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Sensorimotor intentionality : from solo sensorimotor projects to shared meaning-making

Delafield-Butt, Jonathan (2013) Sensorimotor intentionality : from solo sensorimotor projects to shared meaning-making. In: 6th Seminar of Anthropology of Education and Learning, University of Kyoto, 2013-09-27.

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This talk addresses the prospective and embodied structure of individual and social meaning-making from an agent action perspective. Developmental origins of ‘intentionality’ are explored from an embodied perspective, taking into account the necessary prospective nature of animal movement. This efficient prospective control, evident in human sensorimotor activity from before birth, reveals an adaptive intentionality of a primary, pre-reflective, and non-conceptual nature identified as ‘sensorimotor intentionality’. Further, a structural continuity between the emergence of this earliest form of purposive movement and the basic structure of intentional mental states that, as Brentano reminds us, ‘includes something as object within itself’, structures cognition as it develops from its first expression in the simple and discrete movements of foetus and newborn child to more complex, serially and synchronously organised motor project of adults. This is a development from ‘intention in action’ to ‘intention to act’ and reflects a shift from proximal to distal intentions reflected in a shift of focus from midbrain to cortically-mediated activity. Shared between individuals, these sensorimotor intentions structure dialogue and generate common purpose, giving meaning and pattern to social interaction. In sum, continuity from early, simple actions to later, complex projects of actions confirms the existence of an ontogenetically primary form of intentionality in animal sensorimotor control necessary to structure cognition and embodied social meaning-making.