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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 13



F

Farlig Gulstein

Guest
i-consciousness and m-consciousness

Studying consciousness scientifically is difficult when the word has multiple meanings. For clarity, we begin this account by labelling two common categories of meaning for consciousness. The first focuses on information in the brain—how it is selected, enhanced, and processed. The second is a more mysterious, extra, experiential essence that people claim accompanies the informational content. In this account, we will refer to the two as i- consciousness (i for information) and m-consciousness (m for mysterious), although we acknowledge that other researchers may use different terminology.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
The following is important re AI and the immense gap between how we understand the world experientially and culturally and what gets lost or distorted in the misunderstanding of the gap between language and lived reality. How can AI avoid an immense confusion concerning what is real and palpable and that which is reduced to concepts and images in language itself?

Robo-writers: the rise and risks of language-generating AI
The following paper should help to clarify this issue:

HYPOTHESIS AND THEORY ARTICLE​

Front. Psychol., 09 May 2011 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00086

The radical plasticity thesis: how the brain learns to be conscious​

Axel Cleeremans*

Consciousness, Cognition and Computation Group, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium

In this paper, I explore the idea that consciousness is something that the brain learns to do rather than an intrinsic property of certain neural states and not others. Starting from the idea that neural activity is inherently unconscious, the question thus becomes: How does the brain learn to be conscious? I suggest that consciousness arises as a result of the brain’s continuous attempts at predicting not only the consequences of its actions on the world and on other agents, but also the consequences of activity in one cerebral region on activity in other regions. By this account, the brain continuously and unconsciously learns to redescribe its own activity to itself, so developing systems of meta-representations that characterize and qualify the target first-order representations. Such learned redescriptions, enriched by the emotional value associated with them, form the basis of conscious experience. Learning and plasticity are thus central to consciousness, to the extent that experiences only occur in experiencers that have learned to know they possess certain first-order states and that have learned to care more about certain states than about others. This is what I call the “Radical Plasticity Thesis.” In a sense thus, this is the enactive perspective, but turned both inwards and (further) outwards. Consciousness involves “signal detection on the mind”; the conscious mind is the brain’s (non-conceptual, implicit) theory about itself. I illustrate these ideas through neural network models that simulate the relationships between performance and awareness in different tasks.

Consider the humble but proverbial thermostat. A thermostat is a simple device that can turn a furnace on or off depending on whether the current temperature exceeds a set threshold. Thus, the thermostat can appropriately be said to be sensitive to temperature. But is there some sense in which the thermostat can be characterized as being aware of temperature? Contra Chalmers (1996), I will argue that there is no sense in which the thermostat can be characterized as being aware of temperature. There are two important points that I would like to emphasize in developing this argument. The first is that there is no sense in which the thermostat can be characterized as being aware of temperature because it does not know that it is sensitive to temperature. The second point is that there is no sense in which the thermostat can be characterized as being aware of temperature because it does not care about whether its environment is hot or cold. I will further argue that these two features – knowledge of one’s own internal states and the emotional value associated with such knowledge – are constitutive of conscious experience. Finally, I will argue that learning (or, more generally, plasticity) is necessary for both features to emerge in cognitive systems. From this, it follows that consciousness is something that the brain learns to do through continuously operating mechanisms of neural plasticity. This I call the “Radical Plasticity Thesis.”

Information processing can undoubtedly take place without consciousness, as abundantly demonstrated not only by empirical evidence (the best example of which is probably blindsight), but also by the very fact that extremely powerful information-processing machines, namely computers, have now become ubiquitous. Only but a few would be willing to grant any quantum of conscious experience to contemporary computers, yet they are undeniably capable of sophisticated information processing – from recognizing faces to analyzing speech, from winning chess tournaments to helping prove theorems. Thus, consciousness is not information processing; experience is an “extra ingredient” (Chalmers, 2007a) that comes over and beyond mere computation.

