The Phenomenological Mind is the first book to properly introduce fundamental questions about the mind from the perspective of phenomenology. Key questions and topics covered include: What is phenomenology? naturalizing phenomenology and the empirical cognitive sciences phenomenology and consciousness consciousness and self-consciousness, including perception and action time and consciousness, including William James intentionality the embodied mind action knowledge of other minds situated and extended minds phenomenology and personal identity Interesting and important examples are used throughout, including phantom limb syndrome, blindsight (...) and self-disorders in schizophrenia, making The Phenomenological Mind an ideal introduction to key concepts in phenomenology, cognitive science and philosophy of mind. (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., mirror neurons, 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)
An important shift is taking place in social cognition research, away from a focus on the individual mind and toward embodied and participatory aspects of social understanding. Empirical results already imply that social cognition is not reducible to the workings of individual cognitive mechanisms. To galvanize this interactive turn, we provide an operational definition of social interaction and distinguish the different explanatory roles – contextual, enabling and constitutive – it can play in social cognition. We show that interactive processes are (...) more than a context for social cognition: they can complement and even replace individual mechanisms. This new explanatory power of social interaction can push the field forward by expanding the possibilities of scientific explanation beyond the individual. (shrink)
Although philosophical approaches to the self are diverse, several of them are relevant to cognitive science. First, the notion of a 'minimal self', a self devoid of temporal extension, is clarified by distinguishing between a sense of agency and a sense of ownership for action. To the extent that these senses are subject to failure in pathologies like schizophrenia, a neuropsychological model of schizophrenia may help to clarify the nature of the minimal self and its neurological underpinnings. Second, there is (...) good evidence to suggest that although certain aspects of the minimal self are primitive and embodied, other aspects may be accessed only in reflective consciousness. Employing a modified concept of the minimal self, it may be possible to construct a robotic form of non-conscious self-reference that depends on an interaction between the robotic body and its environment. In contrast to the minimal self, the narrative self involves continuity over time and is directly relevant to discussions of memory and personal identity. There is growing consensus among philosophers and cognitive scientists about the importance of narrative and its relation to episodic memory and left-hemisphere functions. There are, however, at least two different views of how the narrative self is structured. On one model it is nothing more than an abstract point. On a more extended view, proposed here, the self is a rich amalgam of narratives that allows for the equivocations, contradictions, and self-deceptions of personal life. Even in this case, however, neurocognitive models contribute to our understanding of how narrative identity is structured. (shrink)
An action-oriented perspective changes the role of an individual from a passive observer to an actively engaged agent interacting in a closed loop with the world as well as with others. Cognition exists to serve action within a landscape that contains both. This chapter surveys this landscape and addresses the status of the pragmatic turn. Its potential influence on science and the study of cognition are considered (including perception, social cognition, social interaction, sensorimotor entrainment, and language acquisition) and its impact (...) on how neuroscience is studied is also investigated (with the notion that brains do not passively build models, but instead support the guidance of action). A review of its implications in robotics and engineering includes a discussion of the application of enactive control principles to couple action and perception in robotics as well as the conceptualization of system design in a more holistic, less modular manner. Practical applications that can impact the human condition are reviewed (e.g., educational applications, treatment possibilities for developmental and psychopathological disorders, the development of neural prostheses). All of this foreshadows the potential societal implications of the pragmatic turn. The chapter concludes that an action-oriented approach emphasizes a continuum of interaction between technical aspects of cognitive systems and robotics, biology, psychology, the social sciences, and the humanities, where the individual is part of a grounded cultural system. (shrink)
Theory of mind explanations of how we know other minds are limited in several ways. First, they construe intersubjective relations too narrowly in terms of the specialized cognitive abilities of explaining and predicting another person's mental states and behaviors. Second, they sometimes draw conclusions about secondperson interaction from experiments designed to test third-person observation of another's behavior. As a result, the larger claims that are sometimes made for theory of mind, namely, that theory of mind is our primary and pervasive (...) means for understanding other persons, go beyond both the phenomenological and the scientific evidence. I argue that the interpretation of "primary intersubjectivity" as merely precursory to theory of mind is inadequate. Rather, primary intersubjectivity, understood as a set of embodied practices and capabilities, is not only primary in a developmental sense, but is the primary way we continue to understand others in second-person interactions. (shrink)
In this paper I defend interaction theory (IT) as an alternative to both theory theory (TT) and simulation theory (ST). IT opposes the basic suppositions that both TT and ST depend upon. I argue that the various capacities for primary and secondary intersubjectivity found in infancy and early childhood should not be thought of as precursors to later developing capacities for using folk psychology or simulation routines. They are not replaced or displaced by such capacities in adulthood, but rather continue (...) to operate as our ordinary and everyday basis for social cognition. I also argue that enactive perception rather than implicit simulation is the best model for explaining these capacities. (shrink)
