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A Puzzle about Thought, Experience and the Motoric

In action observation, motor representations of outcomes ...

... underpin goal-tracking, and

sometimes facilitate the identification of goals in thought.


where motor representations influence a thought about an action being directed to a particular outcome, there is normally a motor representation of this outcome, or of a matching outcome.

This conclusion entails that motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts. It is the fact that one outcome rather than another is represented motorically which explains, at least in part, why the observer takes this outcome (or a matching one) to be an outcome to which the observed action is directed.


how could motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts given their inferential isolation?

But how could motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts? One familiar way to explain content-respecting influences is to appeal to inferential relations. To illustrate, it is no mystery that your beliefs have content-respecting influences on your intentions, for the two are connected by processes of practical reasoning. But motor representation, unlike belief and intention, does not feature in practical reasoning. Indeed, thought is inferentially isolated from it. How then could any motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts?


motor representation -> experience of action -> thought

In something like the way experience may tie thoughts about seen objects to the representations involved in visual processes, so also it is experience that connects what is represented motorically to the objects of thought.
[significance] This may matter for understanding thought about action. On the face of it, the inferential isolation of thought from motor representation makes it reasonable to assume that an account of how humans think about actions would not depend on facts about motor representation at all. But the discovery that motor representations sometimes shape experiences revelatory of action justifies reconsidering this assumption. It is plausible that people sometimes have reasons for thoughts about actions, their own or others', that they would not have if it were not for their abilities to represent these actions motorically. To go beyond what we have considered here, it may even turn out that an ability to think about certain types of actions depends on an ability to represent them motorically.
[consequence] One consequence of our proposal concerns how experiences of one's own actions relate to experiences of others' actions. For almost any action, performing it would typically involve receiving perceptual information quite different to that involved in observing it. This may suggest that experiences involved in performing a particular action need have nothing in common with experiences involved in observing that action. However, two facts about motor representation, its double life and the way it shapes experience, jointly indicate otherwise. For actions directed to those goals that can be revealed by experiences shaped by motor representations, there are plausibly aspects of phenomenal character common to experiences revelatory of one's own and of others' actions. In some respects, what you experience when others act is what you experience when you yourself act.
The claim that there is expeirence of action is based on an earlier argument. I now want to review and then object to that argument. (The conclusion may be correct, but the argument does not establish it.)


How could motor representations have content-respecting influences on thoughts given their inferential isolation?