Hanne De Jaegher

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I’m a philosopher of mind and cognitive science.

My very first interest was in what thinking is and how it works. Early on, I realised that for understanding this, I needed to investigate how we think and play together.

Now, I investigate the connections between how we interact, how we understand each other, how we understand the world (together), and who we are.

Broadly, I study the role of social interaction processes in subjectivity and intersubjectivity.

For doing this, I have proposed the concept of participatory sense-making. This is also the name of the enactive approach to intersubjectivity that I’m developing, which connects the interpersonal coordination of movements (including speech) in interaction with the coordination of sense-making activities.

Putting the interaction process at the centre of the study of social understanding entails a detailed and focused examination of it. This is being done in the social sciences (interaction studies, conversation analysis, context analysis, etc.), but it is a new idea in philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences. One pillar of this work is the investigation of individual sense-making, which is the immersed and meaningful engagement of self-organizing and self-maintaining agents with their environment. If we think of how interaction influences sense-making, this has implications for how we think of individuals as well.

I also apply the idea of participatory sense-making to autism, initially to have a testbed for my ideas, but eventually I would like to see what the idea can mean for diagnosis and ‘intervention’ (I’d rather think of it as integration and establishing more mutual understanding).

This work is inherently interdisciplinary. Even though most of my work to date is theoretical, I draw on empirical research from disciplines ranging from anthropology and linguistics, over evolutionary robotics, minimal systems research, developmental, experimental and clinical psychology, to psychiatry, philosophy, and neuroscience.

I am doing a lot of this work together with Ezequiel Di Paolo, and with others. For a view on the development of participatory sense-making, take a look here.