With this premise in mind – a premise that just restates Chalmers’ (1996) hard problem, that is, the question of why it is the case that information processing is accompanied by experience in humans and other higher animals, there are several ways in which one can think about the problem of consciousness.

One is to simply state, as per Dennett (e.g., Dennett, 1991, 2001) that there is nothing more to explain. Experience is just (a specific kind of) information processing in the brain; the contents of experience are just whatever representations have come to dominate processing at some point in time (“fame in the brain”); consciousness is just a harmless illusion. From this perspective, it is easy to imagine that machines will be conscious when they have accrued sufficient complexity; the reason they are not conscious now is simply because they are not sophisticated enough: They lack the appropriate architecture perhaps, they lack sufficiently broad and diverse information-processing abilities, and so on. Regardless of what is missing, the basic point here is that there is no reason to assume that conscious experience is anything special. Instead, all that is required is one or several yet-to-be-identified functional mechanisms: Recurrence, perhaps (Lamme, 2003), stability of representation (O’Brien and Opie, 1999), global availability (Baars, 1988; Dehaene et al., 1998), integration and differentiation of information (Tononi, 2003, 2007), or the involvement of higher-order representations (Rosenthal, 1997, 2006), to name just a few.

Another perspective is to consider that experience will never be amenable to a satisfactory functional explanation. Experience, according to some (e.g., Chalmers, 1996), is precisely what is left over once all functional aspects of consciousness have been explained. Notwithstanding the fact that so defined, experience is simply not something one can approach from a scientific point of view, this position recognizes that consciousness is a unique (a hard) problem in the Cognitive Neurosciences. But that is a different thing from saying that a reductive account is not possible. A non-reductive account, however, is exactly what Chalmers’ Naturalistic Dualism attempts to offer, by proposing that information, as a matter of ontology, has a dual aspect, – a physical aspect and a phenomenal aspect. “Experience arises by virtue of its status as one aspect of information, when the other aspect is found embodied in physical processing” (Chalmers, 2007b, p. 366). This position leads him to defend the possibility that experience is a fundamental aspect of reality. Thus, even thermostats, for instance, may be endowed with very simple experiences, in virtue of the fact that they can toggle in two different states.

What, however, do we mean when we speak of “subjective experience” or of “quale”? The simplest definition of these concepts (Nagel, 1974) goes right to the heart of the matter: “Experience” is what it feels like for a conscious organism to be that organism. There is something it is like for a bat to be a bat; there is nothing it is like for a stone to be a stone. As Chalmers (2007a) puts it: “When we see, for instance, we experience visual sensations: The felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field” (p. 226).

Let us try to engage in some phenomenological analysis at this point to try to capture what it means for each of us to have an experience. Imagine you see a patch of red (Humphrey, 2006). You now have a red experience – something that a camera recording the same patch of red will most definitely not have. What is the difference between you and the camera? Tononi (2007), from whom I borrow this simple thought experiment, points out that one key difference is that when you see the patch of red, the state you find yourself in is but one among billions, whereas for a simple light-sensitive device, it is perhaps one of only two possible states – thus the state conveys a lot more differentiated information for you than for a light-sensitive diode. A further difference is that you are able to integrate the information conveyed by many different inputs, whereas the chip on a camera can be thought of as a mere array of independent sensors among which there is no interaction.

Hoping not to sound presumptuous, it strikes me, however, that both Chalmers’ (somewhat paradoxically) and Tononi’s analyses miss fundamental facts about experience: Both analyze it as a rather abstract dimension or aspect of information, whereas experience – what it feels like – is anything but abstract. On the contrary, what we mean when we say that seeing a patch of red elicits an “experience” is that the seeing does something to us – in particular, we might feel one or several emotions, and we may associate the redness with memories of red. Perhaps seeing the patch of red makes you remember the color of the dress that your prom night date wore 20 years ago. Perhaps it evokes a vague anxiety, which we now know is also shared by monkeys (Humphrey, 1971). To a synesthete, perhaps seeing the color red will evoke the number 5. The point is that if conscious experience is what it feels like to be in a certain state, then “What it feels like” can only mean the specific set of associations that have been established by experience between the stimulus or the situation you now find yourself in, on the one hand, and your memories, on the other. This is what one means by saying that there is something it is like to be you in this state rather than nobody or somebody else: The set of memories evoked by the stimulus (or by actions you perform, etc.), and, crucially, the set of emotional states associated with each of these memories. This is essentially the perspective that Damasio (2010) defends.

