Context: Direct realism is a non-reductive, anti-representationalist theory of perception lying at the heart of mainstream analytic philosophy, where it is currently generating a lot of interest. For all that, it is widely held to be both controversial and anti-scientific. On the other hand, the sensorimotor theory of perception (which is a specific development of Gibsonian approaches to perception) initially generated a lot of interest within enactive philosophy of cognitive science, but has arguably not yet delivered on its initial promise. Problem: I aim to show that the sensorimotor theory and direct realism complement each other, and that the result is a philosophically radical, but fully scientifically realised, theory of perception. Method: The article uses (non-reductive) philosophical analysis and discussion. It also draws on empirical evidence from the relevant cognitive sciences. Results: Direct realism can be augmented by sensorimotor theory to become a scientifically tractable alternative to the mainstream, representationalist research programme within cognitive science. Implications: The article aims to further clarify the philosophical importance of the sensorimotor approach to perception. It also aims to show that the apparently radical claim that we perceive objects themselves is amenable to normal scientific study. Constructivist content: Objects are analysed as a kind of collaboration between the world and the perceiver. On this account, we can never perceive outside the categories of our own understanding, but we do perceive genuinely outside our own heads. Thus, the approach here is not exactly constructivism, though it shares many goals and results with constructivism.
Excerpt: Describing language in the light of the enactive paradigm is a most challenging issue: language is to be reconsidered in terms of sensorimotor interactions with an environment in which both the individual and the environment are modified, in which not one,but several individuals are involved – an experience that is, all in one, that of the speaker and hearer at the instant of uttering or thinking; that of the child developing into an adult through social intercourse; that of the tribe turning to a full-fledged civilization; and that of the linguist interfering with his object of scrutiny by linguistic means. As a selection has to be made, this chapter will primarily focus on the immediate experience of languaging, and secondarily broach more general subjects like acquisition and evolution.
This book asks the sciences of the mind to test their own boundaries, demanding that they account for a number of cognitive and experiential phenomena that are at the edge of the very possibility to cognize. We believe that this is a foundational challenge for the enactive approach to the mind, and, moreover, it is a challenge that – if actually won – might offer a persuasive theoretical framework even to those who have so far been skeptical about enactivism’s capacity to deal with higherlevel cognition.
The enactive approach replaces the classical computer metaphor of mind with emphasis on embodiment and social interaction as the sources of our goals and concerns. Researchers from a range of disciplines unite to address the challenge of how to account for the more uniquely human aspects of cognition, including the abstract and the nonsensical.
Embodied Cognition represents the most important news in cognitive psychology in the last twenty years. The basis of its research program is the idea that cognitive processes depend, mirror, and are influenced by bodily control systems. A whole class of novel perspectives entered into the psychologists’ agenda only after the emergence and success of EC. In the paper we will deal with some of the main topics debated within EC, from the discussion on the role of representation, to the relationship with enactivism, with functionalism and with the extended mind view. Against an interpretation according to which EC is simply an evolution of the classical cognitivist program, we will focus on the aspects that highlight crucial discontinuities with it, suggesting instead that the EC perspective is indebted to previous theoretical traditions such as American pragmatism, ecological psychology and phenomenology. In the present paper we will discuss some of the most important achievements of EC in different areas of experimental research, from the study of affordances to that of the bodily experience, from the investigation on emotions to that on language. Our aim is to force the Italian public, particularly recalcitrant to EC, to critically reflect on the debts to previous traditions. Relevance: The paper reviews embodied theories with a special focus on enactivist approaches.
Emotion theorists tend to separate “arousal” and other bodily events such as “actions” from the evaluative component of emotion known as “appraisal.” This separation, I argue, implies phenomenologically implausible accounts of emotion elicitation and personhood. As an alternative, I attempt a reconceptualization of the notion of appraisal within the so-called “enactive approach.” I argue that appraisal is constituted by arousal and action, and I show how this view relates to an embodied and affective notion of personhood. Relevance: It proposes an enactive conceptualization of the phenomenon of appraisal.
The theory of autopoiesis is central to the enactive approach. Recent works emphasize that the theory of autopoiesis is a theory of sense-making in living systems, i.e., of how living systems produce and consume meaning. In this chapter I first illustrate (some aspects of) these recent works, and interpret their notion of sense-making as a bodily cognitive-emotional form of understanding. Then I turn to modern emotion science, and I illustrate its tendency to over-intellectualize our capacity to evaluate and understand. I show that this over-intellectualization goes hand in hand with the rejection of the idea that the body is a vehicle of meaning. I explain why I think that this over-intellectualization is problematic, and try to reconceptualize the notion of evaluation in emotion theory in a way that is consistent and continuous with the autopoietic notion of sense-making. Relevance: It links emotion theory and the enactive notion of sense-making.
This book takes ideas from the enactive approach developed over the last twenty years in cognitive science and philosophy of mind and applies them for the first time to affective science – the study of emotions, moods, and feelings. Colombetti argues that enactivism entails a view of cognition as not just embodied but also intrinsically affective, and she elaborates on the implications of this claim for the study of emotion in psychology and neuroscience. In the course of her discussion, the author focuses on long-debated issues in affective science, including the notion of basic emotions, the nature of appraisal and its relationship to bodily arousal, the place of bodily feelings in emotion experience, the neurophysiological study of emotion experience, and the bodily nature of our encounters with others. Relevance: The author draws on enactivist tools such as dynamical systems theory, the notion of the lived body, neurophenomenology, and phenomenological accounts of empathy.
Our aim in this chapter is to bring emotion theory and the embodied view of cognition closer to each other. We first present an overview of classical (pre-Jamesian) theories of emotion and show that they were all psychosomatic. We then turn to the disembodied stance of cognitivism and trace how and why emotion theory came to lose the body. We argue that cognitivism not only neglected the body, but also tended to classify previous theories of emotion as either cognitive or physiological. This tendency has fostered a tension between these two features of emotion that exists to this day. The main manifestation of this tension in current emotion theory is the tendency to see cognitive and bodily processes as separate aspects or constituents of emotions. Finally, in the remainder of the article, we sketch an embodied approach to emotion, drawing especially on the “enactive approach” in cognitive science. Relevance: It develops ideas for an enactive approach to emotion.