Anda di halaman 1dari 19

Dance's Mind-Body Problem

Pakes, Anna.
Dance Research, Volume 24, Number 2, Winter 2006, pp. 87-104 (Article)

Published by Edinburgh University Press

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by Roehampton University at 07/30/10 7:31PM GMT

Dances Mind-Body Problem


In section 621 of the Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein considers the following: when I raise my arm, he notes, my arm goes up. And the problem arises: what is left over if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm? (Wittgenstein 1958, 161). A dancer might have a number of answers here, as might a viewer of dance performance. Generally, the dancers gesture of raising her arm is not just movement, but an intended action: it is not mere reex or nervous tick but consciously willed and controlled; it is governed by a decision to move on the part of the dancer and in some cases also by a decision on the part of the choreographer that this action be performed. These purposes shape the quality and signicance of the movement as well as causing it to happen. So if I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm, I am left with these intentions.1 A dancer might want to add that the remainder also includes her phenomenal experience of the movement: the sensation of the muscles tightening in the shoulder as the arm lifts, the feeling of tension between the arm reaching up and the legs rooted in the ground, the sense that the surrounding air offers resistance to the gesture. There is a whole complex of kinaesthetic sensations associated with the action of raising her arm, and the dancer aware of her performance is very conscious of these sensations: they contribute to the richness of her experience and, arguably, to the particular quality of the action as perceived by the audience. They too make the gesture of raising ones arm more than just a movement of the arm upwards. Of course, Wittgenstein is not suggesting that it is actually possible to isolate intention and phenomenal awareness from physical movement. His question is an analytic one designed to elucidate the character of a human action as opposed to a mere physical occurrence. In the process, it highlights issues key to contemporary debates in analytic philosophy about the mind-body problem and thus offers a route in to the core topics of this article. The dancers hypothetical answer to Wittgensteins question suggests that dance centrally involves (or seems to involve) ideas and intentions causing or being embodied in physical movement; it points also to how dances value depends (or seems to depend) partly on the phenomenal experiences of dancers, choreographers and viewers. Yet what are ideas, intentions and phenomenal experience, what kind of reality do they have, and how do they relate to the world of physical and physiological fact? These aspects of the mind-body problem the issues of mental causation and



phenomenal consciousness have received renewed attention in recent analytic philosophy of mind, as materialist and physicalist views have grown in popularity. If mental causation and phenomenal consciousness are indeed fundamental to dance, debates about these issues in general have implications for, and potential to illuminate, our art form, as this article will seek to show.2 The relevance of the mind-body problem to dance is sometimes obscured by mistaken assumptions about the nature of that problem and the way it is currently being tackled by analytic philosophy. Within dance circles, there is a tendency to think that even to refer to the mind-body relation as a problem is to get off on the wrong foot by assuming that mind and body are separate entities. The term Cartesian dualism is frequently invoked, often applied pejoratively, and the philosophical position it denotes assumed to be antithetical to dances essence. What we should do, according to some, is to focus on the integration of mind and body central to the dancers lived experience or evident in dance works.3 The problem, in this view, is one created by philosophers labouring fruitlessly under Cartesian illusions; it dissolves when we adjust our thinking to the terms and experiences of a long-neglected and undervalued art form. There are two key difculties with this received view of the mind-body problem. Firstly, it misrepresents Descartes work and the problematic with which he was engaged.4 There is not space to develop this argument here, but despite the unsatisfactoriness of the Cartesian solution it is important to recognise it as a genuine attempt to tackle a perennial metaphysical issue: how to explain the existence of consciousness and its relationship to the material world of merely physical objects and of fundamental particles that science tells us compose the world. In other words, how can an apparently immaterial thing like a thought or decision cause me to raise my arm? How and why do I have conscious awareness of the gesture from the inside, when this hardly seems necessary for the physical movement as such to be effected? These are questions raised, not dissolved, by dance experience. The second difculty with the received view is that it fails to recognise the focus and thrust of the last fty years of debate on the mind-body issue. Since the 1950s, the majority view in analytic philosophy of mind has been not dualist but materialist or physicalist: where Descartes posited the existence of two fundamentally different substances consciousness and matter most contemporary analytic philosophers claim that there is only one, developing various strategies to explain how consciousness reduces to, or depends upon, its material base. The notion that the physical is all there is, and that consciousness must therefore be explicable if it exists at all in physical terms, is the current orthodoxy. In David Lewiss words, it is non-negotiable (Heil 2004, 51).5 If physicalism is the new orthodoxy in the philosophy of the mind-body problem, then it seems appropriate that its tenets be examined in any contemporary engagement with that problem and its implications for dance. To place emphasis on the physical might initially seem more accommodating of dance than the dualist framework, given that dance is an art of the