Thus, a first point about the very notion of subjective experience I would like to make here is that it is difficult to see what experience could mean beyond (1) the emotional value associated with a state of affairs, and (2) the vast, complex, richly structured, experience-dependent network of associations that the system has learned to associate with that state of affairs. “What it feels like” for me to see a patch of red at some point seems to be entirely exhausted by these two points. Granted, one could still imagine an agent that accesses specific memories, possibly associated with emotional value, upon seeing a patch of red and who fails to “experience” anything. But I surmise that this would be mere simulation: One could design such a zombie agent, but any real agent that is driven by self-developed motivation, and that cannot help but be influenced by his emotional states will undoubtedly have experiences much like ours.

Hence, there is nothing it is like for the camera to see the patch of red simply because it does not care: The stimulus is meaningless; the camera lacks even the most basic machinery that would make it possible to ascribe any interpretation to the patch of red; it is instead just a mere recording device for which nothing matters. There is nothing it is like to be that camera at that point in time simply because (1) the experience of different colors do not do anything to the camera; that is, colors are not associated with different emotional valences; and (2) the camera has no brain with which to register and process its own states. It is easy to imagine how this could be different. To hint at my forthcoming argument, a camera could, for instance, keep a record of the colors it is exposed to, and come to “like” some colors better than others. Over time, your camera would like different colors than mine, and it would also know that in some non-trivial sense. Appropriating one’s mental contents for oneself is the beginning of individuation, and hence the beginning of a self.

Thus a second point about experience that I perceive as crucially important is that it does not make any sense to speak of experience without an experiencer who experiences the experiences. Experience is, almost by definition (“what it feels like”), something that takes place not in any physical entity but rather only in special physical entities, namely cognitive agents. Chalmers’ (1996) thermostat fails to be conscious because, despite the fact that it can find itself in different internal states, it lacks the ability to remove itself from the causal chain which it instantiates. In other words, it lacks knowledge that it can find itself in different states; it is but a mere mechanism that responds to inputs in certain ways. While there is indeed something to be experienced there (the different states the thermostat can find itself in), there is no one home to be the subject of these experiences – the thermostat simply lacks the appropriate machinery to do so. The required machinery, I surmise, minimally involves the ability to know that one finds itself in such or such a state. . . .”


Also this paper:

Cleeremans, A., Timmermans, B. & Pasquali, A. (2007) Consciousness and metarepresentation: A computational sketch.

Neural Networks

20(9):1032-9. Redirecting
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
The following book is available in full online without cost from academia.edu and also available there to download (which is much easier to read):

Consciousness and Subjectivity, Sofia Miguens & Gerhard Preyer eds. (2012)


Sofia Miguens

416 Views188 Pages
2 Files ▾
Issues of subjectivity and consciousness are dealt with in very different ways in the analytic tradition and in the phenomenological tradition central to continental philosophy. This book brings together analytically inspired philosophers working on the continent with English-speaking philosophers to address specific issues regarding subjectivity and consciousness. The issues range from acquaintance and immediacy in perception and apperception, to the role of agency in bodily 'mine-ness', to self-determination (Selbstbestimmung) through (free) action. Thus involving philosophers of different traditions should yield a deeper vision of consciousness and subjectivity; one relating the mind not only to nature, or to first-person authority in linguistic creatures, questions which, in the analytic tradition, are sometimes treated as exhausting the topic but also to many other aspe … View full abstract

