In the past two decades, the notion of embodiment has been quickly gaining currency in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. Although virtually unknown at the beginning of the 1990's, it has now become, in the guise of embodied and enactive cognitive science, a serious contender against the classical (cognitivist) conceptions of mind, cognition, and consciousness. By drawing on the thematizations of the body found in Husserl and MerleauPonty, especially on the distinction between body as lived body (Leib) – a prereflective bodily awareness that shapes our experiential landscape –, and body as physical body (Körper) – a thematic experience of the body as an object –, it is maintained that mind and cognition are embodied in a twofold sense: (i) structurally, i.e., in the sense of being constituted by extracranial (neural, bodily, environmental, and social) processes, and (ii) phenomenologically, i.e., in the sense of including the experience of oneself as a bodily agent situated in the world. It is contended that this Janus-faced nature of corporeality, divided between “being a body” (Leibsein) and “having a body” (Körperhaben), may help undermine some of the age-old dualities (mind-body, interiorityexteriority, etc.) and thereby help anchor experience in materiality and materiality in experience. The main focus of the volume at hand is to analyze, evaluate, and critically reflect upon, what might be termed “horizons of embodiment.” First, it purports to examine the scope and applicability of the notion of embodiment in relation to not only human, but also animal, vegetative, and perhaps even artificial life. Specifically, it aims to investigate to what extent, if at all, different construals of embodiment might contribute to a better understanding of different life forms – of their unique, if tentative, modes of being, cognizing, and experiencing. Second, it purports to examine, from both practical and theoretical perspectives, possibilities for a “fusion of horizons” (Horizontverschmelzung) between structural and phenomenological approaches to embodiment: How can objective (third-person) and experiential (first-person) aspects of corporeality be combined so as to provide efficient means for the study of the living? Both perspectives wish to enrich and broaden our grasp of different grades, modes and dimensions of embodiment, bringing forth their tentative limitations and paving ways for their overcoming.
Artificial intelligence, the “science and engineering of intelligent machines,” still has yet to create even a simple “Advice Taker” [McCarthy, 1959]. We have previously argued [Waser, 2011] that this is because researchers are focused on problem-solving or the rigorous analysis of intelligence (or arguments about consciousness) rather than the creation of a “self” that can “learn” to be intelligent. Therefore, following expert advice on the nature of self [Llinas, 2001; Hofstadter, 2007; Damasio, 2010], we embarked upon an effort to design and implement a self-understanding, self-improving loop as the totality of a (seed) AI. As part of that, we decided to follow up on Richard Dawkins’  speculation that “perhaps consciousness arises when the brain’s simulation of the world becomes so complete that it must include a model of itself” by defining a number of axioms and following them through to their logical conclusions. The results combined with an enactive approach yielded many surprising and useful implications for further understanding consciousness, self, and “free-will” that continue to pave the way towards the creation of safe/moral autopoiesis.
We often consciously will our own actions. This experience is so profound that it tempts us to believe that our actions are caused by consciousness. It could also be a trick, however – the mind’s way of estimating its own apparent authorship by drawing causal inferences about relationships between thoughts and actions. Cognitive, social, and neuropsychological studies of apparent mental causation suggest that experiences of conscious will frequently depart from actual causal processes and so might not reﬂect direct perceptions of conscious thought causing action.
Zahavi D. (2004) Phenomenology and the project of naturalization. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3(4): 331–347. https://cepa.info/2375
In recent years, more and more people have started talking about the necessity of reconciling phenomenology with the project of naturalization. Is it possible to bridge the gap between phenomenological analyses and naturalistic models of consciousness? Is it possible to naturalize phenomenology? Given the transcendental philosophically motivated anti-naturalism found in many phenomenologists such a naturalization proposal might seem doomed from the very start, but in this paper I will examine and evaluate some possible alternatives.
Zebrowski R. L. & McGraw E. B. (2021) Autonomy and openness in human and machine systems: Participatory sense-making and artificial minds. Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness 8(2): 303–323.
Within artificial intelligence (AI) and machine consciousness research, social cognition as a whole is often ignored. When it is addressed, it is often thought of as one application of more traditional forms of cognition. However, while theoretical approaches to AI have been fairly stagnant in recent years, social cognition research has progressed in productive new ways, specifically through enactive approaches. Using participatory sense-making (PSM) as an approach, we rethink conceptions of autonomy and openness in AI and enactivism, shifting the focus away from living systems to allow incorporation of artificial systems into social forms of sense-making. PSM provides an entire level of analysis through an overlooked autonomous system produced via social interaction that can be both measured and modeled in order to instantiate and examine more robust artificial cognitive systems.
