Book review of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone’s The Roots of Morality Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11097-011-9206-2 Authors Benedict Smith, Department of Philosophy, Durham University, 50 Old Elvet, Durham, DH1 3HN UK Journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Online ISSN 1572-8676 Print ISSN 1568-7759.
In contrast to [Susan] Sontag, who used the tools of literary criticism to evaluate sexually explicit fiction, I will use the conventions of pornography to interpret a dramatic monologue in which an expected sexual encounter fails to take place. In analyzing Rossetti’s “Jenny,” I will employ an interpretive model based on the work of [Steven] Marcus, [Susan] Griffin, and [Andrea] Dworkin. Despite different assumptions about sexuality—Marcus is a Freudian, Griffin believes in a mystical eros residing in the psyche and waiting (...) to be rediscovered, Dworkin regards heterosexuality as a construct for subjugating women and masking men’s homoerotic drive—they share several ideas applicable to “Jenny.” Although pornography features, and indeed perpetuates, various kinds of masculine power, especially the powers of money, class, and culture, it purports to be ahistorical in order to obscure its status as ideology. It depicts male sexuality as fear-laden aggression resulting in very little pleasure; thus it is not liberating on either a political or a personal basis. Pornography does not include “others.” Women are present only to be silenced, objectified, treated as screens on which a man projects his fantasies. Marcus, Griffin, and Dworkin are all concerned with what Suleiman calls “the representational or fantasmatic content” of pornography and “the political implications of that content.” The risks of emphasizing the representational—most especially, the denigration of language and style that result from Dworkin’s approach—can, as Suleiman says, be mitigated by careful attention to a particular text .In Rossetti’s poem, a young man attempts to purchase a night’s pleasure with a London prostitute named Jenny. After she thwarts his plans by falling asleep, he spends the night meditating about her beauty, speculating about her past, present, and future, and thinking about the causes of prostitution. Although Rossetti’s subject matter is consistent with the etymological definition of pornography as “writing about prostitutes,” he avoids the explicit depiction of sexual activity which has been the common element in most modern accounts of the genre. Indeed, the only physical contact between the narrator and Jenny occurs at daybreak when he places coins in her hair and gives her a parting kiss. Robin Sheets is associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati. She has written on Thackeray, George Eliot, and other Victorian writers and is coauthor of The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and American, 1837-1883. (shrink)
This book argues the case for a foundationalist ethics centrally based on an empirical understanding of human nature. For Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, “an ethics formulated on the foundations of anything other than human nature, hence on anything other than an identification of pan-cultural human realities, lacks solid empirical moorings. It easily loses itself in isolated hypotheticals, reductionist scenarios, or theoretical abstractions—in the prisoner’s dilemma, selfish genes, dedicated brain modules, evolutionary altruism, or psychological egoism, for example—or it easily becomes itself an (...) ethical system over and above the ethics it formulates,” such as the deontological ethics of Kantian categorical imperatives, the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, or the ethics of care. Taking her cue from Hume, especially his _Treatise on Human Nature_, where he grounds “the moral sense” in human nature seen as always in tension between the natural tendencies of selfish acquisitiveness and sympathy for others, Sheets-Johnstone pursues her phenomenological investigation of the natural basis of human morality by directing her attention, first in Part I, to what is traditionally considered the dark side of human nature, and then, in Part II, to the positive side. The tension between the two calls for an interdisciplinary therapeutic resolution, which she offers in the Epilogue by arguing for the value of a moral education that enlightens humans about their own human nature, highlighting both the socialization of fear and the importance of play and creativity. (shrink)