Consciousness and Subjectivity, Sofia Miguens & Gerhard Preyer eds. (2012)
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Contents of the above volume:

Introduction: Are There Blindspots in Thinking About Consciousness and Subjectivity?
Sofia Miguens and Gerhard Preyer

Sensation and Apperception
Hilary Putnam

Presentational Phenomenology
Elijah Chudnoff

The Content, Intentionality, and Phenomenology of Experience
Michelle Montague

Perceptual Aquaintance and Informational Content
Donovan Wishon

Personal-Level Representation
Uriah Kriegel

While Under the Influence
Charles Travis

Part II

Varieties of Subjectivity
Manfred Frank

The Problem of Subjectivity: Dieter Henrich’s Turn
Gerhard Preyer

Self-Ascription and Self-Awareness
Neil Feit

First Person is Not Just a Perspective: Thought, Reality and the Limits of Interpretation
Jocelyn Benoist
8-f29a0838da.jpg
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
In this paper, I explore the idea that consciousness is something that the brain learns to do rather than an intrinsic property of certain neural states and not others. Starting from the idea that neural activity is inherently unconscious, the question thus becomes: How does the brain learn to be conscious?
So here we begin with what's called a loaded question. It's also based on the dubious assumption that learning isn't an "intrinsic property" of "neural states". But setting these objections aside, I would say it's fairly obvious that brains do learn ( duh ), and that they're responsible for our state of consciousness ( another duh ). However, studying this particular type of learning by our neural systems may provide insights into helping those with brain related disorders that affect their ability to function in a normal conscious manner, and that could be very valuable.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
The following book is available in full online without cost from academia.edu and also available there to download (which is much easier to read):
It's making me jump through hoops I'd rather not have to. If you've already downloaded it, can you please upload it here as an attachment? Being a free download, I don't see that there should be any issue with that. We just don't do it when the author's can lose income from sales.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
So here we begin with what's called a loaded question. It's also based on the dubious assumption that learning isn't an "intrinsic property" of "neural states". But setting these objections aside, I would say it's fairly obvious that brains do learn ( duh ), and that they're responsible for our state of consciousness ( another duh ). However, studying this particular type of learning by our neural systems may provide insights into helping those with brain related disorders that affect their ability to function in a normal conscious manner, and that could be very valuable.

How is the question Cleeremans poses a "loaded question"? It's an open question pursued in interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies for several years now. And the Cleeremans papers I posted are significant contributions to current progress in answering this question.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
It's making me jump through hoops I'd rather not have to. If you've already downloaded it, can you please upload it here as an attachment? Being a free download, I don't see that there should be any issue with that. We just don't do it when the author's can lose income from sales.
See if this works for you: file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/the-cambridge-handbook-of-consciousness_compress.pdf

Looks like it doesn't. Remind me how to set up the download in a way you or others can access it.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
See if this works for you: file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/the-cambridge-handbook-of-consciousness_compress.pdf

Looks like it doesn't. Remind me how to set up the download in a way you or others can access it.
Just hit the edit button on the post > select the upload attachment option > choose the file from where it's stored on your system. I keep forgetting that a lot of people aren't on a desktop system. You're in no way obligated to do this, but it's a nice touch for forum users because they don't have to navigate away from the post. Thanks.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
How is the question Cleeremans poses a "loaded question"? It's an open question pursued in interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies for several years now. And the Cleeremans papers I posted are significant contributions to current progress in answering this question.
A loaded question is one that has an unproven presumption built into it. A more obvious example might be to ask a random stranger when they became a vegan. The built-in assumption is that the person being asked wasn't vegan and became one, when you don't know either is the case. See the problem?

In this case the question is: "How does the brain learn to be conscious?" and the unproven presumption is that the brain learns to be conscious as opposed to consciousness being an intrinsic property of neural function. It's further complicated by the assumption that learning isn't an intrinsic property of neural function, when the evidence suggests that it very much is.

