Enactivism's Last Breaths

In M. Curado & S. Gouveia (eds.), Contemporary Perspective in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge Scholars Press (2017)
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Olfactory perception provides a promising test case for enactivism, since smelling involves actively sampling our surrounding environment by sniffing. Smelling deploys implicit skillful knowledge of how our movement and the airflow around us yield olfactory experiences. The hybrid nature of olfactory experience makes it an ideal test case for enactivism with its esteem for touch and theoretical roots in vision. Olfaction is like vision in facilitating the perception of distal objects, yet it requires us to breath in and physically contact the sensory object in a manner similar to touch. The paper offers an analysis of the central theoretical components of enactivism, whose soundness and empirical viability are tested using the empirical literature on sniffing. It will be shown that even if sniffing is an essential component of olfaction, the motoric component is not necessary for perceiving smells, which is contrary to the most crucial tenet of enactivism. Thus, the paper concludes that the theory cannot account for olfactory perception.

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Benjamin D. Young
University of Nevada, Reno


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