Intersubjectivity, Mirror Neurons and the Limits of Naturalism

In Andrej Božič (ed.), Thinking Togetherness: Phenomenology and Sociality. Institute Nova Reijva for the Humanities. pp. 103-116 (2023)
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Abstract

The paper explores the possibilities and limits of naturalizing the experience of intersubjectivity. The existence of mirror neurons illustrates that an experience of intersubjectivity is already present on a more primitive, precognitive, and embodied level. A similar argument had been made in the first half of the twentieth century by phenomenologists, such as Edmund Husserl. This motivated Vittorio Gallese, one of the discoverers of mirror neurons, and other philosophers to connect the functioning of mirror neurons with Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity as presented in his Cartesianische Meditationen. I argue that such attempts are grounded in an inadequate interpretation of Husserl’s analysis and turn into a circular argument. As such, they bypass a more primordial experience of intersubjectivity, which Husserl thematizes in Ideen II as the experience of an “expressive unity,” and which resists any project of naturalization from within.

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Anthony Longo
University of Antwerp

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