However, like I was saying, if something works, and can be applied, then we can always take our time figuring out what's going on after the fact. For example if consciousness is learned, then maybe damaged brains can re-learn how to become conscious through some sort of teaching process, which could be very useful, even if we don't fully understand how it works.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Just hit tIhe edit button on the post > select the upload attachment option > choose the file from where it's stored on your system. I keep forgetting that a lot of people aren't on a desktop system. You're in no way obligated to do this, but it's a nice touch for forum users because they don't have to navigate away from the post. Thanks.
I don't mind doing this and was doing it awhile back, but in the interim forgot how to accomplish it.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
It's making me jump through hoops I'd rather not have to. If you've already downloaded it, can you please upload it here as an attachment? Being a free download, I don't see that there should be any issue with that. We just don't do it when the author's can lose income from sales.
 

Attachments

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Constance

Paranormal Adept
A loaded question is one that has an unproven presumption built into it. A more obvious example might be to ask a random stranger when they became a vegan. The built-in assumption is that the person being asked wasn't vegan and became one, when you don't know either is the case. See the problem?
I see what you're trying to suggest, but the question is which discipline approaching this question has "an unproven presumption" or presupposition that limits its perspective on consciousness. I would argue, and long have, that it has been an undemonstrated presupposition, first decreed by the Churchlands, that "we" are our neurons and our neurons somehow 'learn' [or even intrinsically 'know'] how to navigate the world we live in without the ongoing experience of the environing world that has led to the evolution of consciousness in the animal world including us.
In this case the question is: "How does the brain learn to be conscious?" and the unproven presumption is that the brain learns to be conscious as opposed to consciousness being an intrinsic property of neural function. It's further complicated by the assumption that learning isn't an intrinsic property of neural function, when the evidence suggests that it very much is.
Phenomenological philosophers have long recognized the role of bodily and emotionally affective experiences of organisms in generating the development of protoconsciousness and in our species reflective consciousness, and biologists and ethologists in recent years have supported and extended their insights. Lived experience engenders awareness and affectivity in the evolution of species. Jaak Panksepp in recent years developed the new discipline of Affective Neuroscience, which we have followed in discussions in this forum for several years. One needs to read both phenomenological philosophy of mind and those scientists involved in the development of affective neuroscience in order to understand the reasons why earlier, generally physicalist/objectivist, presuppositions about consciousness and mind are being gradually overcome in the field of Consciousness Studies.
However, like I was saying, if something works, and can be applied, then we can always take our time figuring out what's going on after the fact. For example if consciousness is learned, then maybe damaged brains can re-learn how to become conscious through some sort of teaching process, which could be very useful, even if we don't fully understand how it works.
A case in point: awhile back I posted here several papers by phenomenologically trained psychologists and psychotherapists who have in recent years added considerably to the understanding of autism spectrum disorders and have even proposed new ways to alleviate the severity of these disorders early enough to make a difference in the quality of life of those afflicted. The papers I posted about this work can be found in a search here. There are many additional papers I could cite, and I was planning to do so anyway. I will do so if those still here have any interest in pursuing this research. I don't remember any interest expressed at the time, probably three or four months ago, when I posted those papers.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
For anyone interested, here is the table of contents from Springer with active links to papers in the current issue of the journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. @Pharoah has been interested in the focus of this issue so I am flagging him here in case he is still receiving notices from this forum.

Phenomenological approaches to personal identity

» Abstract
» Full text HTML
» Full text PDF

Self-identity and personal identity

» Abstract
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» Full text PDF» Abstract
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» Full text

On what matters.