How is the transition between intersubjectivity and subjectivity accomplished? While many developmental theorists have argued that social interaction gives rise to individualistic capacities (e.g. representation, language, consciousness), relatively few theorists have attempted to identify the precise mechanisms that might be responsible for this transformation. The present paper addresses this gap by drawing attention to the central role played by emotional intimacy. It is argued that subjectivity arises out of intimate engagement with others, and particular attention is given to the role of imitation in fostering such intimacy. While the primary focus is on infant development, links are made to work with atypical populations because they offer valuable insights into the developmental processes under consideration here. The ultimate aim of the paper is to demonstrate that by recognizing the emotional intimacy inherent within adult–infant interactions, new solutions are offered to theoretical problems that developmental psychology continues to face in accounting for the origins of subjectivity.
Zilio F. (2020) The body surpassed towards the world and perception surpassed towards action: A comparison between enactivism and Sartre’s phenomenology. Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 28(1): 73–99. https://cepa.info/7796
Enactivism maintains that the mind is not produced and localized inside the head but is distributed along and through brain-body-environment interactions. This idea of an intrinsic relationship between the agent and the world derives from the classical phenomenological investigations of the body (Merleau-Ponty in particular). This paper discusses similarities and differences between enactivism and Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenology, which is not usually considered as a paradigmatic example of the relationship between phenomenological investigations and enactivism (or 4E theories in general). After a preliminary analysis of the three principal varieties of enactivism (sensorimotor, autopoietic and radical), I will present Sartre’s account of the body, addressing some key points that can be related to the current enactivist positions: perception-action unity, anti-representationalism, anti-internalism, organism-environment interaction, and sense-making cognition. Despite some basic similarities, enactivism and Sartre’s phenomenology move in different directions as to how these concepts are developed. Nevertheless, I will suggest that Sartre’s phenomenology is useful to the enactivist approaches to provide a broader and more complete analysis of consciousness and cognition, by developing a pluralist account of corporeality, enriching the investigation of the organism-environment coupling through an existentialist perspective, and reincluding the concept of subjectivity without the hypostatisation of an I-subject detached from body and world.
This article addresses a classical question: Can a machine use language meaningfully and if so, how can this be achieved? The first part of the paper is mainly philosophical. Since meaning implies intentionality on the part of the language user, artificial systems which obviously lack intentionality will be `meaningless’ (pace e.g. Dennett). There is, however, no good reason to assume that intentionality is an exclusively biological property (pace e.g. Searle) and thus a robot with bodily structures, interaction patterns and development similar to those of human beings would constitute a system possibly capable of meaning – a conjecture supported through a Wittgenstein-inspired thought experiment. The second part of the paper focuses on the empirical and constructive questions. Departing from the principle of epigenesis stating that during every state of development new structure arises on the basis of existing structure plus various sorts of interaction, a model of human cognitive and linguistic development is proposed according to which physical, social and linguistic interactions between the individual and the environment have their respective peaks in three consecutive stages of development: episodic, mimetic and symbolic. The transitions between these stages are qualitative, and bear a similarity to the stages in phylogenesis proposed by Donald (1991) and Deacon (1997). Following the principle of epigenetic development, robotogenesis could possibly recapitulate ontogenesis, leading to the emergence of intentionality, consciousness and meaning.
Zlatev J. & Blomberg J. (2015) Language may indeed influence thought. Frontiers in Psychology 6: 1631. https://cepa.info/7716
We discuss four interconnected issues that we believe have hindered investigations into how language may affect thinking. These have had a tendency to reappear in the debate concerning linguistic relativity over the past decades, despite numerous empirical findings. The first is the claim that it is impossible to disentangle language from thought, making the question concerning “influence” pointless. The second is the argument that it is impossible to disentangle language from culture in general, and from social interaction in particular, so it is impossible to attribute any differences in the thought patterns of the members of different cultures to language per se. The third issue is the objection that methodological and empirical problems defeat all but the most trivial version of the thesis of linguistic influence: that language gives new factual information. The fourth is the assumption that since language can potentially influence thought from “not at all” to “completely,” the possible forms of linguistic influence can be placed on a cline, and competing theories can be seen as debating the actual position on this cline. We analyze these claims and show that the first three do not constitute in-principle objections against the validity of the project of investigating linguistic influence on thought, and that the last one is not the best way to frame the empirical challenges at hand. While we do not argue for any specific theory or mechanism for linguistic influence on thought, our discussion and the reviewed literature show that such influence is clearly possible, and hence in need of further investigations.