Consciousness and the embodied self


Abstract
This paper 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. There has been a recent wave of interest within cognitive science in the paradigm variously called ‘embodied,’ ‘extended,’ ‘situated’ or ‘distributed’ cognition. Although ideas applied in the embodied cognition research program can be traced back to the work of Heidegger, Piaget, Vygotsky, Merleau-Ponty, and Dewey, the current thesis can be seen as a direct response and, in some cases, a proposed alternative to the cognitivist/classicist rule-based, information-processing model of cognition. Embodied cognition, by contrast, arises from real-time, goal-oriented bodily interactions with the world. I lay out three relations: the implications of embodiment for consciousness; the implications of embodiment for the self; 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.’ (203 words).
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