Is the brain the biological substrate of consciousness? Most naturalistic philosophers of mind have supposed that the answer must obviously be «yes » to this question. However, a growing number of philosophers working in 4e (embodied, embedded, extended, enactive) cognitive science have begun to challenge this assumption, arguing instead that consciousness supervenes on the whole embodied animal in dynamic interaction with the environment. We call views that share this claim dynamic sensorimotor theories of consciousness (DSM). Clark (2009) a founder and (...) leading proponent of the hypothesis of the extended mind, demurs, arguing that as matter of fact the biology of consciousness doesn’t allow for a brain, body and world boundary crossing architecture. We begin by looking at one of the arguments for DSM, the variable neural correlates argument. We then outline two criticisms that Clark has made of this argument and endorse his criticisms. However we finish up by using the case of sensory substitution to argue that something of this argument for DSM nevertheless survives. We suggest that Clark ought to concede sensory substitution as a case in which the conscious mind extends. (shrink)
Sensory substitution devices are a type of sensory prosthesis that (typically) convert visual stimuli transduced by a camera into tactile or auditory stimulation. They are designed to be used by people with impaired vision so that they can recover some of the functions normally subserved by vision. In this chapter we will consider what philosophers might learn about the nature of the senses from the neuroscience of sensory substitution. We will show how sensory substitution devices work by exploiting the cross-modal (...) plasticity of sensory cortex: the ability of sensory cortex to pick up some types of information about the external environment irrespective of the nature of the sensory inputs it is processing. We explore the implications of cross-modal plasticity for theories of the senses that attempt to make distinctions between the senses on the basis of neurobiology. (shrink)
There is substantial disagreement among philosophers of embodied cognitive science about the meaning of embodiment. In what follows, I describe three different views that can be found in the current literature. I show how this debate centers around the question of whether the science of embodied cognition can retain the computer theory of mind. One view, which I will label body functionalism, takes the body to play the functional role of linking external resources for problem solving with internal biological machinery. (...) Embodiment is thus understood in terms of the role the body plays in supporting the computational circuits that realize cognition. Body enactivism argues by contrast that no computational account of cognition can account for the role of commonsense knowledge in our everyday practical engagement with the world. I will attempt a reconciliation of these seemingly opposed views. (shrink)
The standard view in philosophy and psychology claims that mentalizing is necessary and sufficient for social understanding. Mentalizing (also known as “mindreading”) is the name given to the cognitive capacities humans employ in explaining and predicting their own and other’s actions. The standard view is rejected by philosophers working in the phenomenological tradition. They have argued that mentalizing is neither necessary nor sufficient for social understanding. They suggest instead that most of the time we understand each other through what Shaun (...) Gallagher has called “embodied practices.” My aim in this paper is to clarify and defend the claim that social understanding is grounded in embodied practice. (shrink)
We offer an argument for the extended mind based on considerations from brain development. We argue that our brains develop to function in partnership with cognitive resources located in our external environments. Through our cultural upbringing we are trained to use artefacts in problem solving that become factored into the cognitive routines our brains support. Our brains literally grow to work in close partnership with resources we regularly and reliably interact with. We take this argument to be in line with (...) complementarity or “second-wave” defences of the extended mind that stress the functional differences between biological elements and external, environmental resources in putative cases of extended cognition. Complementarity defences argue that many of the kinds of cognition humans excel at can only be accomplished by brains working together with a body that directly manipulates and acts on the world [Rowlands (1999); Menary (2007); Sutton (2010)]. We argue that complementarity and functionalist defences of the extended mind aren’t opposed, but that complementarity considerations can provide much needed and hitherto under exploited leverage in defending EMT. Moreover, the developmental work we will describe adds extra weight to the complementarity case for EMT. (shrink)
Our perceptual experiences stretch across time to present us with movement, persistence and change. How is this possible given that perceptual experiences take place in the present that has no duration? In this paper I argue that this problem is one and the same as the problem of accounting for how our experiences occurring at different times can be phenomenally unified over time so that events occurring at different times can be experienced together. Any adequate account of temporal experience must (...) also account for phenomenal unity. I look to Edmund Husserl's writings on time consciousness for such an account. (shrink)
The SIMS model claims that it is by means of an embodied simulation that we determine the meaning of an observed smile. This suggests that crucial interpretative work is done in the mapping that takes us from a perceived smile to the activation of one's own facial musculature. How is this mapping achieved? Might it depend upon a prior interpretation arrived at on the basis of perceptual and contextual information?
This paper contrasts two enactive theories of visual experience: the sensorimotor theory (O’Regan and Noë, Behav Brain Sci 24(5):939–1031, 2001; Noë and O’Regan, Vision and mind, 2002; Noë, Action in perception, 2004) and Susan Hurley’s (Consciousness in action, 1998, Synthese 129:3–40, 2001) theory of active perception. We criticise the sensorimotor theory for its commitment to a distinction between mere sensorimotor behaviour and cognition. This is a distinction that is firmly rejected by Hurley. Hurley argues that personal level cognitive abilities emerge (...) out of a complex dynamic feedback system at the subpersonal level. Moreover reflection on the role of eye movements in visual perception establishes a further sense in which a distinction between sensorimotor behaviour and cognition cannot be sustained. The sensorimotor theory has recently come under critical fire (see e.g. Block, J Philos CII(5):259–272, 2005; Prinz, Psyche, 12(1):1–19, 2006; Aizawa, J Philos CIV(1), 2007) for mistaking a merely causal contribution of action to perception for a constitutive contribution. We further argue that the sensorimotor theory is particularly vulnerable to this objection in a way that Hurley’s active perception theory is not. This presents an additional reason for preferring Hurley’s theory as providing a conceptual framework for the enactive programme. (shrink)
Scepticism about the possibility of machine consciousness comes in at least two forms. Some argue that our neurobiology is special, and only something sharing our neurobiology could be a subject of experience. Others argue that a machine couldn't be anything else but a zombie: there could never be something it is like to be a machine. I advance a dynamic sensorimotor account of consciousness which argues against both these varieties of scepticism.