Publication 5606

Foglia L. & Grush R. (2011) The limitations of a purely enactive (non-representational) account of imagery. Journal of Consciousness Studies 18(5–6): 35–43. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/5606
Enaction, as put forward by Varela and defended by other thinkers (notably Alva Noë, 2004; Susan Hurley, 2006; and Kevin O’Regan, 1992), departs from traditional accounts that treat mental processes (like perception, reasoning, and action) as discrete, independent processes that are causally related in a sequen- tial fashion. According to the main claim of the enactive approach, which Thompson seems to fully endorse, perceptual awareness is taken to be a skill-based activity. Our perceptual contact with the world, according to the enactionists, is not mediated by representations but is enacted, and the notion of representation, belonging to the classic computational paradigm, has no place in this alternative approach. Though Thompson does not pronounce directly on the issue of representationalism, he is most definitely keeping the company of anti-representationalists, and in that context it is not unreasonable to take his silence for consent. In this paper, we will argue that the enactive approach to imagery is unworkable unless it makes appeal to representations, understood in a particular way. Not understood as pictures, to be sure. Or sentences for that matter. But those aren’t the only options.

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