Embodied philosophy

Embodied philosophy

Philosophers, cognitive scientists and artificial intelligence researchers who study embodied cognition and the embodied mind argue that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body—that ideas, thoughts, concepts, categories and all other aspects of the mind are shaped by the body: by the perceptual system, by the intuitions that underly our ability to move, by our activities and interactions with our environment, and by the naive understanding of the world that is built into our bodies and brains. The embodied mind thesis is opposed to other theories of cognition, such as cognitivism, computationalism and Cartesian dualism.

The idea has roots in Kant and 20th century continental philosophy (such as Merleau-Ponty). The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, robotics and neurobiology.

George Lakoff (a cognitive scientist and linguist) and his collaborators (including Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, and Rafael E. Núñez) have written a series of books promoting and expanding the thesis based on discoveries in cognitive science, such as conceptual metaphor and image schema. [Harvnb|Lakoff|Johson|1980, Harvnb|Lakoff|1987, Harvnb|Lakoff|Turner|1989, Harvnb|Lakoff|Johnson|1999, Harvnb|Lakoff|Nunez|2000]

Robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks, Hans Moravec and Rolf Pfeifer have argued that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by machines that have sensory and motor skills and are connected to the world through a body. [Harvnb|Moravec|1988, Harvnb|Brooks|1990, Harvnb|Pfeiffer|2001] The insights of these robotics researchers have in turn inspired philosophers like Andy Clark and Horst Hendriks-Jansen. [Harvnb|Clark|1997, Harvnb|Hendriks-Jansen|1996]

Neuroscientists Gerald Edelman, Antonio Damasio and others have outlined the connection between the body, individual structures in the brain and aspects of the mind such as consciousness, emotion, self-awareness and will. [Harvnb|Edelman|2004, Harvnb|Damasio|1999 ]

Biology has also inspired Gregory Bateson, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Eleanor Rosch and Evan Thompson to develop a closely related version of the idea, which they call enactivism. [Harvnb|Maturana|Varela|1987, Harvnb|Varela|Thompson|Rosch|1992]

Philosophical roots

In his pre-critical period, philosopher Immanuel Kant advocated a remarkably similar embodied view of the mind-body problem that was part of his "Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven" (1755). José Ortega y Gasset, George Santayana, Miguel de Unamuno, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger and others in the broadly existential tradition have proposed philosophies of mind very close to the 'embodiment' thesis.

Cognitive science and linguistics

Lakoff and Johnson (1999) argue that the embodiment hypothesis entails that our conceptual structure and linguistic structures are shaped by the peculiarities of our perceptual structures. As evidence, they cite research on embodiment effects from mental rotation and mental imagery, image schemas, gesture, sign language, color terms, and conceptual metaphor among other examples.

According to Lakoff and Johnson, an embodied philosophy would show the laws of thought to be metaphorical, not logical; truth would be a metaphorical construction, not an attribute of objective reality. That is, it would not rely on any foundation ontology from the physical sciences or from religion, but would likely proceed from metaphors drawn from our experience of having a body.

Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner have advanced a theory of cognition known as conceptual blending which has much in common with the idea of embodied cognition.

Research by Tom M. Mitchell and others has shown that embodied features are an intrinsic aspect of semantics. These sensory-motor features include see, hear, listen, taste, smell, eat, touch, rub, lift, manipulate, run, push, fill, move, ride, say, fear, open, approach, near, enter, drive, wear, break, and clean. English nouns are found by computational linguistic analysis of over a 1 trillion words of text exhibiting typical word use, to have exactly these 25 different semantic features. Each feature is associated with its own pattern of fMRI activity. The individual contribution of each parameter, when adjusted by the strength of its contribution to a particular noun, predicts the fMRI pattern when that noun is considered. Nouns therefore derive their meaning from prior experience linked probabilistically to a common symbol. [cite journal|author = Mitchell TM, Shinkareva S, Carlson A, Chang K, Malave V, Mason R, Just M. date=2008-05-08|title= Predicting Human Brain Activity Associated with the Meanings of Nouns|journal= “Science”|volume= 320|pages= 1191–1195| doi=10.1126/science.1152876|pmid=18511683]

Neuroscience and biology

One source of inspiration for embodiment theory has been research in cognitive neuroscience, such as the proposals of Gerald Edelman concerning how mathematical and computational models such as neuronal group selection and neural degeneracy result in emergent categorization. Drawing on experimental psychology and linguistics as well as Edelman and other cognitive neuroscientists, Rohrer (2005) discusses how both our neural and developmental embodiment shape both our mental and linguistic categorizations.

