This paper is an exploration of how we do things with music—that is, the way that we use music as an esthetic technology to enact micro-practices of emotion regulation, communicative expression, identity construction, and interpersonal coordination that drive core aspects of our emotional and social existence. The main thesis is: from birth, music is directly perceived as an affordance-laden structure. Music, I argue, affords a sonic world, an exploratory space or nested acoustic environment that further affords possibilities for, among other (...) things, (1) emotion regulation and (2) social coordination. When we do things with music, we are engaged in the work of creating and cultivating the self, as well as creating and cultivating a shared world that we inhabit with others. I develop this thesis by first introducing the notion of a musical affordance . Next, I look at how emotional affordances in music are exploited to construct and regulate emotions. I summon empirical research on neonate music therapy to argue that this is something we emerge from the womb knowing how to do. I then look at social affordances in music, arguing that joint attention to social affordances in music alters how music is both perceived and appropriated by joint attenders within social listening contexts. In support, I describe the experience of listening to and engaging with music in a live concert setting. Thinking of music as an affordance-laden structure thus reaffirms the crucial role that music plays in constructing and regulating emotional and social experiences in everyday life. (shrink)
I draw upon the conceptual resources of the extended mind thesis to analyze empathy and interpersonal understanding. Against the dominant mentalistic paradigm, I argue that empathy is fundamentally an extended bodily activity and that much of our social understanding happens outside of the head. First, I look at how the two dominant models of interpersonal understanding, theory theory and simulation theory, portray the cognitive link between folk psychology and empathy. Next, I challenge their internalist orthodoxy and offer an alternative "extended" (...) characterization of empathy. In support of this characterization, I analyze some narratives of individuals with Moebius syndrome, a kind of expressive deficit resulting from bilateral facial paralysis. I conclude by discussing how a Zen Buddhist ethics of responsiveness is helpful for articulating the practical significance of an extended, body-based account of empathy. (shrink)
In this article, I attempt to bring some conceptual clarity to several key terms and foundational claims that make up Levinas's body-based conception of ethics. Additionally, I explore ways that Levinas's arguments about the somatic basis of subjectivity and ethical relatedness receive support from recent empirical research. The paper proceeds in this way: First, I clarify Levinas's use of the terms “sensibility”, “subjectivity”, and “proximity” in Otherwise than Being: or Beyond Essence . Next, I argue for an interpretation of Levinas's (...) thought that I suggest is buttressed by recent experimental work in both developmental psychology and neuroscience. I provide examples of research that I suggest opens up Levinas's phenomenological analysis in new and interesting ways. I also urge the importance of Levinas's phenomenological analysis in contextualizing the ethical significance of these empirical findings. (shrink)
William James’s characterization of consciousness as a selecting agency can be used to develop and defend an externalist view of mind. The mind – including the content of phenomenal consciousness – is in an important sense distributed beyond the skin and skull of the subject, out into the world of people and things. Moreover, conscious experience is an action, and not simply something that happens to us. Consciousness, perception, and experience are activities – in other words, things that we do.
In this essay, I argue that Sartre's notion of pre-reflective consciousness can be summoned to offer a general challenge to contemporary functionalist accounts of mind, broadly construed. In virtue of the challenge Sartre offers these contemporary functionalist accounts and the richness of his phenomenological analysis, I conclude that his voice needs to be included in ongoing debates over the nature of consciousness. First, I look at some of the basic claims motivating functionalist accounts of mind. Next, I look at Sartre's (...) notion of pre-reflective consciousness and discuss how this notion challenges functionalist accounts of mentality. I conclude by suggesting that Sartre's rendering of pre-reflective consciousness remains overly cognitivist. I show how this notion can be deepened to include the sensory-motor capacities of the situated body—resulting in a pre-reflective bodily self-awareness—and how this deepened formulation offers a further challenge to functionalist accounts of mind. (shrink)
In this essay, I investigate Kitarō Nishida's characterization of what he refers to as the 'self-contradictory' body. First, I clarify the conceptual relation between the self-contradictory body and Nishida's notion of 'acting-intuition'. I next look at Nishida's analysis of acting-intuition and the self-contradictory body as it pertains to our personal, sensorimotor engagement with the world and things in it, as well as to our bodily immersion within the intersubjective and social world. Along the way, I argue that Nishida develops a (...) rich and exceedingly current way of thinking through different facets of embodiment and interpersonal relatedness. I further argue that Nishida's work provides compelling reasons to foreground the mutually implicative, co-emergent nature of embodied self and world in our theorizing about the nature of self and experience. (shrink)