Embodied Cognition and Consciousness: A Bestiary A. Claims 1. Our mental models or maps are more partial than we suppose. The partialness of our models is supplemented—and rendered hard to notice—by our interactions with the environment (e.g. visual saccades; keeping written records). It is possible to treat elements in the environment as supplementary parts of our representational models: i.e. perhaps our minds are extended outside our skulls. The most extreme version of this view is that there are no mental models or maps at all. 2. Our mental models or maps are more action-oriented than we suppose. For example, instead of creating an internal map of some geographical space, we represent landmarks and tie these representations to potential actions at these landmarks (e.g. ‘at this spot I can go left to get to the library, or right to enter the kitchen’). At one extreme, there are radically enactive views of cognition which equate perceptual content with sensory-motor knowledge: seeing is more like touching than depicting. 3. Some cognitive work is off-loaded onto our environment. What counts as mental computation extends outside the skull by utilizing environmental structures (e.g. playing Tetris or Scrabble, long multiplication, nautical slide rules). This has been called epistemic action. At the extreme, certain ways of thinking are not possible without embedding the organism into a particular sort of environment: cognition must, sometimes or always, be understood as taking place within a unit that includes both the organism and its environment. 4. Our mental models or maps are non-representational: they are not ‘mirrors of nature.’ This view can have various sources: a) ‘Neurophenomenology.’ The properties and categories our minds encode are not ‘read off’ from the external environment but are constructed through an interaction between the organism and its environment (e.g. colour properties). Thus our world is partially or completely a matter of ‘codependent arising’ rather than of representation. At the extreme end of this spectrum is the view that there is in principle no such thing as a representation of the world as it really is and hence, perhaps, there is no mind-independent reality. b) Neo-pragmatism. Representation does not occur in virtue of inner mental tokens standing in some intentional relation to the world: rather, representation is a matter of complex interactions between organisms and/or their social or material environments. Mentality is a matter of complex overt behaviour in a context, not inner coding. c) Anti-cognitivism. All or much of the ‘processing’ by sensory and motor systems does not involve the computational manipulation of representations, but instead consists in some sort of complex, mechanical interaction with the environment—e.g. the forces acting on a set of legs. And/or our cognitive architecture is—fundamentally, or thoroughly—‘associative’ or ‘pattern completing.’ 5. Our cognitive capacities and predispositions are strongly influenced by our embodiment (e.g. our relative size, our visual orientation and other facts about our sensory modalities, our bipedalism, our emotional makeup, and so on). The notion of ‘embodiment’ may include cultural as well as biological factors, such as facts about the natural languages we speak or theories we have inherited. At the extreme, our cognitive capacities are unavoidably fully determined by our embodiment. B. Evidence 1. Robotics: Distributed, autonomous and peripheral sensory and motor systems, rather than the activities of a ‘central processing unit,’ can ground cognition. 2. Developmental psychology: Brain, body, and local environment interact in complex ways to determine the early cognitive success of infants (e.g. learning to walk). 3. Evolutionary psychology: The evolutionary function of the brain is to be the real-time control system of the body; it is not ‘designed’ to be a tool for describing and explaining reality. 4. Psychology of perception: Phenomena such as change blindness and inattentional blindness show that perception is attention-dependent and active—i.e. it does not consist in the passive encoding of patterns from the environment. Dr. Andrew Bailey Philosophy Department University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada [email protected] www.uoguelph.ca/~abailey 5. Dynamical systems theory: Dynamical systems theory—which does not distinguish between the organism and its environment—is an explanatory framework for psychology that competes with cognitivism. C. Consciousness 1. The extended mind paradigm applies to cognition but not to phenomenal consciousness. It claims only that non-occurrent beliefs and memories are outside the skull. 2. The enactive mind paradigm calls into question the status of consciousness. It tends to treat conscious perceptual content as non-imagistic, and as either a motor skill or knowledge of possibilities for action. 3. The co-dependent arising approach suggests a phenomenological approach that denies any deep distinction or opposition between the physical and the phenomenal: the world is not separate from us, though it is prior to us. 4. Anti-representationalism in general tends mostly to be directed at the units of mental content, but scepticism about inner mental tokens has implications for consciousness. 5. The notion of epistemic action is not particularly relevant to phenomenal consciousness. 6. The embodiment paradigm has little to say on the question of consciousness: its implications are for concepts not phenomenality. Sample References • Beer, R.D. The dynamics of active categorical perception in an evolved model agent. Adaptive Behavior 11 (2003): 209–243. • Clark, A. Being There. MIT Press, 1997. • Clark, A., & Chalmers, D.J. The extended mind. Analysis 58 (1998):10– 23. • Brooks, R.A., Intelligence without representation. Artificial Intelligence 47 (1991): 139–159. • Kirsh, D. and Maglio, P. On distinguishing epistemic from pragmatic action. Cognitive Science 18 (1994): 513–549. • Noë, A. Action in Perception. MIT Press, 2005. • Simons, D.J., & Chabris, C.F. Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. Perception 28 (1999): 1059– 1074. • Simons D.J., and Rensink R.A. Change blindness: Past, present, and future. 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