This book presents the framework for a new, comprehensive approach to cognitive science. The proposed paradigm, enaction, offers an alternative to cognitive science's classical, first-generation Computational Theory of Mind. _Enaction_, first articulated by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch in _The Embodied Mind_, breaks from CTM's formalisms of information processing and symbolic representations to view cognition as grounded in the sensorimotor dynamics of the interactions between a living organism and its environment. A living organism enacts the world it lives in; its embodied (...) action in the world constitutes its perception and thereby grounds its cognition. _Enaction_ offers a range of perspectives on this exciting new approach to embodied cognitive science. Some chapters offer manifestos for the enaction paradigm; others address specific areas of research, including artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, neuroscience, language, phenomenology, and culture and cognition. Three themes emerge as testimony to the originality and specificity of enaction as a paradigm: the relation between first-person lived experience and third-person natural science; the ambition to provide an encompassing framework applicable at levels from the cell to society; and the difficulties of reflexivity. Taken together, the chapters offer nothing less than the framework for a far-reaching renewal of cognitive science. Contributors: Renaud Barbaras, Didier Bottineau, Giovanna Colombetti, Diego Cosmelli, Hanne De Jaegher, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo. Andreas K. Engel, Olivier Gapenne, Véronique Havelange, Edwin Hutchins, Michel Le Van Quyen, Rafael E. Núñez, Marieke Rohde, Benny Shanon, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Adam Sheya, Linda B. Smith, John Stewart, Evan Thompson. (shrink)
Recently, in cognitive science, the enactivist account of cognition has been gaining ground, due in part to studies of movement in conjunction with thought. The idea, as Noë , has put it, that “cognition is not something happening inside us or to us, but it’s something we do, something we achieve,” is increasingly supported by research on joint attention, movement coordination, and gesture. Not surprisingly, therefore, enactivists have also begun to look at “movement specialists”—dancers—for both scientific and phenomenological accounts of (...) thinking with and through movement. In this paper, I argue that a serious exploration of dance and movement does not merely bolster the enactivist view, but rather, it suggests a radical enactivism, as envisaged by, e.g., Hutto . To support this claim, I examine an account of “Thinking in Movement” provided by Maxine Sheets-Johnstone in order to highlight the ways in which intentional agency and meaning-making occur in improvisational dance. These processes, I further argue, closely mirror some of the key components of participatory sense making, as described by De Jaegher and Di Paolo :485–507, 2007). This is beneficial to my case, because it permits a discussion of “thought-full action” that does not depend upon standard cognitivist frameworks for explanation. By carefully focusing on how agency can help to separate mere “thrashing about” from meaningful movement, this paper aim to strengthen the position of radical enactivism from the unique perspective and dance and sense-making. (shrink)
The “life phenomenology” theme of the 35th International Human Science Research Conference challenged participants to consider pressing questions of life and of living with others of our own and other-than-human kinds. The theme was addressed by keynote speakers Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Ralph Acampora and David Abram who invoked a motile, affective and linguistic awareness of how we might dwell actively and ethically amongst human communities and with the many life forms we encounter in the wider, wilder world we have in (...) common. Conference participants were provoked to consider the following questions: “How might phenomenology have us recognize a primacy of movement and bring us in touch with the motions and gestures of the multiple lifeworlds of daily living? What worlds from ecology to technology privilege certain animations? What are the affects and effects of an enhanced phenomenological sensitivity? What senses, feelings, emotions and moods of self-affirmation and responsiveness to others sustain us in our daily lives? And to what extent might the descriptive, invocative, provocative language of phenomenology infuse the human sciences and engender a language for speaking directly of life?”. (shrink)
: Using Judith Butler's notion that bodies are materialized via performances, "resignifying" disability involves a "democratizing contestation" of staircases because they exclude those in wheelchairs. Paleoanthropologist Maxine Sheets-Johnstone shows how consistent bipedal locomotion, together with the knowledge that we will die (upon which mutuality is based), are ingredients of our pan-hominid speciation, not contingent constructions. As axiologically important as contestation is, it forecloses the possibility of achieving a mutuality with others, that is wonderfully possible.
Philosophical consideration of dance has gained in vigor, diversity, and sophistication in recent decades -- even though philosophers disagree sharply on what philosophy is! Divergent methodological approaches range from the phenomenological explorations of Maxine Sheets- Johnstone, the existentialist approach of Sandra Horton Fraleigh, and the postmodernist continental work of Susan Foster to more traditional "British-American" analysis by such well-known philosophers as Nelson Goodman, Joseph Margolis, and Francis Sparshott.
