Embodiment and Human Nature

Embodiment and Human Nature


Embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind (in a way that the two always have to be considered together)

Cognitive science calls this entire philosophical world-view into serious question on empirical grounds... [the mind] arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experiences. This is not just the innocuous and obvious claim that we need a body to reason; rather, it is the striking claim that the very structure of reason itself comes from the details of our embodiment... Thus, to understand reason we must understand the details of our visual system, our motor system, and the general mechanism of neural binding. George Lakoff and Rafeal Núñez


4E Cognitive Science

  • Embodied
  • Embedded
  • Extended
  • Enactive approaches

Challenging the ways of conceptualizing ourselves(what it means to be human).

Dualism(Mind and body are distinct entities) was the norm. This is still the Manifest image(the way things appear to us) - even thought the scientific image has changed.

Earlier people were more concerned about the 'soul' - getting a good afterlife. But now the focus is more on the person - living well now. This happened after the European enlightenment.

Some New findings...

  • Mind is inherently Embodied
  • Most of thought is unconscious
  • Abstract concepts are metaphorically understood

Thinking and feeling are inextricably intertwined

Conceptual Metaphor Theory

  • Abstract concepts are metaphorically understood Eg. "Affection"(Abstract concept) is understood in terms of "warmth"(metaphor)
  • Image schema, the result of embodied experience, undergo metaphoric transformation.

Main claims...

  • meaning is a matter of embodied experience
    • Earlier meaning was thought of being unique to language
  • Bodily experience has a felt quality - making it inseparable from feeling and thought.

Self, Life and Development

Common Metaphors for 'Self'

  • Self as an object
    • It creates a distinction between the object and its properties.
    • So we attribute properties to the self - like reason, freedom, etc.
  • Self as a container: The notion of self fulfillment

Common Metaphors for 'Life'

  • Life as a Journey
    • Makes the destination very important

Impact of Metaphor Thinking

  • We overlook the metaphorical nature of our understanding
  • Create false equalancies
  • They hide some aspect and highlight others.
  • Our self image is more of a caricature(Daniel Wegner)

Making the Picture More accurate

  • Embodied approach lets us draw a more accurate picture.
  • Understand that we are thinking metaphorically
  • We need to find alternate metaphors for important concepts.

Absent Body

  • We experientially dwell a world of ideas, body is rarely the thematic object of experience(Drew Leader in The Absent Body)
  • Embodied approach says that these ideas are also grounded in bodily experience.

Making the body and world present

  • Practices such as mindfulness lets us revise the ideas of absent body or intuitive dualism.
  • Realizing that we are 'creatures of the world' as extended mind hypothesis hold.
  • Essence of many spiritual experiences it to realize oneself to be part of the all-encompassing whole.