Action Awareness as the Source of Flexibility in Skillful Copings
1 June 2018, 16:00
Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa
Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)
Abstract: As observed by Descartes, human action is distinctive for the wide range and specificity of skills we display. Many of these skills are highly flexible, and can be employed in varied circumstances and for varied goals. Now, how is our being self-conscious, self-aware and rational related to the distinctive way in which we act? Almost everyone agrees that we must be self-conscious and rational to acquire these skills, but the role of self-awareness and reasoning in exercising these skills is in dispute. Recently, a number of authors have argued that action awareness is in fact indispensable for successful performance. I think these recent studies make our ability to cope skillfully even more puzzling: how does the agent manage to synthesize this vast information about the context, current state of affairs, the goal, the current state of herself and her abilities; provided by diverse monitoring forms, available at different levels of reflection, in multiple sensory modalities; with respect to diverse factors that bear on the novel case at hand in such a way that she can give the highly specific bodily response that the situation requires here and now? This is what I call the problem of orchestration. I aim to show that this is a cognitive problem with motor solution, i.e., that the flexible motor control cannot proceed without the guidance of cognitive control. The main idea is that we do not solve the problem of orchestration blindly: there must be a type of awareness distinct from all the different forms of awareness that are specified by recent studies which go into the execution of action as input. I aim to specify this type of awareness that enables the agent to exert cognitive control all the way down to the motor output.