could now do a much better job of describing his experiences in a way that would not require facility with formal social science and philosophical discourse. The result is a revised version of the book that carries the same intellectual energy as the original but is accessible to a much wider audience. (shrink)
In this paper I would like to explain, defend, and draw out the implications of this claim. Since the intentional arc is supposed to embody the interconnection of skillful action and perception, I will first lay out an account of skill.
Husserl and Searle agree that, for a bodily movement to be an action, it must be caused by a propositional representation. Husserl's representation is a mental state whose intentional content is what the agent is trying to do; Searle thinks of the representation as a logical structure expressing the action's conditions of satisfaction. Merleau-Ponty criticises both views by introducing a kind of activity he calls motor intentionality, in which the agent, rather than aiming at success, feels drawn to reduce a (...) felt tension. I argue that Searle can account for Merleau-Ponty's kind of coping only by broadening his notion of propositional representation to include indexicals, but that, in so doing, he covers up the way representational intentionality depends upon motor intentionality. (shrink)
For fifty years Hubert Dreyfus has done pioneering work which brings phenomenology and existentialism to bear on the philosophical and scientific study of the mind. This is a selection of his most influential essays, developing his critique of the representational model of the mind in analytical philosophy of mind and mainstream cognitive science.
Cultural devastation, and the proper response to it, is the central concern of "Radical Hope". I address an uncertainty in Lear's book, reflected in a wavering over the difference between a culture's way of life becoming impossible and its way of life becoming unintelligible. At his best, Lear asks the radical ontological question: when the cultural collapse is such that the old way of life has become not only impossible but retroactively unimaginable,—when nothing one can do makes sense anymore,—how can (...) one go on? In raising this question, Lear's book is a remarkable breakthrough; it comes close to raising the crucial ontological question of how to deal with the total collapse of a culture, and it may well become a classic by starting a conversation on the question: How should we live when our own culture is in the process of actually collapsing? Lear suggests that [w]hat would be required... would be a new Crow poet: one who could take up the Crow past and—rather than use it for nostalgia or ersatz mimesis—project it into vibrant new ways for the Crow to live and to be. Later Heidegger had a similar suggestion for us and I try to spell it out briefly. (shrink)
This seminal early work of Foucault is indispensable to understanding his development as a thinker. Written in 1954 and revised in 1962, _Mental Illness and Psychology _delineates the shift that occurred in Foucault's thought during this period. The first iteration reflects the philosopher's early interest in and respect for Freud and the psychoanalytic tradition. The second part, rewritten in 1962, marks a dramatic change in Foucault's thinking. Examining the history of madness as a social and cultural construct, he moves outside (...) of the psychoanalytic tradition into the radical critique of Freud that was to dominate his later work. _Mental Illness and Psychology _is an important document tracing the intellectual evolution of this influential thinker. A foreword by Foucault scholar Hubert Dreyfus situates the book within the framework of Foucault's entire body of work. (shrink)
In their debate over my interpretation of Heidegger's account of das Man in Being and Time, Frederick Olafson and Taylor Carman agree that Heidegger's various characterizations of das Man are inconsistent. Olafson champions an existentialist/ontic account of das Man as a distorted mode of being?with. Carman defends a Wittgensteinian/ontological account of das Man as Heidegger's name for the social norms that make possible everyday intelligibility. For Olafson, then, das Man is a privative mode of Dasein, while for Carman it makes (...) up an important aspect of Dasein's positive constitution. Neither interpreter takes seriously the other's account, though both acknowledge both readings are possible. How should one choose between these two interpretations? I suggest that we choose the interpretation that identifies the phenomenon the work is examining, gives the most internally consistent account of that phenomenon, and shows the compatibility of this account with the rest of the work. (shrink)
In this paper I would like to explain, defend, and draw out the implications of this claim. Since the intentional arc is supposed to embody the interconnection of skillful action and perception, I will first lay out an account of skill.
