Can the mind be embodied, enactive, affective, and extended?
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In recent years, a growing number of thinkers have begun to challenge the long-held view that the mind is neurally realized. One strand of critique comes from work on extended cognition, a second comes from research on embodied cognition, and a third comes from enactivism. I argue that theorists who embrace the claim that the mind is fully embodied and enactive cannot consistently also embrace the extended mind thesis. This is because once one takes seriously the central tenets of enactivism, it becomes implausible to suppose that life, affectivity, and sense-making can extend. According to enactivism, the entities that enact a world of meaning are autonomous, embodied agents with a concerned point of view. Such agents are spatially situated, differentiated from the environment, and intentionally directed towards things that lie at a distance. While the extended mind thesis blurs the distinction between organism and environment, the central tenets of enactivism emphasize differentiations between the two. In addition, enactivism emphasizes that minded organisms are enduring subjects of action and experience, and thus it is implausible to suppose that they transform into a new form of life whenever they become intimately coupled to some new element in their environment. The proponent of enactivism and embodied cognition should acknowledge that life and affectivity are relational and environmentally embedded, but resist the further claim that these phenomena are extended.
KeywordsEmbodied cognition Extended mind Extended life Extended affectivity Enactivism
Thanks to Julian Kiverstein and two anonymous referees for their very helpful feedback.
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