Is radically enactive imagination really contentless?

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 21 (5):1089-1105 (2022)
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Abstract

Radical enactivists claim that cognition is split in two distinct kinds, which can be differentiated by how they relate to mental content. In their view, basic cognitive activities involve no mental content whatsoever, whereas linguistically scaffolded, non-basic, cognitive activities constitutively involve the manipulation of mental contents. Here, I evaluate how this dichotomy applies to imagination, arguing that the sensory images involved in basic acts of imaginations qualify as vehicles of content, contrary to what radical enactivists claim. To argue so, I leverage what has appropriately been dubbed a “compare to prototype” argument. Hence, I will first identify, within the enactivist literature, the general functional profile of a vehicle of content complying with the austere standard of contentfulness radical enactivists adhere to. Provided such a profile, I will show, relying on a mixture of reasoning and empirical evidence, that basic sensory images satisfy it, and thus that they can rightfully be identified as vehicles of content. This, I claim, provides a sufficient reason to identify the sensory images involved in basic acts of imagination as vehicles of content, thereby denying that basic imagination does not involve mental content.

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