This view is compatible with some views of cognition promoted in neuropsychology, such as the theories of consciousness of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Gerald Edelman, and Antonio Damasio.

Artificial intelligence and robotics

In 1950, Alan Turing proposed that a machine may need a human-like body to think and speak:

It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money canbuy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. That process could follow the normal teaching of achild. Things would be pointed out and named, etc. Again, I do not know what the right answer is, but Ithink both approaches should be tried (Turing, 1950). [Turing 1950]

Embodiment theory was brought into Artificial Intelligence most notably by Rodney Brooks in the 1980s. Brooks showed that robots could be more effective if they 'thought' (planned or processed) and perceived as little as possible. The robot's intelligence is geared towards only handling the minimal amount of information necessary to make its behavior be appropriate and/or as desired by its creator. Brooks (and others) have claimed that all agents need to be both embodied and situated. They claim that this is the only way to achieve strong AI.


The embodiment movement in AI has in turn fueled the embodiment argument in Philosophy, see in particular Clark (1997) and Hendriks-Jansen (1996). It has also given emotions a new status in philosophy of mind as indispensable constituent, not a non-essential addition to rational intellectual thought.

See also

*Cognitive linguistics
*Cognitive neuropsychology
*Cognitive neuroscience
*Cognitive science
*Conceptual blending
*Conceptual metaphor
*Embodied cognitive science
*Embodied Embedded Cognition
*Image schema
*Moravec's paradox
*Philosophy of mind
*Situated cognition



* Clark, Andy (1997). "Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again", Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
* DeLancey, C. (2002/2004). "Passionate Engines: What Emotions Reveal about Mind and Artificial Intelligence", Oxford University Press.
* Hendriks-Jansen, Horst (1996) "Catching Ourselves in the Act: Situated Activity, Interactive Emergence, Evolution, and Human Thought". Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
* Johnson, Mark and Rohrer, Tim. (2006). [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/blmjohnsonrohrerdraft.pdf We Are Live Creatures: Embodiment, American Pragmatism, and the Cognitive Organism] In "Body, Language and Mind," vol. 1. Zlatev, Jordan; Ziemke, Tom; Frank, Roz; Dirven, René (eds.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
* Rohrer, Tim. (2005). [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/rohrerimageschemata.pdf Image Schemata in the Brain] In "From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics," Beate Hampe and Joe Grady, eds., Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 165-196.
* Rohrer, Tim. (2006). [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/thebodyinspace.pdf The Body in Space: Dimensions of embodiment] In "Body, Language and Mind," vol. 2. Zlatev, Jordan; Ziemke, Tom; Frank, Roz; Dirven, René (eds.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
*Varela, Francisco J., Thompson, Evan T., and Rosch, Eleanor. (1992). "The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN
*Braitenberg, Valentino (1986). "Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262521121
*Brooks, Rodney A. (1999). "Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History of the New AI". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262522632
*Clark, Andy. (1998). "Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262531569
*Clark, Andy. (2004). "Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195177517
*Damasio, Antonio (1999). "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness"
*Edelman, G. "Wider than the Sky" (Yale University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-300-10229-1
*Fowler, C., Rubin, P. E., Remez, R. E., & Turvey, M. T. (1980). Implications for speech production of a general theory of action. In B. Butterworth (Ed.), "Language Production, Vol. I: Speech and Talk" (pp. 373-420). New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0121475018
*Gallagher, Shaun. (2005). "How the Body Shapes the Mind". Oxford: Oxford University Press.
*Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. (2005). "Embodiment and Cognitive Science". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521010497
*Johnson, Mark and Rohrer, Tim. (2006). [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/blmjohnsonrohrerdraft.pdf We Are Live Creatures: Embodiment, American Pragmatism, and the Cognitive Organism.] In "Body, Language, and Mind, vol. 1." Zlatev, Jordan; Ziemke, Tom; Frank, Roz; Dirven, René (eds.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
*Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark (1980) "Metaphors We Live By." University of Chicago Press. 2003 edition contains an 'Afterword'.
*Lakoff, George (1987) "Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind" University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46804-6.
*Lakoff, George and Turner, Mark (1989) "More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor". University of Chicago Press.
*Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark (1999) "Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought". Basic Books.
*Lakoff, George and Nuñez, Rafael. (2001). "Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being". New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465037712
*Lenneberg, Eric H. (1967). "Biological Foundations of Language". John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0471526266
*Liberman, A. M., Cooper, F. S., Shankweiler, D. P., & M. Studdert-Kennedy. (1967). Perception of the speech code. "Psychological Review", 74, 431-461.
*Liberman, Alvin M. (1996). "Speech: A Special Code". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262121921
*Maturana, Humberto and Varela, Francisco (1987) "The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding." Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 0-87773-373-2
*McNeill, David. (2005). "Gesture and Thought". Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226514625
*McNeill, David. (1996). "Hand and Mind: What Gestures Reveal About Thought". Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226561348
*Port, Robert F. and vanGelder, Tim. (1995). "Mind as Motion: Explorations in the Dynamics of Cognition". Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 0262161508
*Pfiefer R. (2001) "Understanding Intelligence"
*Pfeifer, R. and Bongard J. C., "How the body shapes the way we think: a new view of intelligence" (The MIT Press, 2007). ISBN 0-262-16239-3
*Rohrer, Tim. (2005). [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/rohrerimageschemata.pdf Image Schemata in the Brain] In "From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics," Beate Hampe and Joe Grady, eds., Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 165-196.
*Rohrer, Tim. (2006). [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/thebodyinspace.pdf The Body in Space: Dimensions of embodiment] In "Body, Language and Mind," vol. 2. Zlatev, Jordan; Ziemke, Tom; Frank, Roz; Dirven, René (eds.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

