Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (2000) The Primacy of Movement. Psycoloquy: 11(098) Movement Primacy (1)

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Psycoloquy 11(098): The Primacy of Movement

[John Benjamins 1999, xxxiii, 584 pp. ISBN: 1-55619-194-4]
Precis of Sheets-Johnstone on Movement-Primacy

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone
Department of Philosophy
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403


With rigorous attention to both natural history and phenomenological accounts of kinetic phenomena, particularly the phenomenon of self-movement, this interdisciplinary book brings to the fore the long-neglected topic of animate form, and with it a long-neglected inquiry into the significance of animation. It addresses foundational and methodological issues at length. Its detailed and extensive examinations and analyses of movement range from Aristotle's recognition of motion as THE principle of nature to a critique of the common notion of movement as change of position, from critiques of present-day materialists' trivializations of movement as mere output to kinesthetically tethered accounts of the qualia of movement, from expositions of an evolutionary semantics and of the tactile-kinesthetic body as the generative source of corporeal concepts to expositions of thinking in movement and of the pan-human phenomenon of learning to move oneself. The book lays out fundamental epistemological and metaphysical dimensions of animate life.


animate form, cognitivism, consciousness, evolution, kinesthesis, movement, ontogeny, phenomenology, proprioception, somesthesis.

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1. This book demonstrates the necessity of incorporating movement in our investigations of the animate world from the very beginning. It shows how this necessity derives from corporeal matters of fact that define our lives from infancy onward and that, in an evolutionary sense, define the lives of all animate forms. The book is about learning to move ourselves. It is about how movement is at the root of our sense of agency and the generative source of our notions of space and time. It is about how self-movement structures knowledge of the world--how moving is a way of knowing and how thinking in movement is foundational to the lives of animate forms.

2. This book is correlatively about recent accounts of knowledge, cognition and life that ignore or minimize the central importance of movement. Its concern is to examine in a carefully critical manner those cognitivist accounts of mind--or consciousness--that bypass an understanding of actual living bodies--what dynamic systems theorists term "real-time" bodies in "real-time" environments. The book spells out basic ways in which such accounts are misguided, how fundamental errors accrue to construals of ourselves that belie our animate heritage. It attempts to reinstate what Thomas Huxley termed "man's place in nature" by recalling that we ourselves are a form of life and that to take ourselves seriously as a form of life is first and foremost to take the evolution of animate forms seriously. When we do so, we see that animation is at the very core of life, and that a deeply reflective study of natural history and a deeply reflective study of infancy are equally mandatory.

3. This book is furthermore about notable contributions to an understanding of movement made, directly or indirectly, by philosophers and scientists --particularly Edmund Husserl, Aristotle, Hermann von Helmholtz, Roger Sperry, Wilder Penfield, and more recently, infant/child psychologists Daniel Stern, Esther Thelen, and Andrew Meltzoff. Philosophers and scientists whose writings center on the body but who stop short of a recognition and comprehension of the primacy of movement are also of considerable significance. Critical analyses of the writings of philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty and of psychologist J. J. Gibson, for example, bring to light blinders of thought that preclude an appreciation of the foundational phenomenon of animation and the significance of kinesthesis to both a proper ontology and a proper epistemology.

4. In general, present-day philosophers and scientists begin their studies of mind, consciousness, and related topics from the viewpoint of perception, especially visual perception, movement seldom being accorded equal time or viewed with equal seriousness, and "output" typically being considered as no more than a response to what is crucial, namely, information. The purpose of The Primacy of Movement is essentially to reverse direction, to shift the perspective from which epistemological, metaphysical, scientific, and historical studies commonly proceed. It is to demonstrate that movement offers us the possibility not only of formulating an epistemology true to the truths of experience, but of articulating a metaphysics true to the dynamic nature of the world and to the foundationally animated nature of life. The reversal requires not just a corporeal turn, a turn described in an earlier book (Sheets-Johnstone 1990), but a particular kind of corporeal turn: a turn toward bodily movement and the foundational kinetic realities of animate life.