In this paper, we first review recent arguments about the direct perception of the intentions and emotions of others, emphasizing the role of embodied interaction. We then consider a possible objection to the direct perception hypothesis from social psychology, related to phenomena like ‘dehumanization’ and ‘implicit racial bias’, which manifest themselves on a basic bodily level. On the background of such data, one might object that social perception cannot be direct since it depends on and can in fact be interrupted (...) by a set of cultural beliefs. We argue, however, that far from threatening the idea of direct perception, these findings clearly contradict the idea of hardwired theory of mind modules. More generally, we suggest that in order to further the understanding of social cognition we must take seriously insights about in-group and out-group distinctions and related phenomena, all of which are currently neglected in the mainstream social cognition literature. (shrink)
This new introduction by Shaun Gallagher gives students and philosophers not only an excellent concise overview of the state of the field and contemporary debates, but a novel way of addressing the subject by looking at the ways in which phenomenology is useful to the disciplines it applies to. Gallagher retrieves the central insights made by the classic phenomenological philosophers (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and others), updates some of these insights in innovative ways, and shows how they directly relate to (...) ongoing debates in philosophy and psychology. Accounts of phenomenological methods, and the concepts of intentionality, temporality, embodiment, action, self, and our ability to understand other people are integrated into a coherent contemporary statement that shows why phenomenology is still an active and vital philosophical approach. Each chapter begins with a discussion of the classic analyses and then goes on to show their relevance to contemporary debates in philosophy about embodied, enactive and extended approaches to our understanding of human experience. Along the way Gallagher introduces some novel interpretations that suggest how phenomenology can both inform and be informed by the terms of these debates. (shrink)
I present arguments against both explicit and implicit versions of the simulation theory for intersubjective understanding. Logical, developmental, and phenomenological evidence counts against the concept of explicit simulation if this is to be understood as the pervasive or default way that we understand others. The concept of implicit (subpersonal) simulation, identified with neural resonance systems (mirror systems or shared representations), fails to be the kind of simulation required by simulation theory, because it fails to explain how neuronal processes meet constraints (...) that involve instrumentality and pretense. Implicit simulation theory also fails to explain how I can attribute a mental or emotion state that is different from my own to another person. I also provide a brief indication of an alternative interpretation of neural resonance systems. (shrink)
I clarify recently developed phenomenological approaches to social cognition. These are approaches that, drawing on developmental science, social neuroscience, and dynamic systems theory, emphasize the involvement of embodied and enactive processes together with communicative and narrative practices in contexts of intersubjective understanding. I review some of the evidence that supports these approaches. I consider a variety of criticisms leveled against them, and defend the role of phenomenology in the explanation of social cognition. Finally, I show how these phenomenological approaches can (...) solve the “starting problem” of social cognition. (shrink)
In the past dozen years a number of theoretical models of schizophrenic symptoms have been proposed, often inspired by advances in the cognitive sciences, and especially cognitive neuroscience. Perhaps the most widely cited and influential of these is the neurocognitive model proposed by Christopher Frith (1992). Frith's influence reaches into psychiatry, neuroscience, and even philosophy. The philosopher John Campbell (1999a), for example, has called Frith's model the most parsimonious explanation of how self-ascriptions of thoughts are subject to errors of identification. (...) "On reflection, it also seems that this is not just one possible theory; it is the simplest theory which has any prospect of explaining the sense of agency, and we ought to work from it, introducing complications only as necessary" (1999a, p. 612). Not everyone agrees. In their recent analysis of alien voices and inserted thoughts in schizophrenia, Stephens and Graham (2000) offer a critique of Frith. Their criticism, however, although serious, is neither deep nor extensive. They outline three points. First, Frith fails to provide an adequate account of why a subject who experiences thought insertion would misattribute that thought to some other agent. Second, Frith does not clarify the distinction between thought insertion and thought influence. And third, Frith fails to explain how a subject can claim both that he is thinking the thought and that the thought is someone else's thought (Stephens and Graham.. (shrink)
A review of several theories and brain-imaging experiments shows that there is no consensus about how to define the sense of agency. In some cases the sense of agency is construed in terms of bodily movement or motor control, in others it is linked to the intentional aspect of action. For some theorists it is the product of higher-order cognitive processes, for others it is a feature of first-order phenomenal experience. In this article I propose a multiple aspects account of (...) the sense of agency. (shrink)
We argue against theory-of-mind interpretation of recent false-belief experiments with young infants and explore two other interpretations: enactive and behavioral abstraction approaches. We then discuss the differences between these alternatives.