body, founded on human physicality. So surely highlighting the physical basis of all experience both reiterates an insight already available to those involved in dance and opens a route to a kind of philosophy sympathetic to a long ignored art? But the term physical has a very different scope and resonance in analytic philosophy to those it has in the dance sphere. Physicalism argues not that all mental phenomena are embodied or incarnate, but that they are or should be explicable in the terms of physical science.6 As a metaphysical doctrine, Physicalism claims that the physical sciences should be ultimate arbiters of what there is. Its arguments are built around a crucial premise, that physics is itself causally closed or complete, in other words that all physical effects are fully determined by law by prior physical occurrences (Papineau 2001, 8).7 From a dance perspective, in other words, the movement of the dancers body like my raising my arm is a physiological event determined by other physiological or neurological occurrences the ring of neurons in a certain pattern, say which themselves may be caused by other physical stimuli. Whilst we may talk in terms of creative freedom, artistic intention, aesthetic response, meaning and embodied thinking, therefore, these are ultimately ways of speaking about brain processes and messages passing across the nervous system. The mind including its capacities for rational thought, emotion and bodily sensation is nothing more than the brain (or brain and nervous system combined) or nothing more than a functional system whose operations are ultimately determined by the brains physical structure.8 Recent work in the cognitive and neuro-science of dance encourages this kind of physicalist perspective.9 Ivar Hagendoorn (2004), for example, claims that our responses to dance performance like all our actions, perceptions and feelings are mediated and controlled by the brain (79). His 2004 article explores how brain structures may combine to ultimately give rise to the sensations we experience when watching a dance performance (ibid.); elsewhere, he seeks to elucidate the processes through which a brain comes up with a [] movement (2003, 222). Other projects such as the Choreography and Cognition research led by Scott deLahunta, Wayne McGregor and Rosaleen McCarthy; Daniel Glasers Dancers Brains research, and the Australian Unspoken Knowledges project work along similar lines, seeking to explain in terms of brain structures and processes how dance movement is generated, perceived and interpreted.10 These are largely experimental scientic rather than philosophical research projects, but they are compatible with the spirit of philosophical physicalism in treating the investigation of mind and mental phenomena as a properly empirical enterprise a series of questions to be answered by empirical scientic enquiry rather than metaphysical argument. On one level, such physicalist premises seem unproblematic: to a certain extent they along with a deep-rooted respect for the scientic project have permeated the contemporary mindset to the point where the words mind and brain are often used interchangeably and where it is assumed that the most fundamental explanation of phenomena will be one in physical scientic terms. It is also undoubtedly true that scientic investigation has yielded some interest-



ing ndings about the neural structures involved in dance perception and action, giving weight to arguments for the explanatory power of such enquiry. There is a parallel tendency in some philosophy of mind which considers the causal closure of physics to be a principle whose truth has been amply demonstrated empirically. Papineau (2001), for example, sees no virtue in philosophers refusing to accept a premise that, by any normal inductive standards, has been fully established over a century of empirical research (33), while Crane (2001) notes how [f]or some philosophers, to deny the completeness of physics is to be somewhat in the position of Cardinal Bellarmino refusing to look down Galileos telescope: it is a plain refusal to countenance the known scientic facts (65). Nonetheless, as Crane points out, it is not clear that physicalisms basic premise is a scientic fact so much as a philosophical principle invented to t what physical science has discovered into a particular metaphysical vision of things (ibid.). It is, after all, difcult to see how one could provide empirical proof for the claim that all physical effects are fully determined by law by prior physical occurrences, since this is arguably an assumption on which empirical investigation itself rests. Rather than develop these ideas here, however, this article will focus on how a physicalism has difculty accounting for fundamental aspects of dance, specically mental causation and phenomenal consciousness. How can we understand dance art unless we can explain how intentions, decisions and desires to move in particular ways can result in visible movement? In other words, dance depends or seems to depend on various kinds of mental event having physical effects, but it is not immediately clear how this is possible if physicalisms principle of causal closure holds. What is more, the signicance and value of dance seem to rest at least partly on the phenomenal experiences of dancers and audiences: on the way it feels to perform or witness a leap, lunge or fall to the oor, on what it is like to confront the physical presence of dancers or audience members, or follow a phrase or movement from its initiation to completion. Again, these phenomenal experiences are difcult to accommodate within a physicalist picture centred on the neurological substrate of experience not its qualitative features. Recognising this suggests that, although we (as dancers, dance audiences and human beings) may want to accept our basic materiality, we also intuitively view mind and aspects of consciousness as fundamental to our experience; physicalism ts the rst but not the second of these intuitions, arguably more easily accommodated by a Cartesian framework (see Haldane 2000, 303). This in itself, of course, does not demonstrate that physicalism is wrong, or prove Descartes right; nor will this paper attempt to argue either case. The aim is rather to outline some of the arguments around the problems of mental causation and phenomenal consciousness, in the process bringing home the nature and philosophical pertinence to dance of these key aspects of the mind-body problematic.



MENTAL CAUSATION Imagine a dancer improvising on stage. She begins in silence and stillness, but gradually, in response to murmurings on the sound-score, starts to move in a slow, controlled way. She initiates movement in the extremities of the ngers and feet, a series of impulses that pass through the limbs and joints to the bodys core. As her centre engages, she moves more quickly and travels more expansively, her gestures becoming more complex and ambitious until a moment when she feels herself falling into a familiar pattern in which she merely reiterates a sequence that seems to come automatically. The dancer makes the decision to fracture this sequence, break its apparently organic ow by unexpectedly leading movement from the elbow in a new direction. Realising also that her dynamic has become monotonous in a series of urries of movement of about the same duration, she makes the effort to sustain certain phrases for longer and, ultimately, calm everything down to return to the virtual stillness from which she began. This description in a language that a dancer use might herself to characterise her experience evokes something of the complex thought processes involved in improvisation. The improvising dancer relies on technique and familiarity with particular ways of moving born of extensive training, but also engages in decision-making in the moment of performing: environmental stimuli, consciousness of the evolving movement material and her own creative ideas may all affect what she elects to do next.11 The same seems true also of dancers performing set material, who shape that dance through their decisions to interpret it in a particular way. It also seems clear that choreographers intentions help determine the nature, if not the meaning, of their artistic work. Indeed, audience members appreciation of dance partly depends on the assumption that they are watching mindful human beings engaged in intentional action, which in turn embodies (at least to some extent) the choreographic vision of the artist responsible for the work. Throughout dance, then, the assumption operates that mental phenomena thoughts, ideas, decisions are able to inuence or cause the physical events visible on stage. Indeed, this is an assumption that pervades everyday life and seems, from a folk psychological point of view, to be crucial to our sense of ourselves as human beings.12 And yet mental causation is difcult to account for at the metaphysical level, for both dualists and physicalists. As already suggested, the problem arises for physicalism because mental causation appears to be ruled out by its core premise, all physical effects are fully determined by law by prior physical occurrences. This seems to exclude the possibility that anything beyond the physical can have a causal role. So how is it possible to square our intuition that in dance, as in other spheres of life ideas, thoughts and intentions do cause action with the principle of causal closure or completeness? Reductive physicalism offers a straightforward answer, identifying mental events with the brain processes.13 If the mind is nothing more than the brain, then mental events are neural events: their physical nature means they can cause