5. The Primacy of Movement begins with a section on Foundations, specifically with a critical analysis of the present controversy over the status of Neanderthals vis- Homo sapiens--modern-day humans. The purpose of the beginning chapter is certainly not to resolve the controversy, but to show how, by attention to animate form and to corporeal matters of fact, not only deeper but evidentially sound understandings may be had of the hominids in question. Detailed critical analysis of a recent book on Neanderthals and of its estimable review by Stephen Jay Gould shows how paleoanthropological conceptions of Neanderthals and modern-day humans are radically skewed by the great Western mind/body dichotomy. Low-life bodies and high-life minds each have, and have had, their appointed and distinctive places in the annals of paleoanthropology. As an alternative to downplaying the mental in Neanderthals and elevating the symbolic in modern-day humans in such ways--or more critically put, to making attributions that are conceptually muddled because they are projections of one's own biases and not descriptive of the things themselves--the chapter demonstrates the possibility of questioning the dichotomy that anchors the assessment in the first place. It thereby shows how, through patient analyses of what paleoanthropologists variously term "symbolic behavior" and "mental symbolization", one arrives at patterns of analogical thinking that are rooted in bodily life. In finer terms, it shows the conceptual significance of movement through detailed analyses of kinetic dispositions based on morphology. It shows that thinking is modeled on the body (Sheets-Johnstone 1990) and that what Gould (1994: 27) calls "remarkable mental adaptations" are grounded in animate form. It shows that technological differences are readily translated into animate bodily terms, that what is basic to paleoanthropological understandings are understandings of the relationship between bodies and movement, and hence that our understanding of individuals other than ourselves depends upon our capacity both to imagine ourselves along different corporeal lines and to trace out what it means to live kinetically and conceptually along those lines. A solid foundation is basic to historical understandings, which is to say to historical reconstructions of our hominid past.

6. Chapter Two carries forward the basic theme of elucidating the animate. The chapter has two parts. Part I is devoted to a natural history of consciousness. It lays out this history in terms of animate form, showing consistently from its introductory paragraphs to its concluding ones that the question of "how consciousness arises in matter" (Nagel 1993: 40) is a misconceived question. In particular, it critically assesses reductively materialist renditions of consciousness, notably the renditions of philosophers Paul Churchland and Daniel Dennett; it takes responsivity seriously as "a fundamental and almost universal characteristic" of life (Curtis 1975: 28); it shows in turn how the common practice of using textual markings to differentiate among cognitive capacities in living organisms is without justification; it sets forth at length how the Socratic imperative "know thyself" is a built-in biological matrix that has its evolutionary roots in proprioception; it specifies how the surface recognition sensitivity of protists and bacteria is definitive of a consciousness of something outside oneself--a meta-corporeal consciousness of the chemical constitution of the environment, for example; it specifies how animate forms from the earliest invertebrates are structured in ways that are sensitive to movement, and thus how, with respect to the animal kingdom, consciousness is fundamentally a corporeal consciousness and the movement of organisms is fundamentally commensurate with their essentially tactile, proprioceptive, and/or kinesthetic sensitivities; it presents evidence showing that external organs of proprioception were internalized in the course of evolution, thus eventuating in a kinesthetically-tethered corporeal consciousness, and further, how these internally-placed organs constitute an epistemological gateway, a gateway holding open the possibility of more complex affective and cognitive lives; it thus demonstrates how in truth what Dennett (1991: 412-30) calls "The Reality of Selves" has its roots not in words but in corporeal consciousness. Through all of its critical assessments, questionings, and analyses, Part I shows how, by paying attention to corporeal matters of fact as they are articulated in the natural history of life, and by hewing to sensory-kinetic analyses of these corporeal matters of fact, one is led inexorably to understandings of consciousness that are rooted in animate form. It concludes by briefly identifying three implications, the first having to do with received wisdom concerning the chronological relationship of unconsciousness to consciousness; the second with a present-day mesmerization by brains to the exclusion of a serious in-depth attention to natural history; the third with armchair pronouncements--upon consciousness and upon creatures such as lobsters and scallops--that issue from philosophical ivory towers and that lack all semblance of an informed evolutionary backbone.

