This from the latest issue of Neuroethics December 2013, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp. 593-605.
At the beginning of this year Evan Thompson whose thinking has been very influential upon me gave this lecture. Bumping into Evan the other day reminded me of the forthcoming book he mentioned then, which upon its publication, I’ll have reviewed in The Journal of Mind and Behavior where his superb Mind in Life was reviewed by Dorothée Legrand. Anyway, Evan has posted some details of the new book on his website including the introduction and the toc. I also notice that Evan’s co-authored classic The Embodied Mind is being reissued.
The central idea of this book is that the self is a process, not a thing or an entity. The self isn’t something outside experience, hidden either in the brain or in some immaterial realm. The self is an experiential process and it’s subject to constant change. We enact a self in the process of awareness and this self comes and goes depending on how we are aware.
The world of Wing Chun has lost one of its greats. Sifu was a very modest man and averse to any form of self-promotion. I feel privileged to have been a student of his – his style was marked by great precision and any lack of artifice. He always brought a smile to my face in class when employing some amusing (at least to me) analogy to try and get a point across.
Dr. G.K. Khoe was a slender very fit Chinese who was brought up in Indonesia. He was on a one year sabbatical leave from a Dutch University to do some chemical engineering research at UBC. His strong scientific background put an engineering perspective on all that he taught. He mentioned that the traditional teaching from his teacher Wong Kiu (often written Wang Kiu) was not quite as organized but Wong Kiu allowed him to ask thousands of questions to bring all the details of the art. Wong Kiu’s method concentrated on chi sau. He wanted the student feel what to do. He would correct you on the spot during the dynamic action, which Dr. Khoe described as trying to play with an octopus with eight arms attacking you. Wong Kiu was so rooted that he was impossible to move. Later one of my large 240 pound police officer students said the same about Dr. Khoe. (quote from here)
The intro to Joel’s paper:
Everybody knows that time, the body and the environment are important for cognition. You would not get much thinking done if you were not in a sufficiently oxygen-rich environment or if your body did not operate so as to deliver that oxygen to your organs in just the right quantities at just the right times. In addition, it is almost a truism that what we do with our bodies and environments is tremendously important for mental life; we all rely on diaries and shopping lists to help supplement our notoriously unreliable memories, and even adults sometimes resort to counting on their fingers in order to speed up calculations. This practical significance, however, has not often amounted to a kind of theoretical significance for cognitive science; an agent’s body, environment and temporal co-ordination have mostly been seen as (mere) implementation details.
There is, however, a growing and laudable interest in a nexus of concepts one can usefully refer to as the DEEDS approach to cognitive science. Central to this development is the idea that the mind is essentially “situated”. Embodied, embedded and distributed approaches try to understand cognitive systems with reference to the bodies, environments and social structures in which they are physically situated. Dynamical cognitive science tries to do justice to the temporal situatedness of cognition, by emphasising the importance of time and timing. Both aspects of this theoretical reorientation have gone hand in hand with a novel and intriguing set of example phenomena that advocates of the DEEDS approach regard as paradigmatically cognitive. Whereas classical cognitive science was concerned with abilities such as chess-playing and logic-crunching, many now see abilities such as sensori-motor co-ordination and obstacle avoidance as central. Brian Cantwell Smith (1999) captures this new zeitgeist, by noting that the DEEDS approach “… views intelligent human behaviour as engaged, socially and materially embodied activity, arising within the specific concrete details of particular (natural) settings, rather than as an abstract, detached, general purpose process of logical or formal ratiocination” (p. 769).
In this paper, I want to draw out a distinction between two different readings of the DEEDS hypothesis. On one reading, the DEEDS approach makes a metaphysical claim about the nature and location of cognitive processes—it claims that they may, in some cases, be constituted by factors which lie outside of the physical boundaries of the organism. On the other reading, the DEEDS approach advances a methodological prescription about how we ought to do cognitive science—it claims that more attention should be paid to bodily and environmental factors than has hitherto been the case. These two claims are often run together by advocates of the DEEDS approach, but they are worth teasing apart. For one thing, the distinction has some historical precedent—both behaviourism and the dynamical approach to cognition have already been outlined in accordance with similar distinctions. Further, I will argue that the methodological reading of the DEEDS approach is “pursuitworthy” independently of the metaphysical reading. It can also avoid some of the major objections that have targeted the latter. Thus, I conclude that the DEEDS approach cannot be dismissed as straightforwardly as some of its opponents would wish.
Speaking of enactivism see this special issue of Constructivist Foundations dedicated to Neurophenomenology.
Constructivist Foundations must rate as one of the best open access journals I have come across.
Keynote talk by Andy for the 9th International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication. Andy appears @ 11:57