physical occurrences without violating the principle of causal closure. If, for example, the sensation of pain (a mental phenomenon in the sense that it is a subjective experience of consciousness) is nothing over and above the ring of Carbon-bres in the brain of the subject, then because this is a physical event there is no logical difculty in the way of explaining how that event causes painrelated behaviour like wincing, rubbing ones head or taking an aspirin (though it might be a complex and laborious process to trace this chain of causally related physical events). The same principle also applies to the mental phenomena associated with dance, similarly reducible to happenings in the brain/nervous system, according to the terms of identity theory. If understanding anothers movement is nothing more than the ring of mirror neurons in the pre-motor cortex, then there is no logical stumbling block to explaining how that occurrence can cause someone to get up and dance themselves.14 There may be different ways of referring to these neural events: everyday language abounds in sensations statements with a very different avour and meaning to the brainprocess statements of the neuroscientist; but, according to the identity theorist, the two kinds of statement still refer to the same thing the physical event and not to some ghostly mental phenomenon distinct from it.15 Brain-mind identity theory thus solves the problem of mental causation, but has come under sustained attack since its development in the 1950s, proving particularly vulnerable to Hilary Putnams (1980) charge that it denies multiple realisability. If conscious experiences such as sensations of pain, or kinaesthetic awareness of ones movements, are strictly identical with specic (human) brain processes, then this seems to rule out the possibility that non-human creatures with other brain structures can also feel pain or feel themselves move. This seems to build too strong (and species chauvinist) an assumption into identity theory for it to be acceptable. Philosophers have wanted to leave open the possibility that it is not simply creatures with the same physico-chemical make-up as ourselves who have conscious experiences and sensations. This means recognising that types of mental state like pain or kinaesthetic awareness can be realised by other brain processes in other physical structures, and a modication of the identity theory is thus necessary to accommodate this insight.16 But another difculty also arises which perhaps bears more directly on dance concerns. This is to do with whether or not reductionist views which seek to explain mental in terms of physical phenomena actually full their own brief. It is worth noting that the point of such theories is not to eliminate the mental from the philosophical picture entirely, but to provide an explanation which renders it intelligible, in this case, in physicalist terms. In this sense, the terms reduction and reductionist do not carry pejorative overtones, but identify an approach which claries apparently complex phenomena by explaining them fully in the terms of another theory.17 The question then becomes whether aspects of dance experience can be explained indeed, rendered more intelligible by accounts based on physicalist premises. We might replace or seek to reduce our ordinary, folk psychological explanations of dance behaviour to explanations based on the ndings and terms of physical or neuro-science. But



do such accounts offer genuine explanations that enhance our dance knowledge? This is not a question that can be briey answered in any comprehensive way. Some might argue that we are already proposing a helpful clarication in merely asserting that intentions, creative intuitions and viewers responses to dance performance are nothing more than brain processes of one sort or another; this dissolves the mystery of consciousness and brings it within the grasp of science to investigate. But then how illuminating are neuroscientic accounts of art phenomena? Again, this is too broad a question to be tackled here, however a specic example may help illustrate a potential problem more clearly. Hagendoorn (2005) draws on work in experimental psychology to speculate about the effects on dance perception of an apparently innate human preference for horizontal over oblique lines. He argues that this preference affects how dance movement is appreciated and how artists select movement, in that it is reected in the shapes and gures they favour. Hagendoorn suggests that the enduring appeal of classical ballet follows from this techniques tendency to align the body along the preferred horizontal and vertical planes. The neurological explanation given for the preference is that the human brain more easily detects such lines: the most likely hypothesis is that more orientation detectors in the primary visual cortex are selective for horizontal and vertical than for oblique lines (2). Leaving aside the general plausibility of the theory, does the latter hypothesis actually help to explain the preference? Or does it just describe the tendency in other terms? On what grounds should we prefer this explanation over other (say, dance historical) types of explanation?18 We might if we learned something about why more orientation detectors select in this way, but this discussion at least does not explore in detail what neurological function is served by this state of affairs or whether it has a role in evolutionary development. Even if it did, the lack of reference in the account to art historical considerations seems problematic. The neural structures specied might be responsible for mere aesthetic preference, but they seem unable to account for why and to what effect such lines predominate in particular works or types of art but not others. After all, not all pictures look like Mondrians. Nor does this explanation seem very helpful in understanding how we respond to, say, a Mondrian as an artwork, rather than as a mere aesthetic object: there is no reference, for example, to the meanings such lines might convey in specic art situations.19 The neuroscientist might reasonably point out that empirical investigation of such issues is in its infancy and that it will take time for scientic explanations to develop to reect the full complexity of such phenomena. The fact that existing explanations may be unsatisfactory does not in itself refute the premises of the scientic or physicalist project. Yet examples like the one considered might also raise doubts as to whether phenomena such as artistic understanding and meaning are of an order that could ever be explained in the way reductive physicalism proposes. One response that the defender of a physicalist approach might offer here would be to step back from reductionism and adopt a more functionalist perspective on mental phenomena: briey, to argue that mental state types are