7. Part II deepens the understanding of consciousness as arising in animate form by defending the basically Aristotelian propositions that our account of perception should accord with our own essentially qualitative experiences of perception, and, in turn, that a proper metaphysics should be consonant with living things in their processes of generation, growth, decay, movement and rest. It thus questions philosopher Myles Burnyeat's (1992: 26) claim that "To be truly Aristotelian, we would have to stop believing that the emergence of life or mind requires explanation", his general thesis being that twentieth-century humans are inevitably and rightfully "stuck with the mind-body problem as Descartes created it" and by extension, stuck with a conception of matter "as physics and chemistry describe it" (22). The chapter critically examines certain assumptions underlying Burnyeat's claim--the idea that perception is reducible to twentieth-century physics and chemistry, for example, the idea that sense organs are opening conduits to brains--and arrives by this route at a properly Aristotelian understanding of perhaps the most discussed sentence in Aristotle's account of perception, namely his famous statement (De Anima 424a18-21) that "a sense is what has the power of receiving into itself the sensible forms of things without the matter". The critical examination takes seriously Aristotle's contention that to understand nature is to understand motion, for nature--by its very nature--everywhere articulates a principle of motion. To understand perception is thus to understand a dynamic event, a kinetic process by which we take in the sensible form of things without the matter and thereby experience qualities such as loud, sharp, soft. In effect, Part II shows that what Aristotle is describing is the process by which we experience a world not of objects as such, but a world of varied and changing physiognomies, a qualitatively dynamic world. His essentially experiential, kinetic, and qualitative explication of perception draws on his understanding of perception as sensorially localized: we perceive at the site of our senses. It draws equally on his understanding of sensation as a change of quality, and of change of quality as a matter of movement. In essential respects, his explication adumbrates a process metaphysics, a metaphysics substantively at odds with a metaphysics of matter "as [twentieth-century Western] physics and chemistry describe it", and equally at odds with a metaphysics that is qualitatively opaque and experientially blind. Acknowledging Aristotle's recognition of movement as the foundational principle of nature--a principle confirmed by his astute observation (Metaphysics 1071b30) that "Matter will surely not move itself"--we find it cogent to ask which is the more basic metaphysical question: why is there something rather than nothing? Or, why is there movement rather than stillness?

8. In its phenomenological analysis of kinesthetic consciousness, Chapter Three sets forth foundational epistemological structures of movement, thus deepening in decisive ways our understanding of consciousness as arising in animate form. The analysis discloses four primary qualities of movement: tensional, linear, amplitudinal, and projectional. The qualities, all of them created by movement, are experienced directly any time we care to pay attention to our own movement--or to the movement of others--and to notice them. The qualities are in fact the source of those kinesthetic regularities and expectations that are foundational to our sense of agency and to our repertoire of "I cans" (The phrase "I can" comes from Husserl; see Husserl 1980, 1989.) The import of this fundamental and eminently significant "faculty", as Husserl termed it, is apparent many times throughout the book. "I cans" are there from the start in our primal kinetic sense-makings and spontaneities. They are there in our first consciousness, a tactile-kinesthetic consciousness of our own bodies in movement. Movement is indeed "the mother of all cognition" (Husserl 1980). It forms the I that moves before the I that moves forms movement. It is the foundation of our conceptual life, that is, the foundation of an ever-growing store of corporeal concepts, concepts such as 'inside', 'heavy', 'light, 'open', 'close', concepts having to do with consequential relationships, and so on. The chapter lays out these rich, subtle, and varied conceptual dimensions of movement and goes on to specify in detail how the challenge of coming to an awareness of the primacy of movement involves us not only in actually moving and becoming kinetically aware of ourselves in everyday happenings such as walking, sneezing, and breathing, but in exemplifying for ourselves--in both Husserlian and von Helmholtzian terms, bringing to self-evidence--the cardinal epistemological structures of kinesthetic consciousness. Cardinal structures constitute qualitative dimensions of movement. A preliminary analysis of the temporal dimension of movement exemplifies the qualitative nature of these cardinal structures and shows specifically how an examination of felt qualitative experiences such as "sudden", "rushed", "fleet" and "attenuated"--all temporal qualities of movement--opens up into a phenomenology of the primordial constitution of time. It thereby shows how, as originally experienced, time is not fundamentally akin to the notes of a melody, one note strung out after the other in ordinal before-now-after fashion, but is an unfolding qualitative dynamic.

9. Appended to Chapter Three is an Afterword that shows how, in their investigations of qualia, philosophers pay almost exclusive attention both to the color red and to pain. Indeed, they use both as paradigms of qualia and disregard the most fundamental qualia of all, the qualia of proprioception and kinesthesia. To virtually all philosophical accounts, the latter are non-existent. The Afterword shows the fatuity of this myopic practice through an analysis of a somewhat classic philosophical thought experiment concerning a person--Mary--who has been brought up in, and is confined to, a wholly black-and-white-world, who is thoroughly knowledgeable in every respect about the physical nature of the world, but who, on being let out of her black-and-white room, is confronted with the color red. Philosophers argue contentiously over the proper epistemological interpretation of her being so confronted. Careful critical analysis, however, shows that the thought experiment is incoherent; it is incoherent because Mary is an inconceivable person. Though being putatively able to introspect her own brain states, for example, and to understand propositions such as "the hypothalamus is underneath the thalamus" or "electrical forces push sodium ions inward", Mary is in fact thoroughly dumb to her own body, thus necessarily dumb to what it means to be underneath, or what pushing or inward mean. Lacking kinesthetic experience of her own moving body--being limited to introspection of her brain states on the one hand, and to printed words on a page and images on a television screen on the other--she lacks the requisite foundation for knowledge, let alone for total knowledge, about the physical nature of the world. One might say that confrontation with the color red should be the last if not least of philosophers' worries.

