BSP Podcast: James Forrest on Degrees of Transcendentalism

podcast update

This week, season three of our podcast moves on to the panel presentations of the BSP Annual Conference in 2018.

Season 3 episode 53: 22 February 2019

This recording is of James Forrest’s panel presentation ‘The World from the Enactive Approach: Degrees of Transcendentalism’. You can listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site, and you can also find it on iTunes and all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Abstract: “Enactivism and embodied cognition movements at large are gaining influence in diverse fields ranging from cognitive science to philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, and anthropology (Hutto 2017, p.378). As Francisco Varela’s dream of extending and expanding Merleau-Ponty’s work intertwining empirical research with phenomenological investigations comes further to fruition, it’s pertinent to pause and ask the question: what do different branches of enactivism have to say about the status of the world we inhabit? This paper proposes a conceptual taxonomy of varieties of enactivism with respect to their metaphysical claims of mind-(in)dependence of the physical world. This taxonomy would be orthogonal yet compatible with others such as Ward, Silverman, and David’s differentiation of autopoietic, sensorimotor, and radical enactivisms (2017, p.369). Consider that one finds explicitly transcendental and anti-foundationalist perspectives on the existence of world in texts like The Embodied Mind (Varela et al, 1991), echoing what some have called the correlationist metaphysics of the later Husserl (Beck 1928; Zahavi 2017, p.114). In these cases, what’s being enacted is the real world itself. An alternative possible reading of some texts, e.g. Mind in Life, suggest that what’s enacted is a ‘selection’ or ‘interpretation’ of an environing world to create a phenomenal world (Thompson 2007). Other branches, for instance O’Regan’s work, lend themselves to objective realist interpretations, where sensorimotor activity is taken to offer objective determinations of enacted phenomenal qualia (O’Regan 2012, p.180). Still others more or less explicitly bracket metaphysical commitments altogether (cf. Gallagher). I propose to call these four kinds of enactivism, respectively; (1) correlationist, (2) phenomenal, (3) objective, and (4) bracketed. Using this heuristic outline I will further raise the question of how naturalism and transcendentalism, or realism and anti-realism, are taken to combine coherently in versions 1-3.”

The British Society for Phenomenology’s Annual Conference took place at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK during July, 2018. It gathered together philosophers, literary scholars, phenomenologists, and practitioners exploring phenomenological theory and its practical application. It covered a broad range of areas and issues including the arts, ethics, medical humanities, mental health, education, technology, feminism, politics and political governance, with contributions throwing a new light on both traditional phenomenological thinkers and the themes associated with classical phenomenology. More information about the conference can be found here.