Revaluing the Behaviorist Ghost in Embodied Cognition and Enactivism
Jack Alan Reynolds (Deakin University)

September 19, 2019, 4:15pm - 6:15pm
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne

Rm 353, Arts West, North Wing, Interactive Cinema Space
The University of Melbourne

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Despite its short historical moment in the sun, behaviorism has become something akin to a theoria non grata, a position that dare not be explicitly endorsed. When the position is discussed at all it is usually in a negative manner, either as an attempt to discredit an opponent’s view via a reductio, or by enabling a position to distinguish its identity and positive claims by reference to what it is (allegedly) not. In this paper, however, we argue that the ghost of behaviorism is present in influential, contemporary work in the field of embodied and enactive cognition, and even in aspects of the phenomenological tradition that these theorists draw on. Rather than take this to be a problem for these views as some have (e.g. Block 2005; Jacob 2011; O’Brien and Opie 2015), we argue that once the behaviorist dimensions are clarified and distinguished from the straw-man version of the view, it is in fact an asset, one which will help with task of setting forth a scientifically reputable version of enactivism and/or philosophical behaviorism that is nonetheless not brain-centric but behavior-centric. While this is a bit like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” strategy, as Shaun Gallagher notes (2019), with the shared enemy of behaviorism and enactivism being classical Cartesian views and/or orthodox cognitivism in its various guises, the task of this paper is to render this alliance philosophically plausible.

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Leslie Allan
La Trobe University
Lucia C. Neco

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