Mindshaping, Enactivism, and Ideological Oppression
Oct. 7, 2021, 4:30 p.m. UTC // Oct. 7, 2021, 4:30 p.m. in UTC
One of humans’ distinctive cognitive abilities is that they develop an array of capacities through an enculturation process. In “Cognition as a Social Skill,” Sally Haslanger (2019) points to one of the dangers associated with enculturation: ideological oppression. To conceptualize how such oppression takes root, Haslanager appeals to notions of mindshaping and social coordination, whereby people participate in oppressive social practices unthinkingly or even willingly. Arguably, an appeal to mindshaping provides a new kind of argument, grounded in philosophy of mind, which supports the claims that feminist and anti-racist want to defend. However, some theorists worry that Haslanger’s account does not shed much light on how individuals could exert their agency to resist oppression. I argue that enactivist conceptions of mindshaping and habit can help us to make sense of the power of social influences and how they have the potential to both enable and undermine cognition and agency. This moves us toward increased understanding of the workings of social oppression—distinguishing between (a) constructive and enabling forms of heteronomy, and (b) overdetermining and pernicious modes that lead to atrophied moral cognition and a narrowing of the field of affordances.