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Mind extended Frequent themes in embodied cognition suggest that: cognitive work is off-loaded onto the environment (‘ep PowerPoint Presentation
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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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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.
  • I examine three relations:
    • the implications of embodiment for the self;
    • the implications of embodiment for consciousness; and
    • the tension between these two.
  • I argue that the embodiment paradigm introduces a radical split between consciousness and the self, and that it does so by deflating our pre-theoretical instincts about consciousness and self in two different directions; however, I claim, what both these theoretical movements have in common is a scepticism about the notion of a psychological container defining a boundary between ‘inside’ and ‘outside.’

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:

  • The embodied cognition paradigm entails a radical distinction between cognition and phenomenality.
    • It is elements of cognition, not phenomenal consciousness, that are externalized;
    • Enactive theories of perception still require a ‘raw feel,’ though they locate perceptual content in an interaction between organism and environment. E.g. colour properties are neither objective nor subjective, hence the colours we experience are not ‘in the world.’

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).

  • Consciousness and the self
  • The embodiment paradigm thus generates the following tension:
    • The stream of consciousness is located within the boundaries of the organism.
    • The self (and its memories, beliefs, personality traits, etc.) is not located within the boundaries of the organism.

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:

  • de-reifies the self as an entity;
  • smears the self across the boundary between organism and environment.

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.’

Mind uncontained?

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.

  • Mind extended

Frequent themes in embodied cognition suggest that:

    • cognitive work is off-loaded onto the environment (‘epistemic action’);
    • the environment ‘is its own model’;
    • cognition is ‘enactive’ rather than representational.

Andrew Bailey

Philosophy Department

University of Guelph

Guelph, Ontario

N1G 2W1, Canada

abailey@uoguelph.ca

www.uoguelph.ca/~abailey