Situated self-awareness in expert performance: a situated normativity account of riken no ken

Katsunori Miyahara*, Miguel Segundo-Ortin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We explore the nature of expert minds in skilled performance by examining classic Japanese dramatist Zeami’s account of skilled expertise in Noh drama. Zeami characterizes expert minds by the co-existence of mushin and riken no ken. Mushin (“no-mind”) is an empty state of mind devoid of mental contents. Riken no ken (“seeing with a separate seeing”) is a distinctive form of self-awareness, where the actor embodies a common perspective with the audience upon one’s own performance. Conventional accounts of riken no ken present it as a form of imagination: expert actors deliver their performance by imagining what it looks like from an external point of view. These imagination-based accounts, however, do not square well with the claim that riken no ken co-exists with mushin. We propose an alternative perception-based account that better accounts for this co-existence, drawing on the concept of “situated normativity” from embodied-ecological theories of cognition. The situated normativity account characterizes riken no ken as a form of “direct affective perception” in which actors are aware of their performance’s quality of attunement with the performative situation. Expert Noh actors realise a common perspective with the audience not by imagining an external point of view, but by perceiving the situation that encompasses their own performance from an aesthetic perspective cultivated and shared within the Noh community.

Original languageEnglish
Article number192
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Affordances
  • Expertise
  • Japanese philosophy
  • Mushin
  • Self-awareness
  • Situated normativity
  • Zeami


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