The aim of this research project Perception, Performativity and Cognitive Sciences, founded by the Italian Government (PRIN 2015), is to focus on (and test) the hypothesis that performativity is not a property confined to certain specific human skills, or to certain specific acts of language, nor an accidental enrichment due to creative intelligence. Instead, the executive and motor component of cognitive behavior should be considered an intrinsic part of the physiological functioning of the mind and as endowed with self-generative power. It is thought to have evolutionarily developed in close correlation with processes of natural selection leading, in the human animal, on the one hand, to the species specificity of articulate speech and, on the other, to embodied simulation as a model of perception. In this perspective, cognition is considered a mediated form of action rather than a relationship between inner thought and behavior occurring in the outside world. In this model of performativity, action is never considered mere externalization of a mental process, but is a cognitive process through which the body produces it. Every species-specific embodied form is a way to know reality available to all human beings.
Performativity, in this theoretical context, can be defined as a constituent component of cognitive processes. The material action allowing us to interact with reality is both the means by which the subject knows the surrounding world and one through which he experiments with the possibilities of his body. This innovative proposal is rooted in models now widely accepted in the philosophy of mind and language; in fact, it focuses on a space of awareness that is not in the individual, or outside it, but is determined by the species-specific ways in which the body acts on the world. It is the body to determine the cognitive ability of the individual, not mental abstract internal procedures, nor just environmental inputs.
This theoretical hypothesis will be pursued through the latest interdisciplinary methodology typical of cognitive science. On the one hand, in fact, it needs to clarify some philosophical positions brought to light by the philosophical thesis of embodied cognition and numerous interpretations of the extended mind, often at odds with the most internalist and mentalist hypotheses on cognitive psychology and computationalism. On the other hand, it has to clarify the philosophical problems investigated, because, in line with the naturalist presuppositions of the cognitive neuro-scientific investigation, they require thorough experimental investigation in different fields of application. Thus, a significant slice of the project will try to clarify the contribution of an extended theory of performativity to experimental research on perception, performative arts and the creative use of media devices.
Milano unit (based at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), of which I take part, focuses on the concept of event, addressed both from an ontological, perceptive, linguistic-semiotic perspective and from a neuroaesthetic and especially neurofilmological point of view. The unit recovers the extensive bibliography on the concept of event, which developed in different fields such as philosophy, semiotics, narratology, psychology, cognitivism and more recently neurocognitivism. On this basis, the unit defines the processes of events recognition, organisation and management based on two complementary approaches. On the one hand, the unit develops a model of such processes as based on the situated and embodied experience of an active and performing subject. On the other hand, this model is applied to the experience of the audiovisual media and in particular of the cinema, in the light of the “embodied simulation” hypothesis. The research aims to define the relationships between the styles of audiovisual/cinematic articulation of ongoing transformations within the fictional worlds, and the “styles” of online management of dynamic exchanges between the subject and the world directly experienced.