The Embodied Mind and Intentional Acts

- An Outline for Public Use –


A shift from disembodied toward "embodied, embedded" (Haugeland) mind and cognition, that has been promoted within philosophy of mind and cognitive science in the past decades, has been a productive move toward a more adequate description of the mental; there are now reasons enough to recognize a yet more profound aspect of the mind, and that is its inextricable connection to the world, in the way that enables us to claim that the two are mutually co-constituted.  "Enworldment" is a proposed concept to account for the world as a dimension of the mind, and also as an element that adds to a more encompassing understanding of intentionality


A way to deal with "enworldment" will be to put embodiment and action in the forefront. Perception and language, as well as intentional bond to the world, will be analyzed under the matrix of action (Handlung). An attempt will be made to develop a notion of subject's participatory "being- in-the-world" for which background knowledge is of crucial importance. 


Domains of investigation:

1. Perception:

Perception will be studied as situated, as context-dependent, and interactive (reentring loops, complex dynamics); also as action-dependent, and as a mode of intentionality.

The guiding assumption is that perception is more about expectations than it is about the passive uptake of the given (visual information). From that point of view it is possible to claim that in perception we read in the meanings (or make intentional inference) rather than decode visual contents from stimuli.

It is assumed that visual awareness is so natural and self understood due to the skill that converts experience into background infrastructure and so enables quick and competent response to huge amount of complex stimuli without recourse to computation.


2. Language:

It seems indispensable to outline a critique of language as formal system. It is also necessary to point out to the limitations of computationalism. Language is too rich and multidimensional to be adequately formalized and equated with information processing.
It is further assumed that it not only serves communication but is formative in many ways; i.e. it participates in the constitution of the social "I" ("das gesellschaftliche Ich" Roth).
It will also be promoted as a mode of “world-making”.

Language should not only be investigated within the scope of 'speech acts' but also within the 'listening acts' for most of our language 'usage' is exercised within listening, and that is no less demanding (it always involves guesses and intentional projections). Language is 'used' in listening and in reading as it is in speaking; the former require no less mental engagement than the latter.


3. Intentionality:  

The approach is rooted in the supposition that "inner mental states" are not of the processes in the head but rather about things and events in the world. It is further assumed that intentional inference is aided by the massive experiential treasure of the background infrastructure; it in turn represents a true potential to grant appearances instant signification and weigh their relevance in overall life context. For that reason the role of the background knowledge will be of particular concern. Also, the importance of background infrastructure in intentional acquaintance with the world will be investigated (an aspect that seems to be ignored thus far).


Rather than focusing on the motor skills (what seems to be a common attitude in regard to the background), the emphasis will be on a variety of cognitive processes (e.g. listening, reading, observation, face recognition, aesthetic perception, etc.) that get routined and taken up by the body in order to become a powerful implicit instrument of cognition. That spontaneous and easy 'conversion' of sounds or letters  into meaningful expressions is already a skill that develops into uniquely human know-how is a belief that has to be analyzed and elaborated.


The project is motivated by idea that in perception and in language we intentionally act towards objects, rather than acting according to them. It further means that we mentally project most likely or possible scenarios (based on the embodied experience) rather than isomorphically mimicking the 'externally given'. In such a way we design the 'real' as our best bet about the world.


Selected Questions:

Does the concept of the 'enworlded' mind account also for the possibility of collective (social) intentionality?
How can we support the claim that embodied (skilled) actions entail intentionality?
In which way can action and intention be related?
Is it possible to interpret automation of skills in terms of the 'unconscious' ('implicit', 'tacit', etc.)?
Can we conceive of 'aboutness' as anticipatory (as acting toward stimuli)?
In what sense can we say that only the world-oriented mind can be capable of intentional inferring?
Is it possible to find forms of representation for the background know-how?
What support can we give to the claim that "aspectual seeing" is rooted in  background infrastructure?

Collaborators on the Project:

Professor Hubert L. Dreyfus

Professor Dan Zahavi

Professor Shaun Gallagher

Professor Eduard Marbach

Hrvatski English