Applying Intelligence to the Reflexes: embodied skills and habits between Dreyfus and Descartes

Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 42 (1):78-103 (2011)
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‘There is no place in the phenomenology of fully absorbed coping’, writes Hubert Dreyfus, ‘for mindfulness. In flow, as Sartre sees, there are only attractive and repulsive forces drawing appropriate activity out of an active body’1. Among the many ways in which history animates dynamical systems at a range of distinctive timescales, the phenomena of embodied human habit, skilful movement, and absorbed coping are among the most pervasive and mundane, and the most philosophically puzzling. In this essay we examine both habitual and skilled movement, sketching the outlines of a multidimensional framework within which the many differences across distinctive cases and domains might be fruitfully understood. Both the range of movement phenomena which can plausibly be seen as instances of habit or skill, and the space of possible theories of such phenomena are richer and more disparate than philosophy easily encompasses. We seek to bring phenomenology into contact with relevant movements in psychological theories of skilful action, in the belief that phenomenological philosophy and cognitive science can be allies rather than antagonists

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