not to be identied with neurophysiological types but with functional states (i.e. states dened by their position within a causal network of sensory inputs, behavioural outputs and other mental states). Many varieties of functionalism thus characterise the mental as dependent upon but irreducible to its physical substrate. For example, one could claim that our responses to anothers movement do depend on the rings of mirror neurons, but our experience is not reducible to this neural event: rather, that experience is a functional state with a particular character based on the inputs (e.g. the perception of another person dancing), dispositions to act (in this case, to dance oneself ) and other mental states with which it is associated (such as desire or habitual enjoyment of dancing).20 According to a functionalist perspective, there are different levels of description of mental phenomena, whereby the higher level properties of artistic activity revealed in, say, art historical analysis cannot be collapsed into the lower level properties specied by neuroscientic accounts. Although this kind of view allows greater scope for doing justice to intuitions about the richness and complexity of conscious life, it again confronts the problem of mental causation. It has difculty accounting for how mental properties irreducible to physical properties can be causally efcacious: if they are, then this still seems to violate the principle of causal closure; if they have no causal role (but rather it is the physical properties on which they depend which participate in the causal network), then they appear merely superuous.21 Many functionalist and nonreductive physicalist views avoid some of the difculties of reductionism, but seem to lose its advantages in resolving the problem of mental causation (Crane 2001, 5962). This by no means presents a decisive refutation of physicalism and is not intended to suggest a preference for dualist accounts of mental interaction: although dualism does (like functionalism) allow more room for the mental in its metaphysical picture, and does posit the causal efcacy of mental phenomena, it struggles to explain how two fundamentally different substances or sorts of properties (mental and physical) can interact with one another. But the considerations outlined are some of the issues that need to be tackled if physicalism is to accommodate mental causation within its metaphysical picture; these arguments and the centrality of mental causation to dance should give pause for thought to those tempted to accept a physicalist view. This is an aspect of the mind-body problem which does not dissolve despite the increasing proliferation and, in some cases, plausibility of neurological explanations of dance activity and experience. Interestingly, even those projects focused on uncovering neuroscientic facts about dance, and framed by a predominantly physicalist metaphysics, still seem to assume mental causation. Both the Choreography and Cognition project and Hagendoorns work are interested in how neurological ndings might be creatively exploited by dance artists. This implies that it is possible intentionally to manipulate the brain structures and processes discovered.22 How could it be unless it is true that thoughts, ideas and the mental more generally can effect physical results?



PHENOMENAL CONSCIOUSNESS The discussion above raised the question of how effective reductive physicalist accounts are as explanations of dance phenomena. There is also a question mark over the completeness of those accounts: do they identify all or even the key aspects of what goes on in dance? They do seem to leave one crucial dimension out of the picture, namely the lived experience or what it is actually like to perform, create and witness dance. Their focus is on the conditions of experience, not the experience itself. A description of the physiology and neuro-physiology of a dancer raising her arm will not help us appreciate the complex of kinaesthetic sensations she feels, or other aspects of her phenomenal experience. Similarly, characterising pain as the ring of C-bres may describe in objective terms what happens in the brain when we have a headache, but it does not seem to touch the subjective experience of what it is actually like to be in pain. This is the problem of qualia or phenomenal consciousness which creates difculties for any attempts to treat consciousness in purely physicalist terms. A neurophysiological account of what is going on in the brain will outline physical structures and processes that are objectively observable, but seems necessarily to treat the qualitative dimension as superuous and dispensable despite its importance to our conscious lives: the subjective character of experience [] is not captured by any of the familiar, recently devised reductive analyses of the mental, for all of them are logically compatible with its absence (Nagel 1974, 436). And yet phenomenal consciousness seems crucial to why we value dance, whether we are performing ourselves or watching others perform.23 When I watch a dancer on stage, for example, I am interested in her contribution to the work as a whole and to the ideas and meanings the work conveys. But my enjoyment of the dance, and my interest in it, also lies in the phenomenal qualities of my experience in the theatre: the vivid brightness or soothing colours of the lighting, the exhilaration felt at the speed and agility of the dancer, the satisfaction generated by the performers precise timing and the choreographers careful structuring. It is possible that these aesthetic experiences derive neurologically from brain structures and processes which favour peakshift effects, grouping of related features, isolation of particular visual clues and the contrast of segregated features (Ramachandran and Hirstein 1999, Hagendoorn 2003 and 2004), but arguably recognising and understanding all of this will not help us grasp what watching dance is actually like. The philosophical problem arises here not merely because our intuitions tell us that conscious experience is too rich to be reected in the existing language of the neurophysical; and not simply because we are amazed at the idea that the wet grey matter inside my skull can generate such sensations. The philosophical issue is over whether there are logical difculties in the way of ever providing a physicalist explanation for qualia and over whether or not there are good reasons to think that phenomenal awareness is indeed essential to consciousness and, by extension, dance. A number of philosophical arguments have been constructed around



thought experiments which confront these issues. Frank Jackson has famously developed the knowledge argument (1982 and 1986) which tests the limits of what can be known about experience through the physical sciences. He imagines a scientist called Mary who is conned from birth to a black-and-white room and educated through black-and-white books, taped lectures and programmes shown on a black-and-white television. Being a student of some talent, Mary manages to learn all the physical facts there are about colour vision: what neural and physiological structures enable it, how it works, what functions its serves. The question is whether, in the process, Mary learns all there is to know about seeing colour or whether, on nally leaving the room and seeing red, blue and green for the rst time, she discovers anything new. Jackson argues that she does acquire new knowledge because she suddenly understands what it is like to see colour, something that the science of colour vision, however comprehensive, cannot teach her. And arguably, Mary does not just learn a new ability or conrm empirically something she was previously only able to imagine: in experiencing herself, she gains knowledge about the mental lives of others, a fact quite distinct from all the physical facts that she had hitherto acquired ( Jackson 1986). This thought experiments implications can be developed in the dance context. I could in principle at least learn all the physical facts there are to know about dancing: the complex functioning of the human anatomy in the wide range of movements available in dance; the physiological principles which allow variations in gesture, dynamic and texture; all the ne-grained neural structures which control and process movement. Yet arguably, I would still learn something new on participating in a dance class or performing on stage for the rst time, since I would understand something of what it is like to perform dance movement in the space. With this understanding also comes some insight into the experience of other dancers which despite my extensive physical scientic knowledge was not available to me before.24 One might construct similar thought experiments around the experience of watching dance on stage or creating choreography. In each case, the qualitative feel of these activities for those engaged in them does not seem to be captured by any amount of physical scientic understanding of the structures and processes involved. I could know that motion perception is predictive, comprehending the elaborate visual and neural processes that enable the brain to keep up with a perceived moving target; I might also know of the existence and function of mirror neurons and their importance in my response to anothers dance.25 But none of this knowledge on its own will enable me to reconstruct or even truly grasp the actual experience of watching a dancer in performance. Philosophical opinion remains divided over how damaging Jacksons knowledge argument is for physicalism and, in particular, for physicalist attempts to account for consciousness. To some extent, its purchase depends on whether or not it accurately identies and challenges the core premises of the physicalist position. Crane (2001, 939) argues that it does not, since the argument assumes physicalism to hold that all knowledge is physical. In Cranes view, one can be