10. The second section of the book is devoted to Methodology. Its first chapter examines in methodological terms the complementary findings of twentieth-century philosopher Edmund Husserl and nineteenth-century physicist-physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz with respect to perception. The examination shows how, though their points of departure are far removed from one another, their accounts of perception overlap and validate each another: both accounts underscore the central role of self-movement in perception, the essential role of introspection, and the importance of self-evidence--consulting one's own experiences as one would consult data gathered in a laboratory. The methodological practice of free variation--imagining the possible--a practice consistently evident in von Helmholtz's extended concerns with the axioms of geometry, and of course an essential step within Husserl's phenomenological methodology, is a further point of confluence, one that has sizable epistemological import. The broader purpose in demonstrating the methodological concordances is to exemplify how a trans-disciplinary communal task is possible, and thus how a rich and integral epistemology is possible. The chapter shows how scientific and phenomenological research can complement one another, not only because a phenomenological methodology entails practices familiar to scientists, but because the truths of experience are as proper an aim of science as the truths of behavior. Moreover it shows in detail how fundamental differences in scientific and phenomenological practice enhance this complementarity. Introspection as practiced in the natural attitude by a scientist, for example, is not the same as introspection practiced within the phenomenological reduction. As a result, descriptions of phenomena--perceptual phenomena, for example--are different. The chapter shows how the possibility of a communal task is not thereby jeopardized but, on the contrary, epistemologically enriched. The chapter proceeds to exemplify how dominant present-day ideologies militate against the very idea of a trans-disciplinary task. It does so by presenting a brief critical analysis of a phenomenologist's inquiry into the relationship between connectionism and phenomenology, specifically into the way in which a connectionist construal of mind might benefit phenomenology. The analysis shows that both the ahistoricity of connectionism and its perseveration of the mind/body dichotomy are obstacles to a salutary relationship. The chapter concludes by suggesting an alternative to a connectionist construal of mind, an alternative that has its roots in dynamic systems theory and is exemplified by the research of neurophysiologist Gerald Edelman and by contemporary researchers in infant/child developmental psychology. The alternative construal is historical in both a phylogenetic and ontogenetic sense; it recognizes the centrality of movement and in consequence leaves neither bodies nor kinesthesia behind, and it holds the promise of carrying forward the trans-disciplinary task adumbrated in the work of both Husserl and von Helmholtz.

11. The succeeding chapter, "On Learning to Move Oneself", attempts to spell out a methodology in the process of practicing it, namely a constructive phenomenology of infancy and childhood that, by the very nature of the topic, defines a trans-disciplinary task: an ongoing consolidation of phenomenological and scientific research and findings that elucidate in ever deepening ways how movement is our mother tongue. Taking the fact that we all must learn to move ourselves as a methodological clue, the chapter presents a phenomenological account of what it means to be movement-born, an account of both the phenomenon of primal animation and of our common kinetic apprenticeship. It shows how, by proceeding with a definition of movement as change of position or with a description of movement in terms of an object in motion, one compromises a clear understanding of the kinetic phenomenon itself. It shows that such notions are tied to an unfiltered natural attitude and that, contrary to these notions, movement is first of all the mode by which we make sense of our own bodies and by which we first come to understand the world. It shows, in effect, how we forge a kinetic bond with the world on the basis of an originary kinetic liveliness, how incipient intentionalities play out along the lines of primal animation, and thus how our tactile-kinesthetic bodies are epistemological gateways. In addition to setting forth this account through the method of a constructive phenomenology, the chapter clarifies methodological relationships--in particular, how phenomenology utilizes facts as transcendental clues--and addresses various methodological issues--in particular, how what is commonly referred to as "the background" is not forever hidden away unless or until some untoward happening brings it to light, but that it is accessible through phenomenological analyses. In providing a constructive phenomenology of our originary animation, the chapter shows how psychological findings on infancy complement and support phenomenological ones. Psychological research studies show, for example, that infants respond preeminently not to moving objects but to movement; they show forcefully if indirectly that thinking in movement is an infant's original mode of thinking, that, as infants, we come to grasp objects, literally and epistemologically, through movement; they validate a resonant tactile-kinesthetic body and kinesthetic consciousness. At the same time, psychological research studies challenge the discipline of phenomenology to articulate the phenomenology of change, a phenomenology that spells out, for example, how changing kinetic possibilities re-define a whole--a whole lively being and way of being. By highlighting how a constructive phenomenology of learning to move oneself requires attention to the phenomenon of emergence--how shifting patterns within a complex dynamic eventuate in new possibilities and how these new possibilities engender new relationships among all constituents of the whole--the chapter shows how an understanding of the phenomenon of learning to move oneself requires a readiness to cross disciplines and to engage oneself not only in a communal task but in an ongoing one whose end is nowhere in sight.

