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Consciousness and the Embodied Self. Abstract This presentation deals with the relationship between the embodied cognition paradigm and two sets of its implications: its implications for the ontology of selves, and its implications for the nature and extent of phenomenal consciousness.
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Embodiment and consciousness
What is embodied cognition?
Variously called ‘embodied,’ ‘extended,’ ‘situated’ or ‘distributed’ cognition, this paradigm can be seen as a direct response to the cognitivist / classicist view of the mind.
Cognitivism is a rule-based, information-processing model of cognition that:
1) characterizes problem-solving in terms of inputs and outputs,
2) assumes the existence of symbolic, encoded representations that enable the system to devise a solution by means of computation, and
3) maintains that cognition can be understood by focusing primarily on an organism’s internal cognitive processes (i.e., specifically those involving computation and representation).
We intuitively equate ourselves with our own consciousness, but this intuition cannot survive the move to embodiment.
Embodiment and the self
The embodied cognition paradigm:
By contrast, work in embodied cognition asserts that cognition arises from—or is enacted by—real-time, goal-oriented bodily interactions with the world. The manner in which organisms are embodied constrains or determines their cognition; on-line cognition is situated and possibly off-loaded onto the environment; and it may be that off-line cognition is also body-based.
E.g. non-occurrent memories located externally; perception arising out of enactive interaction between organism and environment; self as a ‘centre of narrative gravity.’
Externalism about the self and non-phenomenal cognition come from a shared source: scepticism about the notion that mentality consists of objects/states plus a container. The self is not a container for thoughts and traits; cognition is not a process internal to the organism but loops between organism and its environment.
It is phenomenal consciousness that fits uncomfortably with this new paradigm: it is structured as states of an internal medium.
Frequent themes in embodied cognition suggest that:
University of Guelph
N1G 2W1, Canada