a physicalist without adopting this view: the principle of the causal closure or completeness of physics is what is crucial, and this does not necessarily imply physics completeness in other respects or its explanatory adequacy. But even if we focus on causal closure, it seems, qualia are necessarily relegated to the status of epiphenomena, that is mental occurrences which simply do not enter into the causal network: if lived experience were to have physical effects then it would, by the principle of causal closure, have to be itself in some way physical. Although some physicalists may be happy to accept qualia as mere by-products of a physical process, it does not really square with our intuitions: that its the feeling of itchiness which leads me to scratch, for example, or the experience of pain that makes me reach for the aspirin bottle. We might similarly want to claim that the exhilaration experienced watching a dancer leap across the stage is what causes me to cheer and applaud her virtuosity; or that my awareness of how my arm feels in that particular position affects how I make the transition to a subsequent gesture. Intuitions alone, however, cannot show where physicalism goes wrong although they may help inspire or test relevant arguments. Although Jacksons knowledge argument may not be decisive, other challenges to physicalism have been launched which also hinge on the issue of phenomenal consciousness. One of these involves a different thought experiment to Jacksons, but still designed to test the limits of conceptions of the mind-body relation. As with Jacksons black-and-white-room, the primary target is physicalist theory, in this case specically nonreductive varieties thereof. Imagine someone who is alike me in every physical respect, whose body looks and functions in an identical way, who responds to various stimuli with the same behaviour and whose brain and nervous system are identically structured and engage in exactly the same processes as mine. The only difference is that this creature call it a zombie-me doesnt have subjective conscious experience. Zombie-me is not to be confused with your average, common-or-garden zombie of the Dawn of the Dead variety, which looks and behaves differently to an ordinary human being. Zombie-me looks, acts and reacts in exactly the same way as I do. But she (if we can even call her a she) does not have the visual experience of seeing colours, although her brain functions in the same way as mine when I look at a bowl of brightly coloured fruit. She is not kinaesthetically aware of her own movement, although she can dance the same phrases as me and improvise effectively, or at least without an audience being able to tell purely by looking that we are different. She can attend a dance performance, seem engrossed in the action on stage, her body going through the same patterns of behaviour as mine when I sit in an auditorium. And yet, we cannot call her movement a response to how it feels to watch the show, because she doesnt feel anything. When she gasps, this is not an expression of her wonder at the performers virtuosity because she doesnt have the subjective experience of amazement, even though a brain scan would reveal that the same neurons re in the same pattern as in my brain in a similar situation. Philosophers such as Kirk (1974; 2003, 8597) and Chalmers (1996) have



asked whether it is really possible to imagine such zombies existing, whether they are conceivable or whether the mere idea of a zombie is self-contradictory. If zombies are conceivable, then this suggests that they are logically possible: that is, there is no logical or conceptual difculty that prevents us from imagining them, even though there may be insuperable practical stumbling blocks to them ever coming into existence.26 Chalmers suggests that, if zombies are conceivable, then this shows that the mental is not entailed by the physical in the way that physicalists suggest, because an entity could have all the physical structures in place that, in my case, produce consciousness, but fail to do so in the case of zombie-me. So if zombies are conceivable, then physicalism must be wrong.27 According to Crane (2001), this argument has an advantage over the knowledge argument because it treats physicalism as a purely metaphysical rather than an epistemological theory (i.e. it takes physicalism to be a claim about what there is, not about what can be known about the world and how). There has, however, been extensive debate, particularly over the premise that what is conceivable is possible, which plays a key role in the argument (Crane 2001, 1001; Kirk 2003, 8990), as well as over the question of whether zombies are indeed conceivable (Kirk 2003, 904). But the zombie thought experiment can also be elaborated to test our intuitions about what is crucial to dance. Imagine a group of dancer-zombies who all perform and behave exactly like human dancers, showing the same virtuosity, expressiveness, kinaesthetic sensitivity and performance presence, at least as far as the viewer who does not know that they are zombies is concerned. Now consider whether it matters to the audience when they discover that these performers have no inner awareness of their actions, no felt sensations or phenomenal consciousness of their dance at all. Does this make a difference to our appreciation of what they are doing? What the audience sees is perceptibly identical with what a group of human dancers might perform. Yet knowing that these performers feel nothing does seem to matter in quite a profound way. In a recent discussion of what spectators see when they watch a dancers moving body, Francis Sparshott (2004) suggests that this includes the esh, or actual material stuff in motion, the body as articulated mechanical system and the organic body, moving as a living thing controlled by its nervous system (280). But crucially, the audience also sees the gesturing human, its movement not merely vital but essentially meaningful as expressions of a conscious, perceptive, motivated being (ibid.).28 Sparshott notes how the performer also bears identity markers (age, gender, ethnicity) and refers to a particular social reality and cultural context, which may in turn endow it with a special symbolic signicance. These further layers are, however, dependent on the fundamental humanity of the performer, or on our awareness, rst and foremost, of the dancer as a conscious being consciously in control of her action.