Personal identity as a phenomenological problem

» Abstract
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Husserl, the active self, and commitment

» Abstract
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Personal identity, transformative experiences, and the future self

» Abstract
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When time becomes personal. Aging and personal identity

» Abstract
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The unbearable dispersal of being: Narrativity and personal identity in borderline personality disorder

» Abstract
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Personal identity is social identity

» Abstract
» Full text HTML » Full text PDFSaying no (to a story): personal identity and negativity
» Abstract
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Bodies (that) matter’: the role of habit formation for identity

» Abstract
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Identity as institution: power, agency, and the self - Scott Marratto

» Abstract
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Review of Time, memory, institution: Merleau-Ponty’s New Ontology of Self
by David Morris and Kym Maclaren (eds.),
Ohio University Press, 2015, 297 pp., IBSN 9780821421086, $64.00

Jakub Čapek

» Abstract
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Journal of Cognitive Semiotics, Volume 4, Number 1

Introduction: The Intersubjectivity of Embodiment
/ Riccardo Fusaroli, Paolo Demuru &Anna M. Borghi.………... 1

Embodied Human Intersubjectivity: Imaginative Agency, To Share Meaning
/ ColinTrevarthen……………6

How Our Bodies Become Us: Embodiment, Semiosis, and Intersubjectivity
/Patrizia Violi……………………56

Intersubjectivity at Close Quarters: How Dancers of
Tango Argentino Use Imagery for Interaction and Improvisation
/ Michael Kimmel…………… 75

Intersubjectivity and Embodied Communicative Systems
/ Maurizio Gentilucci, ClaudiaGianelli, Giovanna Cristina Campione & Francesca Ferri………………… 124

The Social World Within Reach: Intersubjective Manifestations of Action Completion
/Mats Andrén……………………138

The ‘All-at-Onceness’ of Embodied, Face-to-Face Interaction
/ Liesbet Quaeghebeur……..166

Fleshing Out Language and Intersubjectivity: An Exploration of Merleau-Ponty’s Legacy to Cognitive Linguistics
/ Paul Sambre……………………188

Enactivism and Social Cognition: In Search of the Whole Story
/ Leon de Bruin & Sannekede Haan………224
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Riccardo Fusaroli, Paolo Demuru, Anna M. Borghi, Introduction: The Intersubjectivity of Embodiment

Although studies centering on both embodiment (Gibbs 2006, Johnson 1987, Violi 2007; Borghi & Pecher, 2012; Wilson, 2002) and intersubjectivity (Malle & Hodges 2005) are flourishing, it is only in recent years that crosstalk and research bridging them has started being systematically pursued (Marsh et al. 2009, Tylén, et al. accepted, Zlatev et al. 2008).

On the one hand, embodiment has often been presented as a sufficient explanation for all sorts of cognitive functions, grounding them in basic human sensorimotor skills. Thus, the body has implicitly been conceived as an unproblematic and pre-existing object, detached from its social and cultural contexts (cf. Violi this volume). On the other hand, intersubjectivity has been conceived as a question of independent individuals learning how to read each other’s mind in order to interact (cf. De Bruin and De Haan this volume). That said, embodied and intersubjective foci of research are coming together, deeply reshaping the human conception of human cognition.

Indeed, new signals are emerging in the last years, and two different movements can be recorded. Cognitive and neurocognitive scientists have started to devote more attention to the intersubjective aspects of cognition (e.g., Galantucci & Sebanz 2009, Semin & Smith 2008). The much debated discovery of the mirror neuron system (for a review, see Rizzolatti & Craighero 2004) has given a great impulse to this kind of research, as has the development of psychological theories – such as the common coding one, showing that humans rely on their own motor system while observing and predicting actions performed by others (e.g., Sebanz et al. 2006). Even if the enthusiasm for the social aspects is signalled by the birth of a novel discipline “social neuroscience”, it is still a matter of controversy among cognitive (neuro)scientists to what extent intersubjectivity is intended as foundational or not.

At the same time, the influence of the bodily processes and the role of embodiment are starting to be recognized within disciplines that are traditionally more inclined to focus on the social dimension. In the past twenty years, anthropology (Csordas 1994, 2008), linguistics (Geeraerts & Cuyckens 2007), and semiotics (Landowski 2005) rediscovered the role of the body in shaping social interactions. However, this interest has sometimes led to an over-estimation of embodiment (cf. Fontanille 2004, Violi this volume), and the body has become the isolated fundament of meaning for individuals who, only in a second moment, get to interact.

