Functionalism and Embodied, Embedded Mind - The Extended Story

In “The Mind Incarnate” Shapiro argues that research in the area of embodied, embedded mind and cognition undermines a functionalist program. In contrast Clark, in “Pressing the Flesh”, argues that embodied, embedded approaches can be viewed as extended functionalistic approaches. In the light of these arguments my thesis is devoted to elucidating the logical relation between functionalism and embodied, embedded approaches. I argue that the functionalist programme is not undermined by embodied and embedded approaches. Shapiro argues that research of embodied, embedded cognition and mind shows that characteristics of embodiment determine characteristics of mind. I label this view the body-detail model. The consequence of this model is that the very same kind of mind cannot exist in bodies with different characteristics. Thus, having a humanlike mind requires a humanlike body. This conflicts with abstract versions of functionalism that endorse multiple realization: the idea that the same mind can exist in different kinds of bodies. I argue against the body-detail model, demonstrating that for each of the research projects presented by Shapiro the strong reading that one has to have a humanlike body to have a human mind is not justified. This paves the way for an alternative reading, represented by Clark, under which the body is recognized as being part of a larger system which overall operating profile determines mind. Arguments for this position involve argumentative extensions of functionalism. On this basis I conclude that functionalism is not undermined by embodied, embedded approaches.
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