Bodily skill and internal representation in sensorimotor perception

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 17 (1):157-173 (2018)
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The sensorimotor theory of perceptual experience claims that perception is constituted by bodily interaction with the environment, drawing on practical knowledge of the systematic ways that sensory inputs are disposed to change as a result of movement. Despite the theory’s associations with enactivism, it is sometimes claimed that the appeal to ‘knowledge’ means that the theory is committed to giving an essential theoretical role to internal representation, and therefore to a form of orthodox cognitive science. This paper defends the role ascribed to knowledge by the theory, but argues that this knowledge can and should be identified with bodily skill rather than representation. Making the further argument that the notion of ‘representation hunger’ can be replaced with ‘prima facie representation hunger’, it concludes that although the theory could optionally be developed scientifically in part by reference to internal representation, it makes a strong and natural fit with anti-representationalist embodied or enactive cognitive science.

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David Silverman
Université Paris Descartes


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