External links

* [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/thebodyinspace.pdf The Body in Space: Dimensions of embodiment] discusses how the body constrains language and thought using evidence drawn from psychology, linguistics, anthropology and neuroscience as well as the other disciplines of cognitive science
* [http://philosophy.wisc.edu/shapiro/PHIL951/951articles/wilson.htm Six Views of Embodied Cognition]
* [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/handbookch1rohrerfinaldraft.pdf Embodiment and Experientialism] from the "Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics" (pdf)
* [http://www.dcs.shef.ac.uk/~amanda/anderson.pdf Embodied Cognition: A Field Guide (pdf)] - from an Artificial Intelligence perspective
* [http://www.dourish.com/embodied/ Where the Action Is] by Paul Dourish- for applications to human-computer interaction.
* [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/embodiment.pdf Pragmatism, Ideology, and Embodiment: William James and the Philosophical Foundations of Embodiment] by Tim Rohrer
* [http://learningsciences.coedit.net/EnactiveLearning Enactive Learning] - for applications to education
* [http://www.allpsych.uni-giessen.de/dk/reprints/LIBRI.2001.pdf Visual Causality] - an article on the embodied nature of causal perception
* [http://www.ssse.org Society for the Scientific Study of Embodiment]
* [http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/embodcog.htm Embodied Cognition - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
* [http://zakros.ucsd.edu/~trohrer/embodiment.pdf 2001 Summary of how the embodiment hypothesis of cognitive linguistics has begun to interact with theories of embodiment in fields ranging from cognitive anthropology to cognitive neuroscience]
* [http://web.goddard.edu/embodiment/ Goddard College's Embodiment Studies Web Resources]
* [http://www.goddard.edu/masterarts_individualized Goddard College's Individualized MA program where students may focus in Embodiment Studies]
* [http://www.ssse.org Society for the Scientific Study of Embodiment]
* [http://www.thegreenfuse.org/embodiment/index.htm Embodiment Resources - for those researching into embodiment, particularly as it relates to phenomenology, sociology and cognitive neuroscience.]
* [http://www.embodimentwiki.org/ The Embodiment Wiki]

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