Enactivism, other minds, and mental disorders

Synthese 198 (Suppl 1):365-389 (2019)
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Although enactive approaches to cognition vary in terms of their character and scope, all endorse several core claims. The first is that cognition is tied to action. The second is that cognition is composed of more than just in-the-head processes; cognitive activities are externalized via features of our embodiment and in our ecological dealings with the people and things around us. I appeal to these two enactive claims to consider a view called “direct social perception” : the idea that we can sometimes perceive features of other minds directly in the character of their embodiment and environmental interactions. I argue that if DSP is true, we can probably also perceive certain features of mental disorders as well. I draw upon the developmental psychologist Daniel Stern’s notion of “forms of vitality”—largely overlooked in these debates—to develop this idea, and I use autism as a case study. I argue further that an enactive approach to DSP can clarify some ways we play a regulative role in shaping the temporal and phenomenal character of the disorder in question, and it may therefore have practical significance for both the clinical and therapeutic encounter.

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Joel Krueger
University of Exeter


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