Vol. 42, Number 2, Spring 2021
How Reductive Analyses Are Confused and How to Fix Them: A Critique of Varitel Semantics
Nancy A. Salay, Queen’s University
The “problem of intentionality” from the vantage point of a representational understanding of mind is explaining what thoughts and beliefs are and how they guide behaviour. From an anti-representationalist perspective, on the other hand, on which cognition itself is taken to be a kind of action, intentionality is a capacity to engage in behaviour that is meaningfully directed toward or about some situation. That these are not in fact competing insights is obscured by the representational/anti-representational framing of the debate. This paper begins the work of shifting the conversation in two ways: (1) by arguing that it is the commitment to internal representations, not the acknowledgement of a role for representation per se, that is problematic; and, (2) by describing an alternative, externalist, representational approach that draws on extended, embodied, enactive insights.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nancy A. Salay, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada. Email: email@example.com
Kinetic Memories: An Embodied Form of Remembering the Personal Past
Marina Trakas, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientíﬁcas y Técnicas de Argentina
Despite the popularity that the embodied cognition thesis has gained in recent years, explicit memories of events personally experienced are still conceived as disembodied mental representations. It seems that we can consciously remember our personal past through sensory imagery, through concepts, propositions and language, but not through the body. In this article, I defend the idea that the body constitutes a genuine means of representing past personal experiences. For this purpose, I focus on the analysis of bodily movements associated with the retrieval of a personal memory, which have certain features that make them different from procedural memories, pragmatic actions and common gestures, as well as other forms of embodied memories as examined in recent literature. I refer to these as “kinetic memories” and analyse their representative nature as well as their adaptive functions. Kinetic memories are bodily movements in which some event or action that took place in the past can be seen, because they are an externalisation of the subject’s inner intention of representing a past personal experience. Kinetic memories represent a past experience sometimes by imitation of a past movement, and other times through embodied symbols and metaphors. Furthermore, although sometimes they present direct pragmatic benefits, such as communicative benefits, they seem to enhance the whole reexperience of the past event and memory recall, which I argue is one important adaptive value.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marina Trakas, Ph.D, Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, Sociedad Argentina de Análisis Filosófico / Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Bulnes 642, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enactivism, the Field of Affordances, and Mental Disorder
Michelle Maiese, Emmanuel College
The notion of affordance is a theoretical concept introduced by Gibson (1979) that emphasizes the complementarity of the animal and the environment. To make sense of the relational nature of affordances and the way in which they cut across the subjective–objective dichotomy, some theorists have looked to enactivism. While Gibson’s formulation treats perception as central, enactivism turns the focus to agency, lived experience, and the issue of what determines whether an affordance solicits action. Once we turn the focus to solicitations, we see that an object invites action not just because of its features and what abilities the animal possesses, but also because of that animal’s particular goals, concerns, and sociocultural context. Affordances are not simply perceived via the sensory organs, but rather disclosed as relevant, live options. I will argue that this occurs by way of an affective framing process. Taken together, these notions of solicitation and affective framing offer a useful way for enactivists to build upon Gibson’s notion of affordance in a way that (a) acknowledges the crucial affective aspect of an agent’s engagement with action-possibilities, (b) clarifies the sociocultural dimension of affordances and the central role played by shared expectations, social norms, and conventions, and (c) helps to make sense of Gibson’s claim that affordances cut across the subjective–objective divide. The emerging account of affordances, interpreted from the standpoint of enactivism, allows us to conceptualize what it means to engage in adaptive agency and paves the way for increased understanding of disruptions to agency in mental disorder.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michelle Maiese, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Emmanuel College, 400 The Fenway, Boston, Massachuetts 02115. Email: email@example.com
On Epistemic Responsibility for Undesirable Beliefs
Deborah K. Heikes, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Responsibility for beliefs is a heavily debated topic within epistemology. The received view is that we have limited control over the formation of beliefs, but control nonetheless. As in the moral case, if we have control over our beliefs, then we have some responsibility for our beliefs. However, many of our beliefs are understood to not be within our direct control and are ones that we cannot be said to be responsible for or blameworthy for holding. Rarely, however, do discussions of epistemic blameworthiness or blamelessness include so-called undesirable beliefs, such as racist beliefs. In this paper, I explore the possibility that there may be knowers who are epistemically blameless for holding racist beliefs precisely because they have limited doxastic control. First, I consider Nikolaj Nottelmann’s account of blameworthy belief, including his discussion of what makes a belief undesirable. I then consider the case of two different White men who hold similar racists beliefs. I argue that the social dimension of knowledge and the reality of socially constructed ignorance, like White ignorance, can affect the epistemic control we have over our beliefs and can make some people epistemologically blameless for holding certain undesirable beliefs. Finally, I argue that to be epistemically blameless for holding an undesirable belief does not mean we are blameless simpliciter and that there remain consequences for holding an undesirable belief.
Correspondence pertaining to this article should be addressed to Deborah Heikes, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama 35899. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hamlet on the Couch Revisited: A Radical Behavioral Perspective
Russell Hopfenberg, Duke University
Shakespeare’s character Hamlet has been studied from several psychological viewpoints. Psychoanalytic thought has focused on Oedipal issues and related unconscious struggles that interfere with Hamlet avenging his father’s murder. Other theories hold that cognitive processes drive Hamlet’s emotional difficulty and impede his taking action. The current study presents an assessment of Hamlet’s dilemma from a radical behavioral perspective and identifies the independent factors impacting Hamlet’s behavior. Using this framework, the apparent difficulty understanding Hamlet is also addressed.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University, Civitan Building, 2213 Elba Street, Durham, North Carolina 27705. Email: RussH100@aol.com