The aim of this special issue is to bring together researchers embracing different approaches – neuroscientists, psychologists, semioticians, linguists, philosophers, and anthropologists – to outline principles that could provide an intersubjective foundation for embodiment.

The perspective that emerges is that one’s body and basic sensorimotor skills, which constitute a crucial structure for most of one’s cognitive processes, are, in important ways, intersubjectively distributed. Emotional and interactional rhythms in early infancy are crucial in shaping cognitive development (cf. Reddy 2008, Violi this volume, Trevarthen this volume). Slightly later in development, narrative frames and other sociocultural practices also play a crucial role in defining a shared structure for joint attention, pointing, and re-enactment of both successful and unsuccessful acts (Sinha & de Lopez 2000). These mechanisms are not limited to crucial periods in cognitive development but keep unfolding during the whole existence of the organisms. Dance is a wonderful example of this: the continuous interaction between the bodies of the participants, partially constrained by the sociocultural constraints of the specific dance enacted, gives rise to self-organized collective patterns of movements not reducible to the individual (cf. Kimmel this volume).

Not only are these embodied bases of cognition emerging, at least partially, from intersubjective interactions; but also, intersubjectivity is a much more basic and embodied activity than previously thought. Intersubjectivity is shared bodily engagement that partially defines the subjects that take part in it. Cultural practices and semiotic systems – such as language – build upon and extend these mechanisms. In this way, one can finally see the possibility for a more polyphonic dialogue, in which more socially oriented approaches (anthropology, semiotics, linguistic, sociology, etc.) contribute to the grounding of cognitive phenomena. Such dialogue is expressed in the eight contributions to this thematic issue of Cognitive Semiotics.

All of the papers in this issue take a social perspective on embodiment: that is, they all dispense with the long-held assumption in cognitive science that perception, action, and cognition can be understood fully by investigating single individuals. The papers are also connected because they all investigate intersubjectivity as composed of at least two levels:

1. Intersubjectivity as the articulation of continuous interactions in praesentia between two or more subjects.

2. Intersubjectivity as sedimented socio-cultural normativity: i.e., of habits, beliefs, attitudes, and historically and culturally sedimented morphologies.

It is exactly within the network of connections between these two levels of intersubjectivity that embodiment takes on its semiotic status. Through this shared arena for cognition, the possibility for communication and for signs is established. Through embodied interactions – in early infancy, but not only then – the relevant body structures acquire their salience. In the remainder of this introduction, we provide a brief synopsis of the papers in this issue.

The first two papers originate from infant research. They investigate the role of intersubjective interactions in prime infancy in defining the way cognition and meaning-making are developed and enacted.

Colwyn Trevarthen develops the idea that human life and one’s being in the world with a body are constituted by intersubjective rhythms. According to Trevarthen, all vertebrate life is characterized by the capacity to appraise the relevant environment emotionally: i.e., by its “adaptive vitality”. That said, human subjects originate in interaction with others, thanks to awareness of those others along with innate responses to their evaluations. Already from prime infancy, first emotional rhythms and then the joint tying of actions to pragmatic contexts – the construction of shared, implicit narrative frames – define the basic, goal-directed nature of human behavior and the shared representational infrastructure needed to read the minds behind overt movements. On this basis, a culturally manmade world of artifacts, symbolic language, and arts is possible.

Analagously, Patrizia Violi argues – on the basis of infant observation and developmental psychology studies – that intersubjectivity is the very basic device that translates embodied actions and experiences into semiotic reality through a series of steps, from forms of tuning to a more complex system of mediation with reality itself. Intersubjectivity – by creating a level of sharedness – triggers and enables the coordination and co-construction of embodied experiences.

