Radicalizing the Phenomenology of Basic Minds with Levinas and Merleau-Ponty

  • Matt BowerEmail author
Part of the Historical-Analytical Studies on Nature, Mind and Action book series (HSNA, volume 2)


The issue of minimal cognition or basic mentality concerns the elementary ingredients of cognitive processes. Within the larger discourse of enactive and embodied cognition, a current of research has emerged endorsing the radical proposal that basic minds neither represent nor compute, and, moreover, that the cognitive processes peculiar to them tend heavily (if not constitutively) to be both world-involving and to incorporate extra-neural bodily factors. Such a stance removes certain obstacles to a naturalistic view of basic minds and, at the same time, is more consistent with the idea of there being a deep continuity between life and mind. Here I suggest that the phenomenological tradition has resources for bolstering the case for radicalism about basic minds. Although the classical phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger may be amenable to some form of representationalism, I propose a phenomenological corrective by appealing to the work of Levinas and Merleau-Ponty. Levinas ardently criticizes the representationalism of early phenomenology and places in its stead a non-representational account of “sensibility.” Merleau-Ponty, in addition, with his theory of (non-semantic) sense gives us a way of understanding basic minds synergistically, in terms of the perceiving organism’s embodied interactions with its surroundings, in a way supportive of the radical idea that basic minds are self-organizing dynamical systems.


Enactive cognition Embodied cognition Phenomenology Representation Levinas Merleau-Ponty 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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