Ideas, academic embroideries & such...

Research interests

I study how various contextual factors dynamically ground and shape our minds. The goal is the development of better theoretical frameworks for scholars, scientists and policy makers to work with. I also hope my work can highlight the empirical implausibility of the widespread mechanistic and disembodied assumptions of existing 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 and historically situated, and of grounding higher cognition in more basic sensorimotor and somatic functions. However, so far many such 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 empirical detail to more directly provide actionable paradigms for new research and policies.

My main neuroscience collaboration is with Elizabeth Torres, Rutgers (see details & press).

Within philosophy much of my research might be categorized as pertaining to philosophy of neuroscience, mind and cognitive science, but often it also concerns 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 degree of recycled material particularly from continental, phenomenological & pragmatist traditions.

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").
  • 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
  • Predictive Processes. My work highlights how predictive processes are central to life and mind. However, I focus on gaining/maintaining predictability in non-ideal circumstances, and disagree with computational aspects of predictive coding and "free energy" accounts. (Article in progress, see also "Why study movements...")

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

Philosophical Activism & the Contextual Mind:

My concerns about race, gender, existential precarity, technology and privacy issues are on the one hand a personal response to current political and societal conditions. On the other hand, however, the analyses of these power dynamics represents 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.

Scholarly work in these areas include:
"Subverting the racist lens: Frederick Douglass, Humanity & the power of the photographic image"(w. Bill Lawson) forthcoming, and "Privacy in Public & the contextual conditions of agency". See here for some short essays an 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. My plea is thus that we stop defunding and undermining the backbones of civilization - and allow the 'hard' sciences to advance by understanding their own dependencies and creative value-laden processes of fact discovery.

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