The Brain's Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics
I Feel Your Pain
Mirror neuron research seeks to explain the human capacity for intersubjectivity and empathy in terms of automatic, neurophysiological processes that occur before higher-level cognition or propositional thinking. By comparing multiple accounts of mirror neurons, this chapter shows how the dominant thesis leans heavily on a set of claims about human embodiment: that human bodies have shared motor schema, similar relations to objects, and shared phenomenological experiences of the world, all of which facilitate the automatic transfer of intersubjective information about what the other is intending or feeling. A grave example of racism and police violence is used to underscore the need to address theory of mind failures and their relation to material-semiotic processes, and to insist that embodiment is not inherently unifying.