Prominent defenders of the Enlightenment, like Jürgen Habermas, are beginning to recognize that the characterization of human beings in entirely rational and secular terms leaves out something important. Religion, they admit, plays an important role in human existence. But the return to a traditional monotheistic religion seems sociologically difficult after the death of God. We argue that Homeric polytheism retains a phenomenologically rich account of the sacred, and a similarly rich understanding of human existence in its midst. By opening ourselves (...) up to the moods of wonder and gratitude at the root of Homer's sense of the sacred, we can re-appropriate a polytheistic understanding of the sacred that allows us to recover and revive the intensity and meaningfulness that Homer's polytheists enjoyed. (shrink)
Against Davidsonian (or deflationary) realism, it is argued that it is coherent to believe that science can in principle give us access to the functional components of the universe as they are in themselves in distinction from how they appear to us on the basis of our quotidian concerns or sensory capacities. The first section presents the deflationary realist's argument against independence. The second section then shows that, although Heidegger pioneered the deflationary realist account of the everyday, he sought to (...) establish a robust realist account of science. Next, the third section develops two different sides of Heidegger's thinking. Resources developed by Thomas Kuhn are drawn on to work out Heidegger's account of plural worlds. This argument shows that it makes sense to talk about things-in-themselves independent of our practices, but falls short of the robust realist claim that we can have access to things as they are in themselves independent of our practices. So, secondly, Saul Kripke's account of rigid designation is drawn on to work out Heidegger's account of formal designation. On the basis of a Heideggerian elaboration of rigid designation, it is argued that we do indeed have practices for achieving access to things independent of all our practices. But this second argument leaves us unable to reject metaphysical nominalism. So, thirdly, it is proposed that the currently most persuasive philosophical argument for nominalism depends on a logico-mathematical space of possibilities. But the proto-theoretical space opened by the pre-scientific access practices has features that provide reasons for believing that the independent stuff to which we have access has a determinate structure and specific causal powers. (shrink)
Heidegger's Being and Time: Critical Essays provides a variety of recent studies of Heidegger's most important work. Twelve prominent scholars, representing diverse nationalities, generations, and interpretive approaches deal with general methodological and ontological questions, particular issues in Heidegger's text, and the relation between Being and Time and Heidegger's later thought. All of the essays presented in this volume were never before available in an English-language anthology. Two of the essays have never before been published in any language ; three of (...) the essays have never been published in English before , and two of the essays provide previews of works in progress by major scholars. (shrink)
being, culminating in the technological understanding of being, in order to help us understand and overcome our current way of dealing with things as objects and resources, Foucault analyzes several regimes of power, culminating in modern bio-power, in order to help us free ourselves from understanding ourselves as subjects.
Both the commonsensical and leading theoretical accounts of entrepreneurship, democracy, and solidarity fail to describe adequately entrepreneurial, democratic, and solidarity?building practices. These accounts are inadequate because they assume a faulty description of human being. In this article we develop an interpretation of entrepreneurship, democratic action, and solidarity?building that relies on understanding human beings as neither primarily thinking nor desiring but as skillful beings. Western human beings are at their best when they are engaged in producing large?scale cultural or historical changes (...) in the way people and things are dealt with. The three domains of human activity where these historical changes are most clearly accomplished are entrepreneurship, democratic action, and solidarity. Section I, guided by a roughly Kuhnian notion of holding on to an anomaly until it re?gestalts the way we see things, offers a general interpretation of how skillful human beings open up new worlds by changing their shared background practices in three ways: reconfiguring, which makes a marginal practice central; cross?appropriation, in which one domain of practices takes over useful practices from another domain; and articulating, whereby dispersed or confused practices are brought into clearer focus. An entrepreneur creates a product which reconfigures the practices. This interpretation of entrepreneurial skills is contrasted with current accounts that overlook ehtrepreneurship to concentrate on instrumental or theoretical models of business activities. Section II claims that the most exemplary kind of political action in a liberal democracy is that of political action groups. Such groups produce a change in a nation's background practices through a kind of speaking that leads to massive cross?appropriation. We describe Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and suggest that it both satisfies the requirements for genuine democratic action that we have established in our examination of other views and lacks their disadvantages. We conclude that the relatively detached action suggested by current theories of liberal democracy fail to do justice to democratic practice. The final section argues that those who claim that a single highest value or procedure provides a source of solidarity that satisfies all the competing interests in a multi?cultural nation always arrive at a solidarity that is too thin to provide for the serious sort of commitments that one would be willing to die for. We propose that solidarity in multi?cultural states implies commitment to a set of thick values, and that when one realizes that these thick values construct one's identity one is willing to die for them. While political action concerns itself with ordering values, solidarity involves the cultivation of them in such a way that no ordering of them matters. But solidarity is not to be understood as a subjective feeling. It is rather the experience of a group identity, a ?we?, that sees things and deals with things in terms of shared concerns. This ?we? comes to recognize itself when the actions it engages in transform it. The paradigmatic action that transforms such a ?we? occurs when a culture figure articulates some forgotten concern or value. As in the cases of entrepreneurship and democratic action, a culture figure cultivates solidarity by changing the background practices in a historical manner. It is concluded that traditional theoretical accounts, by overlooking the primacy of involved skillful activities and the importance of background change, fail to capture the source, the function, and the point of entrepreneurship, liberal democracy, and solidarity. (shrink)