“Towards a Scientifically Tractable, Direct Realist, Sensorimotor Account of Experience” – IAS-Research Seminar by Mike Beaton

Next Tuesday, May 28th, remember: at 11am, Mike Beaton.

Title: Towards a Scientifically Tractable, Direct Realist, Sensorimotor Account of Experience

Abstract: The sensorimotor account of experience has arguably not lived up to its early promise. I suggest that this is because a full-blown sensorimotor account needs to reject an assumption shared by most consciousness researchers, namely that first person experience corresponds to processes in the head. I argue instead that when we are experiencing an object or property in the world, the experienced object is literally part of the subjective experience. This is a form of direct realism. The sensorimotor account shows us (in ways which can be made highly analytic and mathematical) what objects are, such that we may enact them, and what experience is, such that it may directly, constitutively involve these external objects. This externalist account of experience matches our first-person phenomenology much better than the standard, internalist view; it also makes it much clearer how we can have genuine knowledge of the external world. Action-based views of perception, such as this one, should respond to apparently problematic cases such as locked-in syndrome, not by referring to covert action, but rather by referring to counterfactual links to overt action (this use of counterfactuals is completely normal in science). Direct realist views should respond to arguments from illusion by noting that the detailed flow of subjective experience is different when we are really encountering an object, and when we only seem to be. Brain dynamics remain a crucial enabling part of experience, but not the only part; experience itself is the ongoing, meaningful relationship between subject and world.

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Xabier Barandiaran

About Xabier Barandiaran

I consider myself a situated and embodied philosopher, which means that I situate my philosophical practice in close interaction with scientific environments and embodied in the conceptual apparatus that emerges from this interplay. The sciences on which I feel embedded are those meeting in the multidisciplinary crossroad of cognitive sciences and artificial life: particularly the origins of agency, simulation of adaptive behaviour (evolutionary robotics and computational neuroethology), and large scale neuroscience.