‘She had deceived herself in supposing that she could be whatever she wanted to be.’ —Tolstoy


Sartre, it will be recalled, had asserted a kind of absolute freedom for the conscious human being. It was this claim that Merleau-Ponty disputed. […] If freedom were everywhere, as seemed to be the case in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness , then freedom in effect would be nowhere […] “Free action, in order to be discernible, has to stand out from a background of life from which it is entirely, or almost entirely, absent.” (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945) […]

While Sartre properly emphasized the subject’s freedom, he distorted the scope of this freedom by rendering it absolute. The subject, argued Merleau-Ponty, always faced a previously established situation, an environment and world not of its own making. Its life, as intersubjectively open, acquired a social atmosphere which it did not itself constitute. Social roles pressed upon the individual as plausible courses for his life to take. Certain modes of behavior became habitual. Probably , this world, these habits, a familiar comportment: probably these would not change overnight. It was unlikely that an individual would suddenly choose to be something radically other than what he had already become. The Sartre of Being and Nothingness underestimated the weight of this realm of relative constraint and habitual inertia.

{ Merleau-Ponty: The Ambiguity of History | Continue reading

Cognitive science is lacking conceptual tools to describe how an agent’s motivations, as such, can play a role in the generation of its behavior. […] a new kind of non-reductive theory is proposed: Irruption Theory. […] irruptions are associated with increased unpredictability of (neuro)physiological activity, and they should hence be quantifiable in terms of information-theoretic entropy. Accordingly, evidence that action, cognition, and consciousness are linked to higher levels of neural entropy can be interpreted as indicating higher levels of motivated agential involvement.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }