Embodied Minds in Action

Embodied cognition
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The upshot is that we are essentially minded animals who help to create the natural world through our own agency.

This doctrine--the Essential Embodiment Theory--is a truly radical idea which subverts the traditionally opposed and seemingly exhaustive categories of Dualism and Materialism, and offers a new paradigm for contemporary mainstream research in the philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience. Causal Theory of Action in Philosophy of Action. Edit this record. Mark as duplicate.


Find it on Scholar. Request removal from index. Revision history. Google Books no proxy arrow. Configure custom resolver. Kantian Non-Conceptualism. Robert Hanna - - Philosophical Studies 1 - Carl B. Neuropragmatism, Knowledge, and Pragmatic Naturalism. John Shook - - Human Affairs 23 4 Embodiment and the Perceptual Hypothesis. William E. Varela, Thompson, and Rosch introduced the concept of enaction to present and develop a framework that places strong emphasis on the idea that the experienced world is portrayed and determined by mutual interactions between the physiology of the organism, its sensorimotor circuit and the environment.

Their emphasis on the structural coupling of brain-body-world constitutes the kernel of their program of embodied cognition, building on the classical phenomenological idea that cognitive agents bring forth a world by means of the activity of their situated living bodies. One implication of this view is that only a creature with certain features—e. This is because cognition is a dynamic sensorimotor activity, and the world that is given and experienced is not only conditioned by the neural activity of the subject, but is essentially enacted in that it emerges through the bodily activities of the organism.

This general approach encourages a view of enaction as essentially distinct from computation, as it is traditionally conceived. Varela, Thompson, and Rosch's most detailed illustration of their perspective is contained in their discussion of color experience and categorization, a discussion that received much attention in other venues e. One variant, branded autopoietic enactivism, has developed in particular the biological phenomenon of autopoiesis and attributed to it a central role in explaining fundamental properties of our mental life Maturana and Varela ; Thompson ; Di Paolo and Thompson The notion of autopoiesis describes living systems as active, adaptive, self-maintaining and self-individuating, that is, as having the property of self-reproducing through self-regulating strategies.

In sum, although these respective varieties are broadly consonant, they come to emphasize different features, and internal tensions motivated a widen fragmentation and various forms of elaboration and extension.

Embodied Minds in Action

One such reason concerns the role ascribed to the notion of autopoiesis. A further reason for disagreement concerns the rendering of the claim that perceptual experience requires mediating know-how. Whereas sensorimotor enactivism advocates that perceptual experience is made possible by the possession and skillful exercise of practical knowledge of sensorimotor contingencies, the other variants consider the talk of mediating knowledge as a brand of cognitivism Hutto and Myin , somewhat consistent with the theory of mind that grounds traditional cognitive science.

In its radical expression, the enactive thinking maintains that mentality is to be explained in terms of direct environment-involving embodied engagements. By the early s, work in computational intelligence had started to explore ways of generating intelligent action in robots that shortly became known as the embodied approach to robotics.

In a pair of papers Rodney Brooks a, b had presented a general and accessible overview of a new kind of intelligent computational architecture, subsumption architecture, that was representation-lite and world-driven. Together with computational work by Agre and Chapman and Suchman , Brooks's approach suggested a view of computational intelligence in which control was governed bottom-up by behavior and interaction with the world, rather than by plentiful and often complicated internal algorithms and representations. The sweep of work in reactive or behavior-based robotics, and its identification as marking a part of the embodied cognitive science, was heralded in Andy Clark's Being There: Putting Mind, World, and Body Back Together Clark here provided an integrative framework for a wide-range of emerging work on embodiment in the cognitive sciences.

The big idea in Being There , one with lasting impact in embodied cognitive science, is that minds are not for thinking, traditionally conceived, but for doing , for getting things done in the world in real time. Clark drew out affinities between this shift in the conception of intelligent action in computational systems and the emergence of the idea that cognition was scaffolded, embedded, and extended.

The work we have briefly recounted so far all concerns what we called cognition in the narrow sense, processes like human memory, categorization, and language processing Lakoff and Johnson , human and nonhuman color categorization Varela, Thompson, and Rosch , and decision-making and planning in robots and robotic systems Clark. But embodied cognitive science aims to encompass cognition broadly construed.

To convey the flavor of early work here, we briefly consider the work of James Gibson on perception, and Esther Thelen and Linda Smith on infant walking and reaching behaviors cf.

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Shapiro James Gibson's account of vision challenged the idea that the central problem that the visual system has to solve is how to reconstruct a full-blown, three-dimensional world from the information specified in the two-dimensional image on the retina. That idea has been prominent in traditional, information processing views of vision, including those of Rock , , Richard Gregory and Marr Gibson thinks that this is not a problem the visual system faces because vision does not begin with a static retinal array but with an organism actively moving through a visually rich environment.

Gibson's positive approach to vision was to attempt to specify this richness, the information in what he called the ambient optic array , especially invariants in that array, which can be used to distinguish agent-dependent and objective features of one's environment.

Surfing uncertainty: prediction, action, and the embodied mind

By both emphasizing the role of the movement of a perceiver and the integration of that perceiver in a larger, visually rich environment, Gibson has been championed as at least a nascent proponent of embodied vision see also Wilson ch. Esther Thelen and Linda Smith offered a radical challenge to traditional nativist views of cognitive development by applying dynamical systems theory to developmental psychology.

