Another look at intentions: a response to Raphael van Riel "On how we perceive the social world"
In dealing with questions about social cognition it is certainly possible to work on different levels of description or explanation. Neuroscience, for example, wants to explain how neuronal activation in various areas of the brain can account for our ability to understand others. Phenomenology aims to give an account of what our experience of the other person is actually like. I think that these two accounts can complement each other to provide a fuller description of our capacities for social cognition and interaction. It is also possible to make the story more complex by introducing an additional level of sub-personal functionalist models. I view such functionalist models as interpretations that ultimately need to be cashed out in terms of neuronal activity. At the same time, however, I consider neuroscientific (together with functionalist) accounts to be incomplete since the system that we are trying to explain is not reducible to what is happening in the brain. I am in this regard an anti-reductionist; I think scientific accounts have to include reference to bodies and environments and not just brains or minds.