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Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1751-4193
  • E-ISSN: 1751-4207


This article explores and proposes a model of hearing based upon an emergent line of thought known as the ‘enactive’ or ‘embodied cognition’ approach. This approach views the various modes of perception (sight, hearing, etc.) as styles of relating rather than processes carried out in the brain. Put another way, these approaches envision experience as constituted by embodied, perceptual relationships to the world. According to the phenomenological perspective of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, every self is constituted by perceptual, embodied relations within a lifeworld. For Merleau-Ponty, and for scholars like Francisco Varela, Alva Noë and Shaun Gallagher, this is no metaphor. It is a material description of the ordinary and everyday relations that constitute our selves in the world. As Noë reports, breakthroughs in neuroanatomical and neuropsychological research methods have led to considerable excitement and energy being poured into cognitive studies. It is thought that by these means we might even be able to ‘see’ consciousness at work. Yet Noë is highly sceptical of this ambition because an ‘explanatory gap’ remains between the data (images of brain activity, etc.) and true understanding of perceptual experience. Working from this critique, Noë and Kevin O’Regan have argued convincingly for a sensory-motor account of vision and consciousness. Currently, there is virtually nothing written on the possibilities for an enactive model of hearing. Therefore, my goal in this article is to initiate a sketch of such a model. I contend that this alternative approach may prove to be very enlightening with respect to studies of film and television reception, which otherwise tend not to notice the meaning-making activities of the body.


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