One important implication of dynamical systems theory is that systems can generate novel behaviors e. Raising fundamental questions about shared assumptions in the field, they argued that the stepping behavior in infants is not driven by maturational processes somehow determined by a hard-wired genetic code, but results instead from the interaction between the infant's initial spontaneous limb movements and changing contexts. Thus, they viewed this particular aspect of development as an emergent and self organizing product of many decentralized and local interactions taking place in real time, with the promise of generalizing this approach to cognitive development more generally.

Original Research ARTICLE

Finally by way of recent historical anchoring, the idea that an understanding of the body underpins the very possibility of experience has roots in the phenomenological works of Edmund Husserl , , Maurice Merleau-Ponty , and Jean-Paul Sartre , roots we saw acknowledged by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch in The Embodied Mind. This earlier continental tradition was explored constructively early on within artificial intelligence, with special reference to Heidegger, by Winograd and Flores and also formed the backdrop to Dreyfus's classic critique of traditional computationalism.

Embodied cognitive science pushes phenomenological accounts in new directions. It seeks not so much to understand how physicality opens up the experience of the self, the world and the others, but rather aims to specify the mechanisms that explain just how cognition is grounded in, and deeply constrained by, the bodily nature of cognitive agency.

We shall not explore the convergence between the early phenomenological tradition and embodied cognitive science, although we recognize that phenomenological insights can be an indispensable resource for the ongoing investigation of consciousness, self-consciousness, action and intersubjectivity see Gallagher ; Gallagher and Zahavi ; Thompson ; Gallagher ; Wheeler The general characterization of embodied cognition with which we began provides the basis for what we will call the Embodiment Thesis:.

All five of the early examples of work in embodied cognition that we briefly summarized in Section 2 accept the Embodiment Thesis. The working hypothesis of embodied cognitive science is that this thesis is true either because of the significant causal or the significant physically constitutive role of the body in cognitive processing.

Proponents of embodied cognitive science have advocated both the causal and the constitutive claim about the role of the body in cognition. While the ascription of a physically constitutive role to the body in cognition has been taken to challenge traditional cognitive science in a more radical way than does that of a merely significant causal role to it, both versions of the Embodiment Thesis mark a departure from views of the mind dominant in traditional cognitive science.

Rather than following those who attempt to explain embodied cognition by appeal to the metaphor of grounding e. Shapiro , ; A. Clark ; Thompson ; Wheeler ; Anderson ; M. Wilson At the most general level, there are three such distinct functions or roles, each with its own implications for embodied cognitive science. The body can function as a constraint on cognition, as a distributor for cognitive processing, or as a regulator of cognitive activity. We can specify each of these functions or roles more precisely, and draw attention to the distinctive implications that each has, and the work already described that appeals to each of these conceptions of the Embodiment Thesis.

Amongst the alleged implications of the Body as Constraint thesis are two we would like to draw attention to:. The work of Lakoff and Johnson on the permeation of cognition by metaphor, and that of Varela, Thompson, and Rosch on enactive cognition especially in the domain of color perception and categorization , both exemplify the Body as Constraint thesis. Unlike the role of the body in the Body as Constraint thesis, here the body is taken as sharing in cognitive processing itself, serving to distribute cognitive tasks between brain and body.

The Body as Distributor thesis has three putative implications worth making explicit:. As these implications should suggest, it is Body as Distributor that is in play for those who take embodied cognition to challenge traditional views of mental representation Gibson and Thelen and Smith ; see also Glenberg on memory; Shapiro and Wilson ch. The appeal to morphological computation MacIver , whereby properties of anatomical structures such as the shape of bats ears play a computational role in a cognitive process such as echolocation , also relies on the Body as Distributor thesis.

And in subsuming both an agent's bodily structures as well as aspects of its environment as forms of non-neural structures, the Body as Distributor thesis draws a connection between embodied cognition and versions of the extended mind thesis that appeal to concepts such as realization and scaffolding Wilson and Clark ; R. Wilson ch.

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In Embodied Minds in Action, Robert Hanna and Michelle Maiese work out a unified treatment of three fundamental philosophical problems: the mind-body. Embodied Minds in Action This page intentionally left blank Embodied Minds in Action Robert Hanna and Michelle Maiese 1 1 Great Clarendon Street, Oxford.

Clark We distinguish this version of the Embodiment Thesis from the Body as Distributor thesis because of distinctive supposed implications that ascribing a regulative role to the body in cognition has. These include:. Here the body has a feedback-driven role in cognitive processing, and the Body as Regulator thesis has been especially prominent in dynamic approaches to cognition e. To summarize this section: we have distinguished three ways to articulate the Embodied Cognition Thesis, each specifying a particular way in which cognition depends on the body.

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Put more positively and we think informatively , there are three distinctive functions or roles for the body that embodied cognitive science might ascribe: as a constraint on cognition, as a distributor for cognitive processing, and as a real-time regulator of cognitive activity.

Such determinate forms of the Embodiment Thesis can ascribe the body either a significant causal role, or a physically constitutive role, in cognition. In this section, we explore the revolutionary promise of embodied cognitive science with respect to three standard topics in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science: the modularity of mind, the nature of mental representation, and nativism.

For alternative views of situated cognition and modularity, representation, and nativism, see Bechtel ; Rowlands ; and Rupert a.

Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind - Oxford Scholarship

We begin with some general, putative contrasts between traditional and embodied cognitive science. Traditional views have tended to assume the existence of discrete, internal representations realized by underlying, sharply distinct and highly specified mechanisms in the brain. These mechanisms, in turn, have been shaped by natural selection and encoded in genetic structures.