Imagination, narrativity and embodied cognition: Exploring the possibilities of Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutical phenomenology for enactivism

Geoffrey Dierckxsens

Abstract


This paper aims to show that Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutical phenomenology has significance for philosophy of mind, in particular for recent theories of enactivism, one of the most significant latest developments in cognitive theory. While philosophy of mind often finds its inspiration in hermeneutics and phenomenology, especially in Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s, the later development of hermeneutical phenomenology under the influence of Gadamer and Ricoeur, as it evolved into the theory of the interpretation of narratives and lived existence, is often lost sight of in recent debates about embodied cognition. I defend the thesis, however, that combining Ricoeur’s phenomenology with enactivism shows that embodied cognition has an intrinsic ethico-political aspect. The central argument is that, if we take that imagination and narrative lie at the heart of basic embodied cognition as interaction with the world (planning, motor skills, coordination), as both recent theories of enactivism and Ricoeur hold, then embodied cognition or the way in which we experience and gain knowledge in embodied cognitive relations with the world is ethically and politically significant in that it gets shaped by the ethical and political contexts in which these relations take place (e.g., cultural body images and morals in subcultures). These contexts contain ethical and political narratives and our imaginations are influenced by and work with these narratives in order to gain knowledge. This essay thus attempts to explore some of the possibilities of phenomenological hermeneutics for the philosophy of mind today.

Keywords: phenomenology, hermeneutics, philosophy of mind, embodied cognition, ethico- political world.


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