A BSTRACT: I argue that theory theory approaches to autism offer a wholly inadequate explanation of autistic symptoms because they offer a wholly inadequate account of the non-autistic understanding of others. As an alternative I outline interaction theory, which incorporates evidence from both developmental and phenomenological studies to show that humans are endowed with important capacities for intersubjective understanding from birth or early infancy. As part of a neurophenomenological analysis of autism, interaction theory offers an account of interpersonal problems that (...) is fully consistent with the variety of social and nonsocial symptoms found in autism. (shrink)
I examine the following question: Do actions require representations that are intrinsic to the action itself? Recent work by Mark Rowlands, Michael Wheeler, and Andy Clark suggests that actions may require a minimal form of representation. I argue that the various concepts of minimal representation on offer do not apply to action per se and that a non-representationalist account that focuses on dynamic systems of self-organizing continuous reciprocal causation at the sub-personal level is superior. I further recommend a scientific pragmatism (...) regarding the concept of representation. (shrink)
We propose to extend Clark and Chalmer’s concept of the extended mind to consider the possibility that social institutions (e.g., legal systems, museums) may operate in ways similar to the hand-held conveniences (notebooks, calculators) that are often used as examples of extended mind. The inspiration for this suggestion can be found in the writings of Hegel on “objective spirit” which involves the mind in a constant process of externalizing and internalizing. For Hegel, social institutions are pieces of the mind, externalized (...) in their specific time and place. These institutions are the products of shared mental processes. We then use these institutions instrumentally to do further cognitive work, for example, to solve problems or to control behavior. (shrink)
Recent studies in developmental psychology have found evidence to suggest that there exists an innate system that accounts for the possibilities of early infant imitation and the existence of phantom limbs in cases of congenital absence of limbs. These results challenge traditional assumptions about the status and development of the body schema and body image, and about the nature of the translation process between perceptual experience and motor ability.
This paper suggests that certain traditional ways of analysing the self start off in situations that are abstract or detached from normal experience, and that the conclusions reached in such approaches are, as a result, inexact or mistaken. The paper raises the question of whether there are more contextualized forms of self- consciousness than those usually appealed to in philosophical or psychological analyses, and whether they can be the basis for a more adequate theoretical approach to the self. First, we (...) develop a distinction between abstract and contextualized actions and intentions by drawing on evidence from studies of rehabilitation after brain damage, and we introduce the notion of intentional attitude. Second, we discuss several interesting conclusions drawn from theoretically and experimentally abstract approaches. These conclusions raise some important issues about both the nature of the self and reflexive consciousness. At the same time they indicate the serious limita- tions concerning what we can claim about self and self-consciousness within such abstract frameworks. Such limitations motivate the question of whether it is possible to capture a sense of self that is more embedded in contextualized actions. Specifically, our concern is to focus on first-person approaches. We identify two forms of self-consciousness, eco- logical self-awareness and embedded reflection, that (1) function within the kinds of contextualized activity we have indicated, and (2) can be the basis for a theoretical account of the self. Both forms of self-consciousness are closely tied to action and promise to provide a less abstract basis for developing a theoretical approach to the self. (shrink)
