thought in action, panpsychism (and not using the f-word)


Richard Marshall interviews Barbara Gail Montero in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: Your work intersects with a major philosophical concern about the role of thinking in elite skillfulness. A dispute between John McDowell and Hubert Dreyfus perhaps helps set the scene. Dreyfus argues that the expert acting skillfully gets in the ‘flow’, loses herself whilst acting. Can you explain how Dreyfus and his ilk set up this explanation?

BGM: I’ll give it a shot. Dreyfus does, indeed, say that the expert acting skillfully gets in the f**w. (I generally try to avoid that f-word, which, as I understand it, is widely misappropriated from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research investigating optimal experience not optimal performance.) What Dreyfus means by this is that in such situations experts perform their actions neither deliberately nor intentionally; their minds are not guiding their movements. As he sees it, it’s not that in opening your front door, you have a conception of the correct way to turn the knob and then carry out your action in light of this conception. Rather, as he sometimes puts it, the situation “elicits” the action and the mind dissolves into a relationship to the environment. The movement, on his view, is “nonminded.” I’m not sure if he would equate this with “losing the self,” since the concept of “the self,” is rather protean and one could understand the self in such situations as nonminded. But in as much as the phrase “losing the self” simply means not engaging the deliberative, reflective mind, then, on Dreyfus’s account, the self does dissolve into movement.

An example Dreyfus likes to use to illustrate his position is driving: an experienced driver can round a corner, ease off the accelerator and then stop at a light all while her mind is fully engaged on other matters. And—the recent data on texting while driving notwithstanding—I think this is basically right.

More here.