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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 2, 2022

Freedom: An enactive possibility

  • Adam Rostowski
From the journal Human Affairs


In Freedom: An Impossible Reality (FAIR), Raymond Tallis finds room in a law-abiding universe for a uniquely human form of agency, capable of envisioning and pursuing genuinely open possibilities, thereby deflecting rather than merely inflecting the course of events, in accordance with self-owned intentions, reasons and goals. He argues that the genuinely free human pursuit of such propositional attitudes depends on our acting from a “virtual outside”, at an epistemic distance from the physical world that reveals not only what is the case, but that it is the case.

The enactive approach in cognitive science and philosophy of mind aims to supersede the cognitivist traditional that has long dominated the field, by reframing cognition as an agentʼs immediate, embodied engagement with its environment. In an appendix of FAIR, Tallis argues that this approach risks both eliminating propositional attitudes, and collapsing the epistemic distance between agent and world. He concludes that if enactive theorists are to distinguish between genuinely pursuing an intention and merely responding to a stimulus, their corrective to cognitivism is in need of a correction of its own.

This paper argues that such a correction is already to be found within the enactive literature, and furthermore, that it bears striking similarities to Tallis own account of what makes human agency unique. It is therefore concluded that the case for freedom set out in FAIR is compatible with the enactive approach.


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Published Online: 2022-11-02
Published in Print: 2022-10-26

© 2022 Institute for Research in Social Communication, Slovak Academy of Sciences

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