Situating Attention and Habit in the Landscape of Affordances

Elisa Magrì


Abstract: This paper aims to situate the roles of attention and habit in contemporary approaches to embodied cognition with particular regard to the conceptualisation of affordances. While Chemero has argued that affordances have a relational character that rules out dispositions, Rietveld and Kiverstein have suggested that engaging with affordances amounts to exercising skills. By critically reconsidering the distinction between dispositions and abilities proposed by Chemero, as well as the standard theory of habit that underpins accounts of skilful coping (including Rietveld’s and Dreyfus’), I propose to disambiguate habit from skill and to reassess the phenomenology of dispositions. Dispositions are motivational factors that depend on two elements: (i) sensitivity to context clues, which is regulated by habit and attention, and (ii) the positionality of the subject, which is inseparable from context-awareness. Drawing on Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s insights, I argue that both (i) and (ii) can accommodate a dispositional view of affordances.

Keywords: Habit; Attention; Affordances; Dispositions; Phenomenology; Embodied Cognition


Situare attenzione e abitudine nel panorama delle affordance

Riassunto: L’articolo mira a situare i ruoli svolti dall’attenzione e dall’abitudine negli approcci contemporanei all’embodied cognition, con particolare attenzione alla concettualizzazione delle affordance. Se, un da un lato, Chemero ha sostenuto che l’affordance ha un carattere relazionale, che esclude le disposizioni, Rietveld e Kiverstein, dall’altro lato, mantengono che il coinvolgimento nell’affordance corrisponde all’esercizio di abilità pratiche (skills). Nel riconsiderare criticamente la distinzione fra disposizioni e abilità avanzata da Chemero, così come la concezione standard dell’abitudine che è alla base delle teorie di skilful coping (come quelle di Rietveld e Dreyfus), propongo di disambiguare l’abitudine dalle abilità e di rivalutare la fenomenologia delle disposizioni. Queste ultime sono elementi motivazionali che dipendono da due fattori: (i) sensibilità verso il contesto, che è governata dall’abitudine e dall’attenzione, e (ii) la posizionalità del soggetto, la quale è inseparabile dalla consapevolezza del contesto. Basandosi su Husserl e Merleau-Ponty, l’articolo difende l’ipotesi che sia (i) che (ii) possono soddisfare una concezione disposizionale dell’affordance.

Parole chiave: Abitudine; Attenzione; Disposizioni; Fenomenologia; Cognizione incarnata

Parole chiave

Habit; Attention; Affordances; Dispositions; Phenomenology; Embodied Cognition

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