20 years after The Embodied Mind - why is cognitivism alive and kicking?

In Blay Whitby & Joel Parthmore (eds.), Re-Conceptualizing Mental "Illness": The View from Enactivist Philosophy and Cognitive Science - AISB Convention 2013. AISB. pp. 47-49 (2013)
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Abstract

I want to suggest that the major influence of classical arguments for embodiment like "The Embodied Mind" by Varela, Thomson & Rosch (1991) has been a changing of positions rather than a refutation: Cognitivism has found ways to retreat and regroup at positions that have better fortification, especially when it concerns theses about artificial intelligence or artificial cognitive systems. For example: a) Agent-based cognitivism' that understands humans as taking in representations of the world, doing rule-based processing and then acting on them (sense-plan-act) is often limited to conscious decision processes; and b) Purely syntactic cognition is compatible with embodiment, or supplemented by embodiment (e.g. for 'grounding'). While the empirical thesis of embodied cognition ('embodied cognitive science') is true and the practical engineering thesis ('morphological computation', 'cheap design') is often true, the conceptual thesis ('embodiment is necessary for cognition') is likely false - syntax is often enough for cognition, unless grounding is really necessary. I conclude that it has become more sensible to integrate embodiment with traditional approaches rather than "fight for embodiment" or "against cognitivism".

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Vincent C. Müller
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

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