The Backside of Habit: Notes on Embodied Agency and the Functional Opacity of the Medium

In Fausto Caruana & Italo Testa (eds.), Habits: Pragmatist Approaches from Cognitive Neuroscience to Social Science by Caruana F. & Testa I. (Eds.). Cambridge University Press. Cambridge University Press. pp. 165-183 (2020)
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In this chapter what I call the “backside” of habit is explored. I am interested in the philosophical implications of the physical and physiological processes that mediate, and which allow for what comes to appear as almost magic; namely the various sensorimotor associations and integrations that allows us to replay our past experiences, and to in a certain sense perceive potential futures, and to act and bring about anticipated outcomes – without quite knowing how. Thus, the term “backside” is meant to refer both the actual mediation and the epistemic opacity of these backstage intermediaries that allow for the front stage magic. The question is if the epistemic complexities around sensorimotor mediation gives us valuable insights into the nature of human agency and further how it might begin to show us new ways to think of the mind as truly embodied yet not reducible to any finite body-as-object.

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Maria Brincker
University of Massachusetts, Boston


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