12. Chapter Six focuses close and critical attention on the methodologies that generate Maurice Merleau-Ponty's philosophy. It does so for multiple reasons, each of considerable import: Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is commonly taken to be a philosophy of our embodied humanness, hence a philosophy that should lead us to foundational corporeal-kinetic truths; his philosophy is neither presented as, nor taken to be, a speculative philosophy, hence it is a philosophy we should have a way both of verifying and of carrying forward in further enlightening ways; his philosophy attempts to reconcile philosophic truth with scientific fact, hence it is a philosophy that aims in the direction of a trans-disciplinary task. In view of these reasons, a concern of major significance is whether we can traverse the same methodological paths as Merleau-Ponty. Accordingly, the chapters' framing question is the seemingly simple methodological one: "How does Merleau-Ponty do what he does?" What follows is literally an inquiry: question follows upon question; answers are provided only provisionally in the form of further, self-generated questions.

13. The point of the persistent questioning is to trace out the methodological underpinnings of a philosophy that, precisely because it is a philosophy of our humanness, should be methodologically transparent to us. In pursuing answers to the framing question, the chapter attempts to encompass Merleau-Ponty's philosophy, spanning his work from The Structure of Behavior to The Visible and the Invisible. It begins by examining his use of pathology: Can empirical facts (about pathology) lead to existential facts (about the normal)? The questioning proceeds in the direction of clarifying how the factual enters into the philosophical and continues into an examination of the fundamental liability of a fact-based ontological methodology. It moves on to confront Merleau-Ponty's seemingly problematic failure to distinguish between fact and experience and between fact and reflection. In this latter context, considerable effort is made to elucidate Merleau-Ponty's statement (1968: 65) that radical reflection "[is] founded on the fact that I am no stranger to myself." Considerable attention is paid to his denigration of introspection, too--on the grounds that it is a practice repudiated by science--insofar as introspection appears incontrovertibly to be the source of his radical reflections. In a further attempt to clarify the nature of his methodology, the chapter turns to an investigation of his last writings in the light of his earlier work, asking, for example, whether both "hyper-reflection" and "perceptual faith" as designated in The Visible and the Invisible (1968) are not related to his expressed thesis in Phenomenology of Perception, i.e., that philosophical analysis of our relationship to the world is futile, that "philosophy can only place [our relationship to the world] once more before our eyes and present it for our ratification" (1962: xviii). The methodological question of a linguistically-attuned philosophy as set forth in The Visible and the Invisible (1968: 125)--a philosophy in which words "would combine . . . by virtue of a natural intertwining of their meaning", that is, a philosophy in which language speaks the philosopher--is also addressed. Expressly in view of the unresolved tension between nature and ontology in his philosophy, the questioning moves on to an interrogation of his specification of a natural bond with the world. The chapter offers two tentative conclusions, one general and one particular, about Merleau-Ponty's methodologies and their implications. It concludes with an optional epilogue that in essence ponders key conceptual correspondences--all of them having to do with the nature of the body and of bodily life--between the ontology of Merleau-Ponty and themes in the writings of poet-prose essayist Paul Valery.

14. Chapter Seven is a methodological postscript, an inquiry into both the nature of wonder and the place of wonder in philosophy, specifically in contemporary American philosophy which, in its strongest and most pervasive guise, seems to have given up all but lip service to wonder. If, on the contrary, wonder is at the heart of philosophy, as Plato and Aristotle claimed, then it is of inestimable methodological significance in both generating and fueling the practice of philosophy. In this methodological context, I consider the timelessness of wonder, tying its timelessness to the potential of an individual philosophic act to be part of a communal and infinite task; I consider wonder in the deep sense--the feeling that centers not on wondering what to wear or why the faucet is leaking--but on wondering about death, violence, friendship, memory, and so on. I consider the way in which present-day Western science annihilates wonder by writing promissory notes on its own epistemological and metaphysical behalf, and I consider how seductive and beguiling these promissory notes are and how they lead us away from a communal and infinite task; I consider how we lose sight of the fact that to liberate ourselves methodically from ignorance, we must practice philosophy close-up, which means allowing a place for both the fear and longing that are at the heart of the feeling of wonder; I consider how, when we do so, we discover that the professional is personal, and how we are then engaged in a passionate act generated and sustained by a deep and powerful feeling that has the potential to lead us to wisdom.