We review the use of introspective and phenomenological methods in experimental settings. We distinguish diﬀerent senses of introspection, and further distinguish phenomenological method from introspectionist approaches. Two ways of using phenomenology in experimental procedures are identiﬁed: ﬁrst, the neurophenomenological method, proposed by Varela, involves the training of experimental subjects. This approach has been directly and productively incorporated into the protocol of experiments on perception. A second approach may have wider application and does not involve training experimental subjects in phenomenological method. (...) It requires front-loading phenomenological insights into experimental design. A number of experiments employing this approach are reviewed. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for both the cognitive sciences and phenomenology. Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Inc. (shrink)
I propose a distinction between two closely related problems: the problem of social cognition and the problem of participatory sense-making. One problem focuses on how we understand others; the other problem focuses on how, with others, we make sense out of the world. Both understanding others and making sense out of the world involve social interaction. The importance of participatory sense-making is highlighted by reviewing some recent accounts of perception that are philosophically autistic -- i.e., accounts that ignore the involvement (...) of others in our perception of the world. (shrink)
On the phenomenological view, a minimal form of self-consciousness is a constant structural feature of conscious experience. Experience happens for the experiencing subject in an immediate way and as part of this immediacy, it is implicitly marked as my experience. For the phenomenologists, this immediate and first-personal givenness of experiential phenomena must be accounted for in terms of a pre-reflective self-consciousness. In the most basic sense of the term, selfconsciousness is not something that comes about the moment one attentively inspects (...) or reflectively introspects one's experiences, or in the instant of self-recognition of one's image in the mirror, or in the proper use of the first-person pronoun, or in the construction of a self-narrative. Rather, these different kinds of self-consciousness are to be distinguished from the pre-reflective self-consciousness which is present whenever I am living through or undergoing an experience, i.e., whenever I am consciously perceiving the world, whenever I am thinking an occurrent thought, whenever I am feeling sad or happy, thirsty or in pain, and so forth. (shrink)
The full scope of enactivist approaches to cognition includes not only a focus on sensory-motor contingencies and physical affordances for action, but also an emphasis on affective factors of embodiment and intersubjective affordances for social interaction. This strong conception of embodied cognition calls for a new way to think about the role of the brain in the larger system of brain-body-environment. We ask whether recent work on predictive coding offers a way to think about brain function in an enactive system, (...) and we suggest that a positive answer is possible if we interpret predictive coding in a more enactive way, i.e., as involved in the organism’s dynamic adjustments to its environment. (shrink)
I review three answers to the question: How can phenomenology contribute to the experimental cognitive neurosciences? The first approach, neurophenomenology, employs phenomenological method and training, and uses first-person reports not just as more data for analysis, but to generate descriptive categories that are intersubjectively and scientifically validated, and are then used to interpret results that correlate with objective measurements of behaviour and brain activity. A second approach, indirect phenomenology, is shown to be problematic in a number of ways. Indirect phenomenology (...) is generally put to work after the experiment, in critical or creative interpretations of the scientific evidence. Ultimately, however, proposals for the indirect use of phenomenology lead back to methodological questions about the direct use of phenomenology in experimental design. The third approach, 'front-loaded' phenomenology, suggests that the results of phenomenological investigations can be used in the design of empirical ones. Concepts or clarifications that have been worked out phenomenologically may operate as a partial framework for experimentation. (shrink)
We distinguish between three philosophical views on the neuroscience of predictive models: predictive coding, predictive processing and predictive engagement. We examine the concept of active inference under each model and then ask how this concept informs discussions of social cognition. In this context we consider Frith and Friston’s proposal for a neural hermeneutics, and we explore the alternative model of enactivist hermeneutics.
