Book Chapter

Ground-Level Intelligence: Action-Oriented Representation and the Dynamics of the Background



Cappuccio M & Wheeler M (2012) Ground-Level Intelligence: Action-Oriented Representation and the Dynamics of the Background. In: Radman Z (ed.) Knowing without Thinking: Mind, Action, Cognition and the Phenomenon of the Background. New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, pp. 13-36.

First paragraph: Studies of embodied intelligence have often tended to focus on the essentially responsive aspects of bodily expertise (for example, catching a ball once it has been hit into the air). But skilled sportsmen and sportswomen, actors and actresses, dancers, orators, and other performers often execute ritual-like gestures or other fixed action routines as performance-optimizing elements in their pre-performance preparations, especially when daunting or unfamiliar conditions are anticipated. For example, a recent movie (The King's Speech) and a book of memories (Logue and Conradi, 2010) have revealed that, just before broadcasting his historic announcement that the United Kingdom was entering the Second World War, King George VI furiously repeated certain tongue twisters in a resolute effort to overcome his relentless stutter. Such ritualized actions don't merely change the causal relations between performers and their physical environments (although this may well be part of their function); they provide performers with the practical scaffolds that summon more favourable contexts for their accomplishments, by uncovering viable landscapes for effective action rather than unassailable barricades of frightening obstacles. In other words, while the kinds of embodied skills that have occupied many recent theorists serve to attune behaviour to an actual context of activity, whether that context is favourable or not, preparatory embodied routines actively refer to certain potential (and thus non-actual) contexts of a favourable nature that those routines themselves help to bring about, indicating the possibilities of actions disclosed by the desired context. As we shall see, this sort of transformative event, which is exemplified by, but not confined to, the ritualized gestures and routines of skilled performers, is a regular occurrence in everyday skilled activity, not the crowning achievement of a few talented individuals; so the capacity in question belongs centrally to our ordinary suite of bodily skills. The theoretical ramifications of that embodied capacity are the topic of this paper.

Title of seriesNew Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science
Publication date29/02/2012
Publisher URL
Place of publicationBasingstoke

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Professor Michael Wheeler

Professor Michael Wheeler

Professor, Philosophy