Geoffrey Dierckxsens is head of the Interdisciplinary Research Lab for Bioethics (IRLaB) at the Department of Applied Ethics and Philosophy in the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Prague. He is deputy head in the same department. He obtained his PhD in 2015 at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), and worked as an associate researcher at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. He has published several articles and books with international journals and publishing houses, such as Topoi, Philosophy Today, The Journal for Medical Ethics, Brill, Springer and Rowman and Littlefield.
This paper makes a comparison between enactivism and Levinas’ philosophy. Enactivism is a recent development in philosophy of mind and cognitive science that generally defines cognition in terms of a subject’s natural interactions with the physical environment. In recent years, enactivists have been focusing on social and ethical relations by introducing the concept of participatory sensemaking, according to which ethical know-how spontaneously emerges out of natural relations of participation and communication, that is, through the exchange of knowledge. This paper will argue first that, although participatory sensemaking is a valuable concept in that it offers a practical and realistic way of understanding ethics, it nevertheless downplays the significance of otherness for understanding ethics. I will argue that Levinas’ work demonstrates in turn that otherness is significant for ethics in that we cannot completely anticipate others through participation or know-how. We cannot live the other’s experiences or suffering, which makes ethical relation so difficult and serious (e.g. care for a terminally ill person always falls short to a certain extent). I will argue next that enactivism and Levinas’ philosophy nevertheless do not exclude each other insofar they share a similar concept of subjectivity as a quality of naturally interacting with the external world to gain knowledge (Levinas speaks of dwelling). Finally, I will argue that enactivism’s notion of participatory sensemaking also offers something which Levinas’ insufficiently defines, namely a concept of social justice, based on equality and participation, that emerges out of natural relations.
Excerpt: The papers collected in this special issue are written to further develop diverse aspects of human morality. On the one hand, they develop further the already existing foundation of enactive ethics, elaborating key concepts such as participatory sense-making and ethical know-how. They also navigate further into the relations between enactivism and neighboring ethical theories, such as care ethics, phenomenological and hermeneutical ethics, as well as relations with moral psychology and the social sciences. Yet, at the same time, this special issue intends to bring enactivism closer to applied ethics, that is, several papers in this issue investigate how enactivism can respond to contemporary ethical issues, such as environmental ethics and health care. The papers collected here tackle ethical aspects of enactive cognition on three main levels: 1. Some of the articles develop further already existing aspects and concepts of relations between ethics and enactivism, for example, by developing further the notion of ethical know-how. 2. A second way in which the contributed papers develop ethical aspects of enactive cognition is by engaging into a dialogue with other, neighboring domains of enactivism, including moral psychology and hermeneutics. 3. Finally, this special issue features contributions that apply enactive theory to specific moral problems, such as health care, the environment and social media.
Dierckxsens G. & Bergmann L. T. (2022) Enactive ethics and hermeneutics: From bodily normativity to critical ethics. Topoi 41(2): 299–312. https://cepa.info/7694
Recent enactive accounts of cognition have begun to disentangle social and normative aspects of the human mind. In this paper, we will contribute to this debate by developing an enactive account of moral development, i.e. the learning of ethical norms, and critical engagement with these norms through social affordances, participatory sense-making, and moral concern. The difficulty in articulating such an account is in reconciling the affective embodied aspects of moral experiences with the more orthodox aspects of ethics like critical reflection. In order to respond to this difficulty, we bring Ricoeur’s hermeneutics into dialogue with enactivism. Complementing the enactive tradition, we frame critical ethical learning as embodied interaction with diverse ethical dimensions allowing us to incorporate moral values in the form of critical narratives and the social imaginary. We agree with enactivist theories that participation and democratic dialogue are essential parts of critical reflection on ethical norms. Yet, we also contend that this kind of critical reflection benefits from hermeneutical interpretation, challenging larger participatory networks, such as social institutions, which nourish inequality and maintain unethical values.
Open peer commentary on the article “Loving the Earth by Loving a Place: A Situated Approach to the Love of Nature” by Laura Candiotto. Abstract: We argue that Candiotto demonstrates the virtues of enactive listening in a loving epistemology making an important contribution to the field of enactive ethics. Some critical considerations are put forward concerning the concept of participatory sense-making in the current literature and its applicability to a relationship with nature.