CONCLUSION At the beginning of this article, the hypothetical dancers answer to Wittgensteins question about raising his arm suggested mental causation and phenomenal consciousness as important features of dance, which make it more than just movement. If they are indeed fundamental, then they must be central also to any attempt to come to terms with dance philosophically. A position which eliminates either from the picture is unlikely to be able to offer a satisfactory account. Of course, most physicalists would not go so far,29 but this article has aimed to show how even less extreme physicalist positions encounter difculties in tackling these aspects of the mind-body problem, and hence in accounting for crucial dimensions of dance activity. This is not to say that a physicalist perspective can never overcome these difculties, but it does indicate problems that need to be addressed and the appropriateness of a cautious approach to physicalist solutions to the mind-body issue within dance. Although some, such as Kim (2001), are sceptical that the mind-body problem can ever be resolved, possible solutions are still proposed and debated within philosophy of mind, each having the potential to illuminate aspects of such hard questions if not to provide denitive answers.30 And each may thus also have interesting implications for how we think about dance as an art form that crucially involves both matter and consciousness. The detailed discussion of these issues in the specialist language of analytic philosophy of mind may seem to take us a long way from dance; but this article has tried to indicate some of the ways in which it bears directly on crucial aspects of the art form. Exploring the relevance of mind-body philosophy helps grasp what is going on in dance situations, whilst examining concrete dance experience helps ground abstract philosophical reasoning and conclusions. Hopefully, this brief foray into the territory has helped to demonstrate this and to show that the mind-body problem really is a problem for dance and not just for the philosophers.31

1. These issues, including the distinction between action and mere movement have been extensively discussed in the existing philosophical literature on dance: see in particular McFee (1992, 4966), Carr (1987) and Beardsley (1982). 2. Wittgenstein himself is not often invoked in the contemporary literature on the mindbody issue and his own philosophical concerns had a somewhat different focus, itself the topic for another article since there is insufcient space to explore his perspective properly here. Indeed, Haldane (2003) notes: the decline of interest in Wittgensteins work, and in that of others inuenced by him, is itself a mark of the naturalistic-cum-scientic turn (303), the contemporary trend which is the focus of this paper. Existing analytic philosophical work on dance which adopts a Wittgensteinian approach also tends not to engage with the metaphysical issues identied as a contemporary physicalist might see them. Although Best (1974), Carr (1987) and McFee (1992) all question [w]hat is the connection between an intangible thing like an emotional state, and a physical thing like a human movement (Best 1974, 2), they treat that connection as fundamentally logical rather than causal and do not discuss in detail the relationship between brain states and mental states. To a certain extent, then, existing philosophy of dance refuses to accept the




4. 5.







premises of contemporary debates and therefore does not enter into them, perhaps partly because of its Wittgensteinian leanings. See, for example, Fraleigh (2004, 89) who suggests that certain forms of dance practice heal the manifold divisions (between culture/nature, masculine/feminine, as well as mind/body) spawned by Cartesian dualism. Similarly, Briginshaw (2001) suggests that by reinstating and revaluing the body, dance challenges Descartes dualism which sees the mind and body as separate entities where the body materially occupies space and is a container for the conscious mind (140). Like Fraleigh, Briginshaw associates the mind/body divide she claims is instituted by Descartes with other, problematic binary divisions between, for example, self and world, masculine and feminine. Neither theorist examines the nature of Descartes problematic, the detail of his argument or the context in which it is formulated. For a recent discussion of Descartes which challenges received views within philosophy of his works thrust and signicance, see Baker and Morris (1996). Although the terms materialism and physicalism are often used interchangeably, they designate distinct positions. Materialism is the metaphysical doctrine that everything in the world is composed of matter (particles such as atoms or electrons, say), where physicalism argues that the question of what there is should be delegated to the physical sciences; since science has revealed the existence of non-material entities such as forces and waves, this is not equivalent to claiming that everything is material. In theory, then, physicalism is metaphysically open-ended since it treats the question of what exists as an empirical one to be resolved by physical science (see Crane 2001, 467). The rest of this article will focus on physicalism rather than materialism, since it is currently the more widely held, and plausible, view. Physical science would typically include the different branches of physics, but also chemistry, molecular biology and other sciences reducible to physics in practice or principle (which is usually seen to exclude human sciences like psychology and sociology). Proponents of physicalism are not always clear about the scope of physical science or how it should be dened: see Crane in Guttenplan (1994, 47980) and Crane and Mellor (1990). In Papineaus view (2001), physicalism only came to prominence as a philosophical position not just when physical science established its dominance in the knowledge sphere, but when this crucial premise became available to philosophers in the 1950s. On the philosophical signicance of physicalisms core premise, see also Crane 2001, 438. This is a very broad characterisation of the implications of physicalism, which does not properly reect the distinctions between different varieties thereof. There is an attempt in what follows to develop some relevant distinctions between identity theory and functionalism, for example but the discussion tends to remain general on the grounds that physicalisms basic thrust and problems need to be understood before such subtleties can be grasped. This is despite the fact that cognitive science as a discipline is usually regarded as conceptually underpinned not by physicalism per se but by functionalism (which strictly speaking is compatible with dualism as well as physicalism). Often, however, the way cognitive and neuro scientic work is popularised reinforces a reductive physicalist view. What is more, many of the philosophical issues identied in what follows can be raised in respect of functionalism as well as (reductive) physicalism. See the following websites for further information and links to associated publications: Choreography and Cognition,; Daniel Glasers pages,; and the Unspoken Knowledges pages, See the essays by Susan Foster and Kent de Spain in Cooper-Albright (2003) for more developed accounts of the experience of improvisation. De Spain in particular, pp. 336, explores the different ways in which intention becomes embodied in physical movement and identies various kinds of intention, from direct to indirect to intending the unintended or allowing (34). From the perspective of this article, each implies the possibility of mental causation and emphasises the thinking that dancers do. This




13. 14.

15. 16.