The third paper complements this focus on infancy by investigating the tight texture of intersubjectivity in one specific kind of adult interaction: improvisational pair-dance tango argentino. Michael Kimmel conceives the dance as a sort of real-time conversation between two bodies, one that implies the use of different cognitive and intersubjective resources. This “anomalous conversation” is investigated by a mix of phenomenological interviews, apprenticeship diaries, and ethnographic participation focused on what enables the two dancers to move in unison and improvise dance while they feel – but do not know exactly – the other’s intentions. Individual skills and dynamic sensing routines combine to create an emergent, super-individual imagery that reduces the cognitive complexity of the tasks the subjects need to accomplish, permitting them to manipulate these tasks more easily.

The following four papers debate the role of intersubjectivity leading to the development of a more explicit semiotic dimension: gestuality and eventual multimodal linguistic interactions.

Relying on neuro-imaging findings, Gentilucci and colleagues highlight the connection between hand and arm-related mimicry and language-related mouth movements. Initial communication, based on intersubjectively coordinated arm gestures, is argued to be at the origin of language use. This connection remains active in the productive merging of speech and symbolic gestures in syncretic semiotic structures, which acquire a richer meaning than any of their isolated components.

Mats Andrén investigates the connection between language and gestures in their function of motivating the stature and role of objects, as well as in action completion. By analyzing rich video material of children in social interaction, Andrén displays the complex interplay of continuous corporeal dynamics and linguistic and social conventions.

Liesbeth Quaeghebeur tackles the mechanisms that enable the integration of multiple modalities into a feeling of “all-at-onceness” more explicitly. Relying on Merleau-Ponty, Quaghebeur articulates a comprehensive framework for conceiving of embodied and linguistic interactions as thinking processes, whereby thought, embodied dynamics, and social conventions mesh in a shared, intersubjective arena.

Paul Sambre pushes further the need to ground one’s understanding of meaning and intersubjectivity in phenomenology. He explores the notions of intersubjectivity and embodiment throughout the whole production of Merleau-Ponty, in order to critically enrich cognitive linguistics. Body and intersubjectivity meet and intertwine in complex ways through language. The body appears as a foremost cultural yet partially undefined object that enables mutuality and reciprocity: a first level of intersubjectivity. However, it is only through language that meanings transform into a system of expression, and the body can be fully expressed and thus defined. The “natural” body – even in the most basic perceptual functions – becomes a discursive and linguistic body, in which intersubjectivity plays an even greater role than before the advent of language. Language thus provides the key that fully accomplishes the inter-definition of embodiment and intersubjectivity.

Last but not least, Leon de Bruin and Sanneke de Haan explore how much the basic forms of continuous, embodied intersubjectivity can explain higher forms of social cognition. They develop a model of intersubjectivity grounded on the de-coupling and re-coupling of embodied interactions. The body, in its active dimension, is thus – from the start – open to the other and so grounds intersubjectivity. This intersubjectivity is widely enlarged by the use of (linguistic and culturally situated) narrative practices, which still deeply involve embodied dimensions.

Here is a download of all of the papers described:
 

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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Looks like some substantial reading. Let me know if there's any particular aspect of it you'd like to discuss. Thanks for including the download ☀️
Everything in this journal issue is deeply integrated and interconnected. I particularly recommend the second paper, by Colin Trevarthan, and the second-last paper by Paul Sambre. The issue as a whole is an excellent demonstration of the interdisciplinarity required for the investigation of consciousness and mind.

ps, I see the value of downloading papers first to my computer and then linking them here as an attachment. A much better practice. :)
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
pps, I might add that reading this journal issue as a whole can lay the initial groundwork for a necessary understanding of phenomenological methods and insights that is essential for following current developments in Consciousness Studies.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
pps, I might add that reading this journal issue as a whole can lay the initial groundwork for a necessary understanding of phenomenological methods and insights that is essential for following current developments in Consciousness Studies.
If you don't already have this, you might enjoy it too: HERMENEUTIC PHENOMENOLOGY IN EDUCATION
 

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