15. Five chapters comprise the last section of the book titled Applications. The common thematic underlying each of the chapters is animation: a moving, flesh-and-bone subject; a moving, acting organism; a moving, sense-making creature; a moving, thinking being. The corollary common thematic is the necessity of taking this subject, organism, creature and being into epistemological and metaphysical, scientific and historical account.

16. Chapter Eight, "On the Significance of Animate Form", shows how fundamental creaturely meanings derive from animate form, that is, how the animate is not arbitrary. The chapter illustrates concretely the semantic specificity of living bodies, showing in the process how the anatomical organization of our body is not a blank cultural blackboard open for scripting, but a phylogenetically rich and complex density of meanings. It goes on to show in detail how the terms "embodiment" and "lived body" compromise the semantic specificity of living bodies, and correspondingly, how the term "animate form" captures in a more exacting way what we actually experience when we experience our own bodies and the bodies of others: animation, aliveness, dynamically changing conformations and contours, qualitatively meaningful forms--and, by extension, a spatio-temporal world coterminous with that experienced animation and aliveness, those dynamically changing contours, and so on. The chapter shows further how the term animate form brings to the fore elemental facts of our human aliveness, not only that we have a front and back, for example, or that we move more easily forward than backward--aspects of our bodily being that philosopher Hubert Dreyfus and anthropologist Paul Rabinow call attention to as highly significant invariants omitted in the philosophies of Michel Foucault and Maurice Merleau-Ponty--but that we have an evolutionary history. Animate form places us rightfully in the context of a natural history, a history that we tend to minimize, ignore, or forget; by doing so, and in proportion to the extent that we do so, we imperil not merely ourselves but all animate forms, and the planet which is Earth as well.

17. Chapter Nine, "Human Speech Perception and an Evolutionary Semantics", first lays out the motor theory of speech perception as it has been vindicated over the past forty years by the research studies of psychologist Alvin M. Liberman and various associates. The theory (1985: 25) states that "the object of [speech] perception is motoric", meaning that gestural rather than acoustic signals are the foundation of speech perception. Liberman et al. originally explained their research findings according to behaviorist tenets; they explain them now according to cognitivist ones, claiming that the brain houses "an internal, innately specified vocal-tract synthesizer . . . that incorporates complete information about the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the vocal tract and also about the articulatory and acoustic consequences of linguistically significant gestures" (26). The chapter presents an extended critique of Liberman's "vocal-tract synthesizer" explanation of his research results and offers in its place an explanation grounded in real-life tactile-kinesthetic experiences, experiences that start with babbling, lip-smacking, cooing, and other mouth movement/sound play, and end with a child's mastery of the articulatory gestures of her/his native tongue. In effect, in place of a brain is a living subject. In support of the latter explanation, the chapter goes on to examine a number of relevant topics. It first considers "comsigns"--primatologist Stuart Altmann's term for communications that are shared by all members of a group or species--and tactical deception--the ability of humans and other primates to deceive by moving in perfectly normal ways for quite other-than-normal ends. Both comsigns and tactical deception raise the question of how a common repertoire of gestures, sounds, visual displays--indeed any form of communication, including verbal language--could possibly have evolved in the absence of living subjects; that is, they raise the question of how interanimate meanings could possibly come to be established in the absence of the actual interactions of actual living creatures. Put in the perspective of an evolutionary semantics, the chapter shows that interanimate meanings evolve on the basis of common tactile-kinesthetic bodies, and, on the basis of common tactile-kinesthetic bodies, on the basis of analogical apperception, i.e., apperceiving the movement of other bodies on the basis of one's own tactile-kinesthetic experiences of one's own body. The chapter shows, in effect, that living creatures are sources of meaning and are primed for meaning; meaning is a dimension of both primal animation and primal bodily sensibilities. Interanimate meanings, and in turn species-specific semantics, are from this vantage point grounded in a fundamental and altogether natural propensity toward meaning. Psychologist Jerome Bruner's extensive studies of language development in infants and primatologists' studies of language learning in bonobo chimpanzees indirectly but pointedly validate this propensity.

