Publication 5077

Dennett D. C. (1993) Review of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The American Journal of Psychology 106(1): 121–126. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/5077
Cognitive science, as an interdisciplinary school of thought, may have recently moved beyond the bandwagon stage onto the throne of orthodoxy, but it does not make a favorable first impression on many people. Familiar reactions on first encounters range from revulsion to condescending dismissal – very few faces in the crowd light up with the sense of “Aha! So that’s how the mind works! Of course! ” Cognitive science leaves something out, it seems; moreover, what it apparently leaves out is important, even precious. Boiled down to its essence, cognitive science proclaims that in one way or another our minds are computers, and this seems so mechanistic, reductionistic, intellectualistic, dry, philistine, unbiological. It leaves out emotion, or what philosophers call qualia, or value, or mattering, or… the soul. It doesn’t explain what minds are so much as attempt to explain minds away.

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