Intentional and Skillful Neurons





Sport, Ethics and Philosophy;Volume 11 - Issue 3: Sport, Ethics, and Neurophilosophy


Taylor & Francis



In the mid 90’s there was a major neuroscientific discovery which might drastically alter sport science in general and philosophy of sport in particular. The discovery of mirror neurons by Giacomo Rizzolatti and colleagues in Parma, Italy, is a substantial contribution to understanding brains, movements and humans. Famous neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran believes the discovery of mirror neurons “will do for psychology what DNA did for biology”.1 Somehow mirror neurons have not received the deserved attention in the philosophy of sport, but perhaps now is the time to reflect on some implications and consequences. The discovery of mirror neurons may increase our insights about our ability to learn, understand, intend and produce skillful motor actions. In this article I will first examine what mirror neurons are and how they function in monkeys and humans. Second, I will review some objections to the so-called mirror neuron theory of action understanding, and respond to some of these objections. Third, I will inquire into some implications for philosophy, which I believe are also fundamental to several topics in the philosophy of sport. I will then try to relate some of the most interesting aspects of mirror neurons to recent debates by Birch (2009; 2011; 2016), Breivik (2007; 2014), Hopsicker (2009), and Moe (2005; 2007) on knowledge, skill, consciousness and intentionality. Finally, I will speculate on what further neuroscientific research might teach us about the nature of being a moving subject.




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