18. The chapter that follows--"Why a Mind Is Not a Brain and a Brain Is Not a Body"--examines at length the liabilities of a conspicuously robust but conceptually debilitating theoretical bias in many present-day cognitivist explanations of minds and bodies, a bias that inordinately favors brains to the exclusion of the animated realities of living creatures. The examined liabilities include an undue elevation of language, a radical (eliminative) materialism, and a Meccanized neurology. Each liability is shown not only to be pernicious to an understanding of living creatures--animate forms--but to be internally incoherent, as when language is deemed the beginning of consciousness but the beginning of language, by such a claim, cannot itself be accounted for; or as when one credo is deemed the correct one over all others when in putative truth all credos are neurological equals of each other--all credos being merely neurological events. An extended examination of the conceptual difficulties inherent in brain-in-vat scenarios illustrates in fine detail why a brain can stand neither in place of a living body nor in place of a mind, and why such philosophically-spawned thought experiments are impotent to shed light on the mind/body problem. In this context, some well-known mid-twentieth-century neuroscientific experimental and theoretical literature is cited and discussed, in particular the work of psychologist Roger Sperry and neuroanatomist Wilder Penfield. Careful study of their research shows that so-called "efferent stimulation" of a vatted brain is a kinetically meaningless locution, both literally, were a brain-in-a-vat to exist, and theoretically, on behalf of the thought experiment. Close examination of this and other equally vexing problems highlights fundamental difficulties with neurological Mecca that center on the kinetic spontaneity of living subjects. A resolution of the difficulties leads to the possibility of a linkage between philosopher Thomas Nagel's (1979) famous inquiry "What Is It Like To Be a Bat?" and the theoretical formulations of both Sperry and biologist Jacob von Uexkuell, in particular Sperry's conclusion that the brain is an organ of and for movement and von Uexkuell's explication (1957: 46-50) of the perceived "functional tone" of an object, a tone created and established through a creature's possible movement in relation to the object, thus its sense of the object in the near-Husserlian sense of an object as meant (Husserl 1983). When recent twentieth-century scientific literature on the motor system is closely consulted and analyzed, the central significance of self-movement to cognition comes ever more clearly into view. In this context, the chapter presents a range of highly significant findings: that neurological mappings of the motor cortex are as unpredictable as human behavior; that kinetic possibilities are the domain of an intentional subject; that such a subject is not merely goal-directed but meaning-directed; and so on. The chapter concludes with an admonition about the hazards of substituting brain technology for phylogenetic and ontogenetic histories, an admonition tied to the sobriety of adhering to a version of psychologist Lloyd Morgan's famous canon (1930), which would decree that whatever can be explained in terms of animate form should not be explained in terms of mechanical form, not only because animate forms are more commonly distributed than mechanical forms but because only such forms can explain what it is to be a mind and what it is to be a body.

19. Chapter Eleven, "What Is It Like To Be a Brain?", is a philosophical inversion of Nagel's (1979) article "What Is It Like To Be a Bat?". The chapter begins by paraphrasing sections in the opening paragraphs of his article in materially reductive cognitivist terms. In drawing out the reverse affinities, the chapter attempts to describe what it is like to be a brain for the brain itself--as Nagel would insist it must. It considers first that a brain is commonly described as the site of neurological, electrical, and metabolic happenings, that activity is taken to be a fundamental fact of brain matter, and that neither materialist nor functionalist accounts of brains capture or explain the fundamentally active nature of a brain. The chapter takes up the challenge of this deficiency, inquiring into the active nature of brain matter by focusing on detailed descriptions of neural firing; that is, it examines at length and in exacting terms what it means to say that an action potential shoots down an axon. It attempts to specify what it is like for the neuron itself, the Nagelian point being that, if we cannot say what it is like for a neuron to fire, i.e., for an action potential to shoot down an axon, then we have not the most elementary notion of what it is like to be a brain. In turn, and in Nagel's terms, we have a belief in the existence of kinetic facts--action potentials shooting down axons--"whose exact nature we cannot possibly conceive" (Nagel 1979: 170). The challenge of reckoning with, and of explaining the elemental animation of brain matter prompts consideration of materialist philosopher David Lewis's (1991) proposed distinction between two forms of knowing: 'to know what it is like' is to possess certain abilities; to know tout court is to possess information. By hewing to an informational construal of knowledge, Lewis attempts to save materialist and functionalist doctrine from the taint of qualia (from "phenomenal" or "subjective" experience; 1991: 234). The chapter shows, however, that Lewis's distinction can itself be saved only by de-animating matter, in other words, by conceiving the brain not as the site of kinetic happenings, but as--in Lewis's terms (1991: 234)--"a smart data bank", an information repository. In effect, in order to answer the question, What is it like for a neuron to fire?', the chapter asks whether animism is necessary to materialists' accounts of matter. The question is duly examined. Answers to the general charge of animism show that materialists, in spite of themselves, are committed--as Nagel inversely notes with respect to bats--to beliefs in the existence of facts beyond their conceptual reach. The last section of the chapter shows how, when we cease pledging allegiance to functionalist and materialist doctrines, and by extension, to the brain, we find that the very criticisms materialists lodge against non-reductionists--they are "mysterians" (Flanagan 1991: 312-14) or "phenomenologists" (Dennett 1991: 55-65)--can be readily lodged against materialists themselves. It concludes by presenting just such criticisms, specifying how materialists are "mysterians" in failing to explain the most basic feature of brain matter--its elemental kinetic activity--and how they are "phenomenologists" in failing to be objective in their methodological procedures and in their conceptions and evaluations of brain activity.

