Prospecting performance: rehearsal and the nature of imagination

Abstract

In this paper we explore the notion of rehearsal as a way to develop an embodied and enactive account of imagining. After reviewing the neuroscience of motor imagery, we argue, in the context of performance studies, that rehearsal includes forms of imagining that involve motor processes. We draw on Sartre’s phenomenology of imagining which also suggests that imagining involves motor processes. This research in neuroscience and phenomenology, supports the idea of an embodied and enactive account of imagination.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The concept of hyle (sense material, or what Husserl (1901) had called ‘Empfindung’, i.e., sensation, in his Logical Investigations) is controversial. For debates about hyletic data among phenomenologists (such as Gurwitsch and Merleau-Ponty). see Gallagher (1986, 2011a).

  2. 2.

    Merleau-Ponty (1936) in his review of Sartre’s work on imagination thinks Sartre should not have accepted the morphe vs hyle distinction in Husserl at all, and that he should not have conceived of the role of the body in these terms. A bit of scholarship: Sartre (2018, pp. 19–20) rejected Husserl’s concept of hyle as something present in consciousness. But Husserl had already started to question this concept in working out his lectures on the intrinsic temporality of consciousness in the early 1920 s (see Husserl 1991). For Husserl, the notion of hyle as a persistent sense data complicated the analysis. If he retained hyle as the presence of a real material in the explanation of retentional consciousness it would be something that would need to remain present even as it was experienced as past, leading to a paradox (see Gallagher 1998 for discussion). His solution was to exclude hyle and propose a purely intentional account—much like the one Sartre later proposed. Sartre, however, still thought he had to keep some sort of functional equivalent of the hyletic schema somewhere in the process. Thus, he relegates it to the body.

  3. 3.

    See also Hohwy, Paton and Palmer (2016) for a more explicit connection between predictive processing and Husserl’s analysis of intrinsic temporality.

  4. 4.

    Davies (2011) suggests that there may be differences between theatre/dance performances and musical performances in terms of what their rehearsals aim at. The primary purpose of rehearsal for musicians may be to "arrive at a shared understanding of how the work is to be interpreted" (164), while theatrical or dance rehearsal welcomes improvisation and "usually incorporates substantive changes made as a result of innovations introduced in rehearsal" (ibid.). While it is tempting to think of these differences as stemming from the differences in arts, the different styles of rehearsing pertain to classical vs. contemporary paradigms, even to be found within one type of art form. For example, there are noticeable differences between contemporary and classical theatrical rehearsals— in classical theatrical rehearsals the actor is expected to strictly follow the script and not to improvise (ibid., 165).

  5. 5.

    Pretend play is not only embodied, but also culturally and normatively situated. According to Bogdan (2005), the function of pretense is cultural learning, as children mostly pretend that which is valued. Of course, not all pretense is like this. Some forms of pretense are creative, other forms exploratory. For example, Myers (2002) cites evidence of children pretend playing to be "wild animals" to explore the forbidden or improper behaviors like "being messy". He says that animal roles offer “freedom from ascribed societal roles and structures” (Myers 2002, p. 160). However, such play is still a response to or testing of the norms and values of a society, showing that pretend play may be a fundamentally normative act.

  6. 6.

    Many philosophers and psychologists today believe that to pretend to 'X' requires a mental representation of 'X' in imagination, that can cause the relevant pretense (see for example Liao and Gendler 2010, Picciuto and Carruthers 2016). For arguments defending non-representational pretense, see Rucińska and Reijmers (2015).

  7. 7.

    For the phenomenologists, the difference between perception and various types of imagination is not the bodily or environmental factors, or the intentional object (it’s Pierre whether I perceive him or imagine him). Rather the difference lies in the doxic character of intentionality. The intentionality of perception involves a belief character; I have an implicit belief that what I perceive is really there. On an enactivist interpretation that means simply that I am disposed to act in regard to what I perceive. In contrast, the intentionality of imagination does not have this kind of doxic character. That is, in the case of imagination, I know when I imagine Pierre, Pierre is not really there. I know when I see the imitation, it’s not really Chevalier.

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Acknowledgements

SG’s research was supported by the Australian Research Council’s “Minds in skilled performance” project (Grant # DP170102987). ZR acknowledges the support of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) grant “Enactive Approach to Pretending” [12J0419N]. The authors acknowledge the helpful comments from participants at the conference on Skilled Performance and Expert Knowledge at the University of Wollongong, Australia (March 2019), and from two anonymous reviewers for this journal.

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Gallagher, S., Rucińska, Z. Prospecting performance: rehearsal and the nature of imagination. Synthese (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02989-2

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Keywords

  • Motor imagery
  • Imagination
  • Rehearsal
  • Temporality
  • Neuroscience
  • Sartre