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4 - The Phenomenology of Cognitive Evolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 November 2021

Piki Ish-Shalom
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Markus Kornprobst
University of Vienna
Vincent Pouliot
McGill University, Montréal
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Emanuel Adler’s theory of cognitive evolution lacks an explicit phenomenology. I provide one here, drawing upon the philosophy of John Dewey and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A phenomenological elaboration of cognitive evolution theory speaks directly to a number of conversations in the field of IR: those on microfoundations, on ontological security, and on materiality. For all three, phenomenology connects the impetus and feedback effects of experience, as a driver and outcome of action, to the ways practices transform. For microfoundations, it provides the causal beginning and end of a period of change. For ontological security, it “institutionalises” sensation by explicating its role within social relations. For materiality, it fixes the mechanisms of cognitive evolution within their physical context – a field of bodies in motion and of intentional stances. I finally offer some remarks on the normative implications of a phenomenological addition to Adler’s existing approach, and suggest that it provides an important language for the evaluation of orders and a foundation for a cosmopolitan ethos in international politics. I conclude on a speculative note, considering what the phenomenology of cognitive evolution might explain about the recent epistemic fracturing of political discourse into a state of “post-truth.”

Theorizing World Orders
Cognitive Evolution and Beyond
, pp. 81 - 106
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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