In a majority of situations the normal adult maintains posture or moves without consciously monitoring motor activity. Posture and movement are usually close to automatic; they tend to take care of themselves, outside of attentive regard. One's body, in such cases, effaces itself as one is geared into a particular intentional goal. This effacement is possible because of the normal functioning of a body schema. Body schema can be defined as a system of preconscious, subpersonal processes that play a dynamic (...) role in governing posture and movement (Head, 1920). There is an important and often overlooked conceptual difference between the subpersonal body schema and what is usually called body image . The latter is most often defined as a conscious idea or mental representation that one has of one's own body (for example, Adame, Radell, Johnson, and Cole, 1991; Gardner and Moncrieff, 1988; Schilder, 1935). Despite the conceptual difference many researchers use the terms interchangeably, leading to both a terminological and conceptual confusion. (shrink)
This paper argues that self-consciousness and moral agency depend crucially on both embodied and social aspects of human existence, and that the capacity for practical wisdom, phronesis, is central to moral personhood. The nature of practical wisdom is elucidated by drawing on rival analyses of expertise. Although ethical expertise and practical wisdom differ importantly, they are alike in that we can acquire them only in interaction with other persons and through habituation. The analysis of moral agency and practical wisdom is (...) framed by Dennett's proposal that moral personhood requires satisfaction of six conditions, including self-consciousness. (shrink)
Recent significant research in a number of disciplines centers around the concept of the sense of agency. Because many of these studies cut across disciplinary lines there is good reason to seek a clear consensus on what ‘sense of agency’ means. In this paper I indicate some complexities that this consensus might have to deal with. I also highlight an important phenomenological distinction that needs to be considered in any discussion of the sense of agency, regardless of how it gets (...) defined, and I offer some critical comments on some current models tied to the notion that the sense of agency has an ambiguous phenomenology. (shrink)
The basic approach to understanding shared agency has been to identify individual intentional states that are somehow “shared” by participants and that contribute to guiding and informing the actions of individual participants. But, as Michael Bratman suggests, there is a problem of stability and depth that any theory of shared agency needs to solve. Given that participants in a joint action might form shared intentions for different reasons, what binds them to one another such that they have some reason for (...) continuing to participate in the joint action in the face of conflicting reasons? This is particularly pressing in cases of joint actions that unfold over long periods of time. There are a variety of ways that the problem of stability and depth of shared intention might be addressed. We review some of those ways in section 1. We do not intend to challenge these approaches. Instead, in this article, we want to suggest that narrative is an additional, perhaps in some cases a predominant, way in which stability and depth are achieved. According to some theories, narrative plays a crucial role in the development of the self. Our suggestion is that the narratives we tell about our joint projects contribute to the development of a stable and deep “we.”. (shrink)
Hermeneutics is usually defined as the theory and practice of interpretation. As a discipline it involves a long and complex history, starting with concerns about the proper interpretation of literary, sacred, and legal texts. In the twentieth century, hermeneutics broadens to include the idea that humans are, in Charles Taylor’s phrase, ‘self-interpreting animals’ (Taylor, 1985). In contrast to the narrowly prescriptive questions of textual interpretation, philosophical hermeneutics, as developed by thinkers like Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur, raises questions about the conditions (...) of possibility for human understanding — not how we should interpret or understand something, but what interpretation and understanding are and how they work. For the nineteenth-century philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey, the hermeneutical disciplines were very different from the disciplines of science, including the newly emerging science of psychology. In contrast to psychology, which, in part, attempts to explain the natural behaviour of human animals in causal terms, Dilthey (1926) thinks of the hermeneutical disciplines as attempting to under- stand the behaviour of human persons in terms of their experience and inner motivation. Inner life is not composed of a series of mechanistic starts and stops, but is woven together into a continuity (Zusammenhang) that has a structure, by.. (shrink)
Is it possible to say that there is no real self if we take a non-Cartesian view of the body? Is it possible to say that an organism can engage in pragmatic action and intersubjective interaction and that the self generated in such activity is not real? This depends on how we define the concept "real". By taking a close look at embodied action, and at Metzinger's concept of embodiment, I want to argue that, on a non-Cartesian concept of reality, (...) the self should be considered something real, and not simply an illusion. (shrink)
Some philosophers argue that Descartes was wrong when he characterized animals as purely physical automata – robots devoid of consciousness. It seems to them obvious that animals (tigers, lions, and bears, as well as chimps, dogs, and dolphins, and so forth) are conscious. There are other philosophers who argue that it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that robots and other artificial agents may someday be conscious – and it is certainly practical to take the intentional stance toward them (...) (the robots as well as the philosophers) even now. I'm not sure that there are philosophers who would deny consciousness to animals but affirm the possibility of consciousness in robots. In any case, and in whatever way these various philosophers define consciousness, the majority of them do attribute consciousness to humans. Amongst this group, however, there are philosophers and scientists who want to reaffirm the idea, explicated by Shadworth Holloway Hodgson in 1870, that in regard to action the presence of consciousness does not matter since it plays no causal role. Hodgson's brain generated the following thought: neural events form an autonomous causal chain that is independent of any accompanying conscious mental states. Consciousness is epiphenomenal, incapable of having any effect on the nervous system. James (1890, 130) summarizes the situation. (shrink)
Clark and Chalmers  introduced the concept of the extended mind, in part to move beyond the standard Cartesian idea that cognition is something that happens in a private mental space, "in the head." In this paper I want to pursue a liberal interpretation of this idea, extending the mind to include processes that occur within social and cultural institutions. At the same time I want to address some concerns that have been raised about whether such..
