Towards a humane science of intersubjectivity

The theme of this year’s Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (June 6–11) was “Intersubjectivity and Social Connectivity”. It was an amazing meeting. What struck me most were, first, the great diversity and interest of the people there and their research and humanitarian work. And second, the most important theme in my view, which unfolded over the course of the week: inclusivity and social justice.

The meeting helped me realize once more how invisible an issue this still is in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. The question isn’t only: who gets to do the research, who has a voice in the world of knowledge, but it is also: which kind of cognition, which kind of subject, which kind of body, who is our science about?

In cognitive science and philosophy of mind we still often—and mostly without realizing it—start from the idea that there is one cognition, one body, universal and for all. This goes for traditional cognitive science, but also for embodied approaches, and also for enaction. Even though enaction, I think, has the keys in hand to crack open the hegemony of the white, Western and mostly male body. We do this by asking: Why does something mean something for someone, in this situation? What is at stake for this person or creature here?

This someone is the someone we are interested in, the someone we are studying, the someone we engage with as researchers, and to whom we have a responsibility—a responsibility of true recognition: whether a basic living system like a cell or a plant, menstruating women, a piano student-teacher pair, a person with autism in their different social circles, a group of rowers, an addict, a client and therapist, indigenous people attempting to be heard by government, and so on.

We are only beginning to see that cognition, nor embodiment are universal and that, in fact, there are billions of different bodies.

Here is an interview with me on the occasion of this meeting, where I spoke about my new work(-in-progress) on love and enaction, which—I increasingly realise—has to be inclusive too.

4 thoughts on “Towards a humane science of intersubjectivity

  1. greetings, glad to come across your work (via ENSO) and looking forward to digging into your archive, was wondering if you have read any of Stephen Turner’s work on The Social Theory of Practices (one of his titles)?

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