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On a Puzzle about Relations between Thought, Experience and the Motoric (2015)

by Corrado Sinigaglia and Stephen A. Butterfill

---Synthese 192(6), pp. 1923-1936
--- links: [pdf] external [doi: 10.1007/s11229-015-0672-x]


Motor representations live a kind of double life. Although paradigmatically involved in performing actions, they also occur when merely observing others act and sometimes influence thoughts about the goals of observed actions. Further, these influences are content-respecting: what you think about an action sometimes depends in part on how that action is represented motorically in you. The existence of such content-respecting influences is puzzling. After all, motor representations do not feature alongside beliefs or intentions in reasoning about action; indeed, thoughts are inferentially isolated from motor representations. So how could motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts? Our aim is to solve this puzzle. In so doing, we shall provide the basis for an account of how experience links the motoric with thought. Such an account matters for understanding how humans think about action: in some cases, we have reasons for thoughts about actions that we would not have if we were unable to represent those actions motorically.