How the Body Shapes the Mind


This book contributes to the idea that to have an understanding of the mind, consciousness, or cognition, a detailed scientific and phenomenological understanding of the body is essential. There is still a need to develop a common vocabulary that is capable of integrating discussions of brain mechanisms in neuroscience, behavioral expressions in psychology, design concerns in artificial intelligence and robotics, and debates about embodied experience in the phenomenology and philosophy of mind. This book helps to formulate this common vocabulary by developing a conceptual framework that avoids both the overly reductionistic approaches that explain everything in terms of bottom-up neuronal mechanisms, and the inflationistic approaches that explain everything in terms of Cartesian, top-down cognitive states. Through discussions of neonate imitation, the Molyneux problem, gesture, self-awareness, free will, social cognition and intersubjectivity, as well as pathologies such as deafferentation, unilateral neglect, phantom limb, autism and schizophrenia, the book proposes to remap the conceptual landscape by revitalizing the concepts of body image and body schema, proprioception, ecological experience, intermodal perception, and enactive concepts of ownership and agency for action. Informed by both philosophical theory and scientific evidence, it addresses two basic sets of questions that concern the structure of embodied experience. First, questions about the phenomenal aspects of that structure, specifically the relatively regular and constant phenomenal features found in the content of experience. Second, questions about aspects of the structure of consciousness that are more hidden, those that may be more difficult to get at because they happen before one knows it, and do not normally enter into the phenomenal content of experience in an explicit way.

Publication Title

How the Body Shapes the Mind