19. 20. 21.

discussion of mental causation begins with improvisation because it vividly illustrates the thoughtfulness of dance (see also Sheets-Johnstone 1981), not because it has priority in this regard over other dance practices: thoughtfulness is also characteristic of the performance and creation of choreographed work, as Carr 1987 and McFee 1992 argue in depth. Folk psychology is a term widely employed in philosophy of mind to refer to the conceptual framework, or set of practices, conventionally used by ordinary people to understand, explain and predict their own and other peoples behaviour and mental states (Eckhardt in Guttenplan 1994, 300). See Churchland (1981) and Jackson and Pettit (1990) for opposing views on whether folk psychology is, or articulates, an explanation of behaviour at a fundamental level. See, for example, Place (1956), Feigl (1958) and Smart (1959). Armstrong (1968) and Lewis (1983) both present views which tackle difculties present in identity theorys early formulation. The BBC 2 series The Dancers Body, presented by Deborah Bull and broadcast in September 2002, presented research attributing the desire to dance to these kinds of neural processes. See http:/ / for further information and press reviews of the series. For discussion of how the language of introspective reports has a different logic from that of material processes, see Smarts (1959) seminal statement of brain-mind identity theory. Where type identity theories hold that types of mental state are identical with types of physical state (for example, that pain for all individuals/creatures in all cases is identical with C-bre ring for all individuals/creatures in all cases), token identity theories avoid the difculty highlighted by Putnam. Token identity theory argues not that mental state types are identical with physical state types, but only that every individual mental event (token) is identical with an individual physical event (which could be a token of a variety of different types). As Kirk notes, Donald Davidsons anomalous monism (Davidson 1970) presents a good example of a token identity theory, although whether or not this (or indeed other token identity theories) can satisfactorily account for mental causation is still a topic for debate (2003, 5669). Similarly, there is ongoing debate about whether functionalism another alternative to type identity theory resolves the problem of mental causation; see pp. 910 below for a brief discussion of functionalism. Thus Crane (2001) argues for an understanding of reductionism as explanatory as well as ontological and comments: [t]here is a general feeling in current philosophy of mind that reductionism is a Bad Thing, and it is more reasonable to be an anti-reductionist, even once the distinction between reduction and elimination is made. Insofar as reduction is understood as explanatory reduction where this is conceived of as a kind of explanation then this must be a mistake. Genuine explanations are advances in our knowledge, and faced with the possibility of advancing our knowledge it would be irrational to reject it merely on the grounds that it is reductive. (Or rather, it makes little sense to do so, since reduction is just a name for this sort of advancement of our knowledge (55).) Contrast, for example, analysis which relates the aesthetic principles of ballet to the artistic tradition of classicism, e.g. Macaulay (1987) and (1997), or Volinsky in Copeland and Cohen, eds. (1983) who explains ballets aspiration to verticality in both socio-cultural and evolutionary terms. The distinction between aesthetic and artistic modes of appreciation is clearly drawn by Best (2004) and McFee (2005). Both emphasise how the particular artistic context, surrounding conventions and traditions determine the meaning of given dance works. See Lycan and Block in Guttenplan (1994, 31732) and Kirk (2003, 12135) for further introductory discussion of functionalist positions. Papineau (2001, 10) thus claims that functionalism is a closet version of epiphenomenalism, that is, the doctrine that mental phenomena exist but are causally impotent, mere by-products of physical processes over which they have no inuence. The extent to which different varieties of functionalism and non-reductive physicalism accommodate mental causation is still a still contested topic: see, for example, Kim (1993), Jackson (1996), Thomasson (1998) and Clarke (1999).



22. The Unspoken Knowledges project goes even further: furthering the basic understanding of the complex thought-processes and strategies deployed by choreographers is expected to enrich and enhance choreographic invention, revivifying a stagnant dance economy (http:/ / 23. The popularity of phenomenological descriptive techniques in the dance studies eld supports this observation, insofar as they are intended not to analyse dance objectively but to offer a rst person account of the world [and dance] as it is lived (Sheets-Johnstone 1981, 402). See also Sheets-Johnstone (1979) and (1984), Fraleigh (1987) and Thomas (1995, 1705). 24. There are, of course, limits on how much it is possible to understand what particular movements or movement sequences feel like to perform, for someone who has not performed or does not have the capacity to perform a given dance (see Best 1978, 14152; Smyth 1984; and McFee 1992, 26472; a contrasting perspective on kinaesthetic empathy, drawing on cognitive science, is presented by Montero 2006). Nonetheless, any embodied experience of dance arguably gives insight into movement of an order different to knowledge of its physiological and neurological character. 25. Both the predictive nature of motor perception and the role of mirror neurons are discussed in detail in Hagendoorn (2004). 26. Contrast the idea of a zombie, for example, with the evidently contradictory notion of a round square which is both logically and empirically impossible. 27. The zombie argument seems to have most purchase on nonreductive forms of physicalism which claim that the mental depends or supervenes on (rather than being identical with) the physical in some way. Such nonreductive approaches have developed partly in response to the charge of writers such as Nagel (1974) that physicalism simply leaves consciousness out of the picture: the nonreductivist recognises the existence of consciousness but argues that it is a necessary consequence of the physical structure. But, according to the zombie argument, consciousness cannot be necessarily entailed by the physical in this way if zombies are a logical possibility. 28. McFee (1992) and Carr (1987; 1997) argue along similar lines. 29. Theorists who would include Churchland (1988) and Dennett (1991). 30. David Chalmers has famously labelled the task of explaining consciousness the hard problem, which sits alongside other, less intractable issues that make up the mind-body problematic: see Shear, ed. (1997). 31. Thanks to Bonnie Rowell and the anonymous reviewers for Dance Research for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article. A shortened version of this material was presented at the Dance Research Conference organised by the Society for Dance Research at Middlesex University on 25 March 2006. I am grateful to the conference organisers and audience for the opportunity to discuss these ideas.


