On my daily train commute into Boston I was asked by another regular commuter what book I was reading – I showed him Adams’ & Aizawa’s The Bounds of Cognition. After reading the dust jacket blurb he then gave a surprisingly detailed “man on the Clapham omnibus” account of what he took to be “the body thinking”. Well it transpired that the notion of embodied cognition made it into The Globe this week. As one would expect the piece does not survey the critical landscape. So for anyone whose interest has been pricked by the notion of embodied cognition and a raft of related theses, I would urge you to read Adam’s & Aizawa on the grounds that they offer the most sustained critique of the “extended mind” literature currently on offer. Furthermore, they write with such clarity as to afford the novice every chance of coming to grips with the central arguments (for and against) in a burgeoning field.
I’m not out of sympathy with the DEEDS literature, a literature denoting a loose and internally fluid philosophical and empirical coalition comprising the Dynamical-, Embodied-, Extended-, Distributed-, and Situated- approaches to knowledge and cognition – and that takes inspiration from the anti-Cartesian titans such as Heidegger, Vygotsky, and Merleau-Ponty. As an acronym, DEEDS appropriately emphasizes the “doing,” the lived and contextualized experience of the particular, human experience’s most present condition. This said, I see no methodological profit whatsoever to throwing out the Cartesian baby along with the bath water – I, for one, am seeking to negotiate the polarities that suggest:
(a) mental states are somewhere other than in the head; or that,
(b) what is outside the head has nothing to do with what ends up in the head.
The Adams & Aizawa book is a long overdue and welcome corrective to the discussion in this field.