Neurons, neonates and narrative
From empathic resonance to empathic understanding
Shaun Gallagher |
University of Central Florida
University of Hertfordshire
The problem I want to address is a classic one in the philosophy of mind. In that context it is called the problem of other minds, but it is a problem that is debated in and across a number of disciplines and approaches – the problem of intersubjectivity in phenomenology, empathy or understanding others in hermeneutics, social cognition or theory of mind (ToM) in cognitive sciences, psychology, and developmental studies, and most recently, under similar titles, we find discussions of motor resonance processes in the cognitive neurosciences. The basic question addressed under these different headings is: How are we able to understand other people – their intentions, their behaviors, their mental processes? All of these different titles for the problem, however, are themselves problematic and in some way beg the question. To cast the problem in terms of ‘mind’, ‘inter-subjectivity’, ‘cognition’, ‘empathy’, or ‘motor resonance’, already biases the way one is tempted to solve the problem. One strategy for balancing out, if not canceling out these different biases, is to take an interdisciplinary approach, and that is what I will do here. I will review several debates that are ongoing across these various disciplines, and, in contrast to certain standard views, I will map out an alternative position that will draw support from neuroscience, developmental psychology, phenomenology, and narrative theory. Keywords: empathy; interaction theory; mirror neurons; motor resonance; narrative competence; simulation; theory of mind
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