Armstrong, D. M. (1968). A Materialist Theory of the Mind, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Baker, Gordon and Katherine Morris (1996). Descartes Dualism, London: Routledge. Beardsley, Monroe C. (1982). What is Going on in a Dance?, in Dance Research Journal, 15:1, 316. Best, David (1974). Expression and Movement in the Arts: A Philosophical Enquiry, London: Lepus Books. Best, David (2004). Aesthetic and Artistic; two Separate Concepts: the Dangers of Aesthetic Education, Research in Dance Education, 5:2, 15975. Briginshaw, Valerie (2001). Dance, Space and Subjectivity, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Carr, David (1987). Thought and Action in the Art of Dance, British Journal of Aesthetics, 27, 34557. Carr, David (1997). Meaning in Dance, British Journal of Aesthetics, 37: 4, 34966. Chalmers, David (1996). The Conscious Mind, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Churchland, Paul (1981). Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes, Journal of Philosophy, 78: 6990.



Churchland, Paul (1998). Matter and Consciousness, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Clarke, R. (1999). Nonreductive Physicalism and the Causal Powers of the Mental, Erkenntnis, 51: 295322. Cooper-Albright, Ann and David Gere (eds.) (2003). Taken by Surprise: A Dance Improvisation Reader, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. Crane, Tim (2001). Elements of Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crane, Tim and D. H. Mellor (1990). There is No Question of Physicalism, Mind, 99:394, 185206. Davidson, Donald (1970). Mental Events, in L. Foster and J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory, London: Duckworth, 79101. Dennett, Daniel (1991). Consciousness Explained, London: Allen Lane. Feigl, Herbert (1958). The Mental and the Physical, in H. Feigl, M. Scriven and G. Maxwell (eds.), Concepts, Theories and the Mind-Body Problem, Minneapolis, Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 2. Fraleigh, Sondra Horton (1987). Dance and the Lived Body: A Descriptive Aesthetics, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Fraleigh, Sondra Horton (2004). Dancing Identity, Metaphysics in Motion, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Guttenplan, Samuel (ed.) (1994). A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, Oxford: Blackwell Hagendoorn, Ivar (2003). Cognitive Dance Improvisation: How Study of the Motor System Can Inspire Dance (and Vice Versa), Leonardo, 36:3, 2217. Hagendoorn, Ivar (2004). Some Speculative Hypotheses about the Nature and Perception of Dance and Choreography, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11: 3/4, 79110. Hagendoorn, Ivar (2005). Dance Perception and the Brain, in S. McKechnie and R. Grove (eds.), Thinking in Four Dimensions, Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing. Accessed online, February 2006, at Hagendoorn_DPB05.pdf Haldane, John (2000). The State and Fate of Contemporary Philosophy of Mind, American Philosophical Quarterly, 37:3, 30111. Heil, John (2004). Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction, London: Routledge. Jackson, Frank (1982). Epiphenomenal Qualia, The Philosophical Quarterly, 32: 12736. Jackson, Frank (1986). What Mary Didnt Know, Journal of Philosophy, 83: 2915. Jackson, Frank (1996). Mental Causation, Mind, 105:419, 377413. Jackson, Frank and Philip Pettit (1990). In Defense of Folk Psychology, Philosophical Studies, 59: 3154. Kim, Jaegwon (1993). Supervenience and Mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kim, Jaegwon (2001). Mental Causation and Consciousness: The Two Mind-Body Problems for the Physicalist, in C. and B. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 27183. Kirk, Robert (1974). Zombies v. Materialists, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Vol. 48: 13552. Kirk, Robert (2003). Mind and Body, Chesham: Acumen. Lewis, David (1983). An Argument for the Identity Theory, in D. Lewis, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1, Oxford: Oxford University Press. McFee, Graham (1992). Understanding Dance, London: Routledge. McFee, Graham (2005). The Artistic and the Aesthetic, British Journal of Aesthetics, 45:4, 36887. Macauley, Alastair (1987). Notes on dance classicism, in Dance Theatre Journal, 5:2, 69, 369. Macauley, Alastair (1997). Further notes on dance classicism, Dance Theatre Journal, 13:3, 249. Montero, Barbara (2006). Proprioception as an Aesthetic Sense, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 64:2, 23142. Nagel, Thomas (1974). What is it Like to be a Bat? Philosophical Review, 83: 43550. Papineau, David (2001). The Rise of Physicalism, in C. Gillett and B. Loewer (eds.), Physicalism and its Discontents, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 336.



Place, U. T. (1956). Is Consciousness a Brain Process?, British Journal of Psychology, 47, 4450. Putnam, Hilary (1980). The Nature of Mental States, in N. Block (ed.), Readings in the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1, London: Methuen. Ramachandran, V. S. and William Hirstein (1999). The Science of Art: A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6: 6/7, 1551. Shear, Jonathan (ed.) (1997). Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine (1979). The Phenomenology of Dance, 2nd edition, London: Dance Books. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine (1981). Thinking in Movement, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 39:4, 399407. Sheets-Johnstone, Maxine (1984). Phenomenology as a Way of Illuminating Dance, in M. Sheets-Johnstone (ed.), Illuminating Dance: Philosophical Explorations, Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses. Smart, J. J. C. (1959). Sensations and Brain Processes, Philosophical Review, 68: 14156. Smyth, Mary M. (1984). Kinaesthetic Communication in Dance, Dance Research Journal, 16:2, 1922. Sparshott, Francis (2004). The Philosophy of Dance: Bodies in Motion, Bodies at Rest, in P. Kivy (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics, Oxford: Blackwell, 27690. Thomas, Helen (1995). Dance, Modernity and Culture: Explorations in the Sociology of Dance, London: Routledge. Thomasson, Amie (1998). A Nonreductivist Solution to Mental Causation, Philosophical Studies, 89: 18195. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1958). Philosophical Investigations, 2nd edition, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, Oxford: Blackwell.