Mind embodied and embedded

In Yu-Houng H. Houng & J. Ho (eds.), Mind and Cognition: 1993 International Symposium. Academica Sinica. pp. 233-267 (1993)
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1 INTIMACY Among Descartes's most and consequential achievements has been his of the mental as an independent ontological domain. By taking the mind as a substance, with cognitions as its modes, he accorded them a status as self-standing and determinate on their own, without essential regard to other entities. Only with this metaphysical conception in place, could the idea of solipsism-the idea of an intact ego existing with nothing else in the universe-so much as make sense. And behind that engine have trailed the sorry boxcars of hyperbolic doubt. the mind-body problem, the problem of the external world, the problem of other minds, and so on. Although the assumptions have been under fire, off and on. at least since Hegel-including with renewed intensity in recent years … the Cartesian separation that is still so pervasive as to be almost invisible. In particular, inter-relationist accounts retain a principled distinction between the mental and the corporeal-a distinction that is reflected in contrasts like semantics versus syntax, the space of reasons versus the space of causes, or the intentional versus the physical. (Notice that each of these contrasts can be heard either as higher versus lower’ level" or as inner versus outer 'sphere‘.) The contrary of this separation-or battery of separations-is not inter-relationist holism but something that I would like to call the intimacy of the mind's embodiment and embeddedness in the world. The term 'intimacy' is meant to suggest more than just necessary interrelation or interdependence but a kind of commingling or integralness of mind, body,and world-that is, to undermine their very distinctness. The challenge is as much to spell out what this could mean as to make a case for it. Indeed, no sooner does such a possibility seem intelligible at all, than ways bring out its plausibility and significance turn up everywhere. There is little original in what follows. The strategy will be to bring some well known principles of systems analysis to bear on the mind- body-world 'system' in a way that refocuses questions of division and unity, and then to canvas a selection of investigations and proposals - some fairly recent, others not-in the light of this new focus. The hope is that these superficially disparate ideas, none of them new, will seem to converge around the theme of intimacy in a way that illuminates and supports them all. Sorting and and aligning issues in this manner has sometimes been discussed under titles like 'embedded computation’ and 'situated cognition'.



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