Using Judith Butler's notion that bodies are materialized via performances, "resignifying" disability involves a "democratizing contestation" of staircases because they exclude those in wheelchairs. Paleoanthropologist Maxine Sheets-Johnstone shows how consistent bipedal locomotion, together with the knowledge that we will die, are ingredients of our pan-hominid speciation, not contingent constructions. As axiologically important as contestation is, it forecloses the possibility of achieving a mutuality with others that is wonderfully possible.
Animation is by definition the basis of animate life. Movement is thus of prime significance and its dynamics warrant close study in terms of the tactile-kinaesthetic body, its relation to cognition and affectivity, and its anchorage in ontogeny and phylogeny. Riveted attention on the brain deflects attention from animate movement, as does the degeneration of movement into a motorology and the extensive and broadly indiscriminate use of the lexical band-aid of embodiment and its derivatives. Critical attention is paid to just (...) such present-day practices in neuroscience, and in cognitive science and philosophy, practices that, by impeding investigations of the tactilekinaesthetic body, impede understandings of how kinaesthetic experience is at the core of those synergies of meaningful movement that constitute animate life. (shrink)
This paper attempts to elucidate the nature of kinesthetic memory, demonstrate itscentrality to everyday human movement, and thereby promote fresh cognitive andphenomenological understandings of movement in everyday life. Prominent topics in this undertaking include kinesthesia, dynamics, and habit. The endeavor has both a critical and constructive dimension.
This article begins with a summary phenomenological analysis of movement in conjunction with the question of “quality” in movement. It then specifies the particular kind of memory involved in a dancer’s memorization of a dance. On the basis of the phenomenological analysis and specification of memory, it proceeds to a clarification of meaning in dance. Taking its clue from the preceding sections, the concluding section of the article sets forth reasons why present-day cognitive science is unable to provide insights into (...) dance, notably because being largely tethered to happenings in the brain, it lacks foundational grounding in experience, specifically, the actual experience of movement, which is to say in kinesthesia. (shrink)
Three methodologically distinctive empirical studies of the emotions carry forward Darwin's work on the emotions, vindicate Sperry's finding that the brain is an organ of and for movement, and implicitly affirm that affectivity is tied to the tactile-kinesthetic body. A phenomenological analysis of movement deepens these empirical findings by showing how the dynamic character of movement gives rise to kinetic qualia. Analysis of the qualitative structure of movement shows in turn how motion and emotion are dynamically congruent. Three experiences of (...) fear are presented--phenomenological, ethological, and literary--to demonstrate the dynamic congruency. Five implications follow from the analysis, including the implications that movement is not equivalent to behavior, experience is not physiological activity, and a brain is not a body. (shrink)
The kinetic silence of movement has formidable powers. Observations of a film critic, poet, professor of political history, and medical doctor attest to the fact that that silence is replete with meanings. Those meanings in turn testify to a movement-anchored corporeal semiotics that resounds not merely functionally but experientially in animate forms of life. It does so consistently and directly in kinesthesia, the ever-present sense modality by which we experience the qualitative dynamics of movement and synergies of meaningful movement. Phylogenetic (...) and ontogenetic perspectives attest to these dynamics and synergies. So also does Aristotle’s description of movement as a sensu communis. Because a movement-anchored corporeal semiotics discovers and describes what is existentially meaningful in the lives of animate organisms, such a semiotics is the foundation of a cognitive semiotics. It is so in a number of everyday ways, most notably in terms of thinking in movement and of cognition itself. (shrink)
This article highlights a neglected, if not wholly overlooked, topic in phenomenology, a topic central to Husserl’s writings on animate organism, namely, animation. Though Husserl did not explore animation to the fullest in his descriptions of animate organism, his texts are integral to the task of fathoming animation. The article’s introduction focuses on seminal aspects of animate organisms found within several such texts and elaborates their significance for a phenomenological understanding of animation. The article furthermore highlights Husserl’s pointed recognition of (...) “the problem of movement,” movement being an essential dimension of animation if not definitive of animation itself. Succeeding sections testify to “the problem of movement” and the need to address it. They do so by answering the following basic questions: What indeed is livingly present in the experience of movement, whether our own movement and the movement of other animate beings, or the movement of leaves, clouds, and so on? What distinguishes kinesthetic from kinetic experiences of movement? How are movement and time related? Just what is the problem of movement and how do we address it? In what way is movement pertinent to receptivity and responsivity? Throughout these sections the article encompasses phenomenological analyses, elaborations, and implications of animation. (shrink)
