Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 389–405 | Cite as

Knowing What? Radical Versus Conservative Enactivism



The binary divide between traditional cognitivist and enactivist paradigms is tied to their respective commitments to understanding cognition as based on knowing that as opposed to knowing how. Using O'Regan's and Noë's landmark sensorimotor contingency theory of perceptual experience as a foil, I demonstrate how easy it is to fall into conservative thinking. Although their account is advertised as decidedly ‘skill-based’, on close inspection it shows itself to be riddled with suppositions threatening to reduce it to a rules-and-representations approach. To remain properly enactivist it must be purged of such commitments and indeed all commitment to mediating knowledge: it must embrace a more radical enactivism

Key words

Cognitivism Consciousness Enactivism Experience Knowledge Perception 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker, L. R. 2000. Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bermúdez, J. L. 2003. Thinking Without Words. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Dennett, D. C. 1991. Consciousness Explained. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  4. Fodor, J. A. 1983. The Modularity of Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Hurley, S. L. 1998. Consciousness in Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Hutto, D. D. 2000. Beyond Physicalism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  7. Hutto, D. D. 2006. Unprincipled Engagements: Emotional Experience, Expression and Response. In: M. J. Rowlands and R. Menary (eds), Consciousness and Emotion: Special Issue on Radical Enactivism – Emotion, Intentionality and Phenomenology, (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  8. Millikan, R. G. 2000. On Clear and Confused Ideas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Millikan, R. G. 2004. Varieties of Meaning: The 2002 Jean Nicod Lectures. Cambridge, M.A.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Myin, E. and O'Regan, J. K. 2002. A way to naturalize phenomenology? Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (1): 27–46.Google Scholar
  11. O‘Regan, J. K., Myin, E. and Noë, A. 2005. Sensory consciousness explained (better) in terms of ‘corporality’ and ‘alterting capacity’. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, this issue.Google Scholar
  12. O'Regan, J. K. and Noë, A. 2001. A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioural and Brain Sciences 24 (2001): 939–1031.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Paquet, M. 2000. René Magritte 18981967: Thought Rendered Visible. Köln: Taschen.Google Scholar
  14. Rowlands, M. J. 2005. Understanding the ‘Active’ in ‘Enactive’. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, this issue.Google Scholar
  15. Ryle, G. 1949. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  16. Varela, F. J., Thompson, E. and Rosch, E. 1991. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of HertfordshireHatfieldUK

Personalised recommendations