Theory theorists conceive of social cognition as a theoretical and observational enterprise rather than a practical and interactive one. According to them, we do our best to explain other people's actions and mental experience by appealing to folk psychology as a kind of rule book that serves to guide our observations through our puzzling encounters with others. Seemingly, for them, most of our encounters count as puzzling, and other people are always in need of explanation. By contrast, simulation theorists do (...) their best to avoid the theoretical stance by using their own experience as the measure of everyone else's. When it comes to explaining how we understand other people some of the very best contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists are simulationists. For example, Vittorio Gallese, Alvin Goldman, Robert Gordon, Jane Heal, Susan Hurley, and Marc Jeannerod. This short list of simulationists, however, already involves some problems. Not everyone on this list understands simulation in the same way. In effect, there are different simulation theories, and although it is important to distinguish them, and I will do so before I go much further, I will in the end argue against all of them. For several reasons I don't think that the concept of simulation explains our primary and pervasive way of understanding others, any more than theory theory does. (shrink)
The term phenomenology can be used in a generic sense to cover a variety of areas related to the problem of consciousness. In this sense it is a title that ranges over issues pertaining to first-person or subjective experience, qualia, and what has become known as "the hard problem" (Chalmers 1995). The term is sometimes used even more generally to signify a variety of approaches to studying such issues, including contemplative, meditative, and mystical studies, and transpersonal psychology.(1) Within the disciplines (...) of philosophy and psychology, however, phenomenology has a more specialized meaning. In this case it refers to the methodology and philosophy initiated by the philosopher Edmund Husserl at the beginning of the twentieth-century and developed in various ways by theorists such as Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Schutz. I restrict the scope of this review to phenomenology in this more specialized sense. In the light of several recent publications, the general questions I address are: What is and what ought to be the relationship between phenomenology and cognitive science? and What, if any, recent contributions has phenomenology made to the science of consciousness? (shrink)
In this paper, we investigate the role of intention and joint attention in joint actions. Depending on the shared intentions the agents have, we distinguish between joint path-goal actions and joint final-goal actions. We propose an instrumental account of basic joint action analogous to a concept of basic action and argue that intentional joint attention is a basic joint action. Furthermore, we discuss the functional role of intentional joint attention for successful cooperation in complex joint actions. Anika Fiebich is PhD (...) student in Philosophy at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. Shaun Gallagher is Lilian and Morrie Moss Professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis, USA. (shrink)
The notion of an enactive system requires thinking about the brain in a way that is different from the standard computational-representational models. In evolutionary terms, the brain does what it does and is the way that it is, across some scale of variations, because it is part of a living body with hands that can reach and grasp in certain limited ways, eyes structured to focus, an autonomic system, an upright posture, etc. coping with specific kinds of environments, and with (...) other people. Changes to any of the bodily, environmental, or intersubjective conditions elicit responses from the system as a whole. On this view, rather than representing or computing information, the brain is better conceived as participating in the action. (shrink)
I consider two specific issues to show the difference between a neurophilosophical approach and a neurophenomenlogical approach, namely, the issues of self and intersubjectivity. Neurophilosophy (which starts with theory that is continuous with common sense) and neurophenomenology (which generates theory in methodically controlled practices) lead to very different philosophical views on these issues.
We argue that progress in our scientific understanding of the `social mind' is hampered by a number of unfounded assumptions. We single out the widely shared assumption that social behavior depends solely on the capacities of an individual agent. In contrast, both developmental and phenomenological studies suggest that the personal-level capacity for detached `social cognition' (conceived as a process of theorizing about and/or simulating another mind) is a secondary achievement that is dependent on more immediate processes of embodied social interaction. (...) We draw on the enactive approach to cognitive science to further clarify this strong notion of `social interaction' in theoretical terms. In addition, we indicate how this interaction theory (IT) could eventually be formalized with the help of a dynamical systems perspective on the interaction process, especially by making use of evolutionary robotics modeling. We conclude that bringing together the methods and insights of developmental, phenomenological, enactive and dynamical approaches to social interaction can provide a promising framework for future research. Keywords: theory of mind; cognitive science; phenomenology; embodied cognition; dynamical systems theory; enactive approach; social cognition; interaction theory; evolutionary robotics. (shrink)