Ideas, academic embroideries & such...

Maria Brincker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, UMass Boston
Associate Editor, Phenomenology & The Cognitive Sciences

Research interests

I am interested in the development of better theoretical frameworks for neuroscientists and other researchers and policy makers to work with. More specifically, I hope my work can help researchers see the empirical implausibility of many mechanistic and disembodied assumptions inherent in current cognitive, psychiatric and legal models. I am generally sympathetic to embodied & enactive approaches to cognition and to ambitions of looking at cognitive processes as temporal and as physically, socially, historically and contextually situated, and of grounding higher cognition in more basic sensorimotor and somatic functions. However, so far many such theoretical ambitions have fallen short of specific and applicable positive theories, and many 'embodied' theories suffer from too much abstraction themselves. Ideas thus need to be better rooted in biological and behavioral detail to more directly provide new paradigms for scientific research.

My main neuroscience collaboration is with Elizabeth Torres at Rutgers (Co-authored articles: "Noise from the periphery in autism", "Autism: the micro-movement perspective" & "Why study movement variation in autism" (forthcoming) see also press).

Within philosophy much of my work might be categorized as pertaining to philosophy of neuroscience, mind and cognitive science, but often it also touches on issues of scientific methodology, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, education, policy, privacy and technology. Omnipresent in my work is the oddly appendixed field of history of philosophy and I can proudly label most of my ideas as having a high percentage of recycled material.

Ongoing Projects & Research:

  • Free will & process metaphysics - analyzing typical determinist & indeterminist metaphysical assumptions of a fundamental layer of reality, and the relation of these to  the idea that time and action possibilities are illlusionary. (Kane-Dennett Prize recipient, "Evolution beyond determinism: On Dennett's compatibilism and the too timeless free will debate" (2015)).
  • Affordances - an attempt to reinterpret the concept in a way the capture the concept's relational, temporal and normative core. (In progress)
  • Fact/value dichotomy: I question the idea that we can have value free knowledge, through an analysis of the role of value, affect and pragmatics in basic processes of perception, judgement and categorization. (Chapter in progress 

See here for more classic philosophy sub-field labels for these projects

Philosophical Activism & the Contextual Mind:

My concerns about race, gender and privacy issues are on the one hand a personal response to current politics but on the other hand an integral piece of my contextual cognitive projects. The glue between my practical and theoretical philosophical interests is thus the idea that normativity, historicity and sociality are core features of the dynamic human mind and engagements - from the
perceptual to the political.

Some scholarly work in these areas is in the pipeline. Here
are a couple of short - and sligthly dated - feminist ponderings on: 1) the biological incoherence of neo-liberalism and the "pro-life" stance 'Pregnancy - a paradox for ultra-individualism', 2) the dangers of baby face masks in the public image called 'Botoxing Female Authority' and 3) the value of women flirting with women entitled 'Beyond Bitches and Caregivers'. And here some thoughts on women and the societies that harbor them.

A further practical and political project intimately linked to my empirical analyses of relational aspects of the mind - is that I here see a vindication of the humanities. The wide spread science-envy and the so-called 'crisis of the humanities' must be reconsidered when what we find in the heart of the natural sciences is a deeply contextual, cultural, historical and social mind. Please stop defunding the backbones of civilization - and let the hard sciences advance by understanding their own theories and creative value laden processes of fact discovery.

Maria Brincker,
Aug 20, 2015, 7:17 AM