The sensorimotor theory is remarkable in that it is an unusual case where philosophy has actually propelled scientific advances (here, in color, sensory substitution, change blindness, and robotics). For this reason the Philosophical Workpackage must be considered the veritable cornerstone of the FEEL project. Its role will be to ensure conceptual clarity, coherence and consistency in the whole project. Before further advances are attempted in the theory, we must place it properly into relation with other philosophical approaches to consciousness, and we must treat theoretical questions which remain unsettled.
The project: consolidating and advancing the sensorimotor theory
1. Placing the sensorimotor theory in perspective
The sensorimotor theory has been very criticized and therefore there is a urgent need for clarification in order to make it more readable to philosophers.
There is a growing body of work on enactive and embodied cognition, which is often associated to the sensorimotor theory, although slight differences remain. The sensorimotor theory also resembles the “Higher Order Thought” theories of consciousness — e.g. (Rosenthal, 2004; Carruthers, 2011). It is important to elucidate and evaluate these critical differences in a philosophical investigation to determine whether the sensorimotor theory should have a different status.
2. Philosophical questions and developments within the theory
The sensorimotor theory gives a convincing account of the sensory quality of touch and vision, but work has to be done to apply it seriously to other modalities like hearing, smell and taste, as well as proprioception and the vestibular sense, which, although they are not counted among the five classic senses, still make us aware of our limb positions and our body posture, thus providing a “feel”.
3. More ambitious goals
In addition to the above questions, more ambitious and far-reaching extensions of the sensorimotor theory will be envisaged in relation to pain and emotions.