The basic question cognitivists and most analytic philosophers of mind ask is how consciousness arises in matter. This article outlines basic reasons for thinking the question spurious. It does so by examining 1) definitions of life, 2) unjustified and unjustifiable uses of diacritical markings to distinguish real cognition from metaphoric cognition, 3) evidence showing that corporeal consciousness is a biological imperative, 4) corporeal matters of fact deriving from the evolution of proprioception. Three implications of the examination are briefly noted: 1) (...) the need to re-think the common assumption that unconsciousness historically preceded consciousness; 2) the need to delve as deeply and seriously into natural history as into brains and their computational analogues; 3) the need for a critical stance toward arm-chair judgments about consciousness and a correlative turn toward corporeal matters of fact. (shrink)
This paper takes five different perspectives on kinesthesia, beginning with its evolution across animate life and its biological distinction from, and relationship to proprioception. It proceeds to document the historical derivation of “the muscle sense,” showing in the process how analytic philosophers bypass the import of kinesthesia by way of “enaction,” for example, and by redefinitions of “tactical deception.” The article then gives prominence to a further occlusion of kinesthesia and its subduction by proprioception, these practices being those of well-known (...) phenomenologists, practices that exemplify an adultist perspective supported in large part by the writings of Merleau-Ponty. Following this extended critical review, the article shows how Husserl’s phenomenology enlightens us about kinesthesia and in doing so offers us substantive clues to the phenomenology of learning as it takes place in the development and acquisition of skillful movement. It shows further how phenomenological methodology contrasts markedly with existential analysis, most significantly in its recognition of, and its ability to set forth a developmental history, a veritable genetic phenomenology that is basically a phenomenology of learning anchored in kinesthesia. After showing how that phenomenology of learning finds mutual validation in a classic empirical study of infant movement, the article ends by highlighting how human “I cans” are grounded in “I move,” specifically, in the pan-human ability to learn one’s body and learn to move oneself. (shrink)
This article begins with a critical discussion of the commonly used phenomenological term “self-affection,” showing how the term is problematic. It proceeds to clarify obscurities and other impediments in current usage of the term through initial analyses of experience and to single out a transcendental clue found in Husserl’s descriptive remarks on wakeful world-consciousness, a clue leading to a basic phenomenological truth of wakeful human life. The truth centers on temporality and movement, and on animation. The three detailed investigations that (...) follow – of sensations and dynamics with respect to affectivity and movement, of the experiential connection between affectivity and movement, and of the defining features that Husserl identifies as “the sphere of ownness” – show specifically how temporality and movement are linked and how animation is at the heart of what is called ‘self-affection’. They show further that Nature in the form of the felt dynamics of life itself warrants substantive and assiduous phenomenological elucidation. (shrink)
This paper considers dimensions of animate life that are readily “embodied” by phenomenologists and by other philosophy and science researchers as well. The paper demonstrates how the practice of “embodying” short-circuits veritable phenomenological accounts of experience through a neglect of attention to Husserl’s basic conception of, and consistent concern with, animate organism. The paper specifies how in doing so, the practice muddies a clear distinction between the body ‘I have’ and the body ‘I am’, and a clear account of their (...) lived conjunction in existential fit. In turn, the paper shows how the practice falls short of recognizing synergies of meaningful movement created by animate organisms; how it is tethered to talk of posture and sensation over kinesthesia and dynamics; and how, in general, the practice of embodying generates static rather than dynamic understandings of everyday life. The paper then critically considers how such liabilities preclude in-depth phenomenological insights into topics such as ‘ownership’ and ‘agency,’ and why inquiries into the nature of animate organisms require nothing less than fine-tuned attention to foundational experiences of animate life, including foundational ontogenetical experiences that undergird adult proficiencies and abilities, and hence fine-tuned attention to learning and to retaining what is learned in kinesthetic memory. (shrink)