Monday, May 03, 2004

Chapter One... or maybe One-And-A-Half

Thinking of this section as separate, it sets up a lot of the intuition of the following chapters.
This section moves around the various alternative reading strategies -
Heinamaa, from phenomenology as rigorous science to ph. as openness to the other (ethical moment)
Depraz, from genetic to generative ph. - from individual in nature to person within community
- could take this as meaning that the other in Heinamaa is not the world as nature.
Evans, from analytic observer to ph. observer (political moment)
- the loss of openness as nihilism, cog sci risks turning into technocratic rationality
Think of them as three proto-readings, hooks on which to hang my own attempt
Mine is really closest to Heinamaa's work on Beauvoir's proximity to Merleau-Ponty, though she has not yet brought that to bear on cognitive science directly.

Preface, outline of ch1, bottom pg 1
...Our discussion culminates in the realisation that we need a different strategy for reading Merleau-Ponty if we are to break out of this oscillation and enable a genuinely Merleau-Pontian engagement with cognitive science.

A first opportunity arises from Heinamaa's criticism of Dreyfus. Heinamaa challenges Dreyfus' opposing Merleau-Ponty and Husserl. While it allows enthusiasts and critics of cognitive science to articulate themselves, it is not an accurate representation of either Husserl or Merleau-Ponty.

This re-reading of Merleau-Ponty's relationship to Husserl has recently been taken up by Dan Zahavi, who also argues against Dreyfus' reading. Zahavi points out that Merleau-Ponty's familiarity with Husserl's later work, especially his generative phenomenology, allowed him a richer and more accurate interpretation than much contemporary Husserl scholarship.

Generative phenomenology is missing from the Dreyfusian reading of Merleau-Ponty. Interestingly, it is also what is missing from embodied, embedded cognitive science, according to Natalie Depraz. In Naturalizing Phenomenology, Depraz outlines very well what is at stake in producing an analogue to generative phenomenology in the cognitive sciences.

To be sure, Depraz believes that Merleau-Ponty's work neither can nor should provide such an analogue. But Depraz' article is important for two reasons. Firstly, it situates the other major protagonist in the cognitive science's reception of Merleau-Ponty's work: Varela, Thompson and Rosch, the authors of the Embodied Mind. Depraz regards the Embodied Mind, with its emphasis on emergent phenomena, as an analogue of genetic phenomenology. Where emergent cognitive science falls short, in Depraz' opinion, is that it threatens to fall into another interminable oscillation, but between a trascendental pan-psychism and a brute materialism. (Between Kant and Dennett? Check this out!)

Depraz' article is also important because it introduces us - and more importantly, the readership of Naturalizing Phenomenology - to a theme central to generative phenomenology: the placing of the the constitution of consciousness within the context of a intersubjective consititution, or generative community.

While neither Heinamaa's criticism of Dreyfus nor Depraz' programmatic ambition amount to a criticism of cognitive science per se, such a criticism is possible. Fred Evans shows us how it may from a political point of view.

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