20. The final chapter, "Thinking in Movement", opens with a descriptive account of a paradigmatic instance of the phenomenon: thinking in movement in improvisational dance. It proceeds to a consideration of two assumptions, each of which might impair an unbiased reading of the descriptive account: the Cartesian assumption that minds think and bodies "do", and the widespread assumption that there is no thinking outside of language--or outside of some kind of symbolic system. Analysis of the paradigmatic experience of thinking in movement in improvisational dance shows that thinking and moving are not separate happenings but are aspects of a kinetic bodily logos attuned to an evolving dynamic situation. It show further that thinking in movement involves no symbolic counters but is tied to an ongoing qualitatively experienced dynamic in which movement possibilities arise and dissolve. The analysis accords in fundamental ways with psychological studies showing that an infant's initial concepts are tied to dynamic events, to kinetic happenings, that prior to its passage into a world of language, an infant's initial concepts are tied to experiences of both its own movement and movement in its surrounding world. Drawing initially on child psychologist Lois Bloom's (1993) extensive studies of the transition from infancy to language--both because movement is not at the forefront of her research concerns (cognition and affect are) and because movement is nonetheless clearly central in her account of language development--the chapter shows how studies of infants indirectly affirm that infants think in movement. It points out that psychologist Jerome Bruner's lifelong research and writings on infant/child development indirectly affirm the same thesis, his essential finding being that the principal interest of infants, an interest that carries over into language, centers on agentivity and action (1990). It shows that infant psychiatrist/psychologist Daniel Stern similarly affirms the same thesis indirectly, specifically with respect to nonverbal behaviors that never become linguistically encoded but that have variable affective tones and that articulate intercorporeal intentions (1981, 1985). Through such citings of the literature, the chapter makes abundantly clear that rather than speak of the period before language as the pre-linguistic, we should speak of the advent of language as the post-kinetic. Following an examination of the literature on infant development supporting the thesis that, ontogenetically, thinking in movement is our original mode of thinking, the chapter puts the phenomenon of thinking in movement in phylogenetic perspective. It shows that instances of thinking in movement abound in the literature on nonhuman animal life, as when ethologists describe how killdeer move in particular ways to protect their young from particular harms (Griffin 1984; Ristau 1996), when field biologists describe spatially and temporally complex food-supplying behaviors of sand wasps (Tinbergen 1968), and when laboratory biologists describe escape behaviors of creatures such as paramecium and fan worms (Scott 1963; Wells 1968). In each instance, a natural kinetic intelligence, a kinetic bodily logos, is at work. As the chapter demonstrates in some detail, this intelligence cannot be written off as mere instinct, i.e., as robotic and unadulterated biological givens. Neither can it be written off as merely an adaptive mechanism. The intelligence or logos is an elemental biological character of life, a dimension of animate form that, however much written between the lines, is confirmed in the writings of zoologists, primatologists, and ethologists. It bears emphasizing that the implicit confirmation is not that animals think in terms of behavior, but that they think in terms of kinetically dynamic patterns, in terms of movement. Indeed, from this vantage point, behaviors evolve only because behaviors are essentially complex dynamic patternings of movement, and movement being the mother tongue of all animate forms, thinking in movement is both a primary fact and a perpetual possibility of animate life.


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