Embodied Cognition

Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent’s body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing.
—”Embodied Cognition,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Together with physical computing, embodied cognition informs much of the technomantic theory of Technomancy 101. Following are seven key tenets of embodied cognition proposed by Mark Johnson (for more about these, see his book, The Aesthetics of Meaning and Thought: The Bodily Roots of Philosophy, Science, Morality, and Art).

  1. Consciousness, mind, meaning, thought, and value are grounded in our embodied engagement with our world, and they are emergent phenomena of the increasing functional complexity of the organism.
  2. These phenomena exist only because mind is, through our embodiment, embedded within our surroundings that offer affordances for our perceptions and actions.
  3. The term enactive captures the way our ongoing transactions with aspects of our environment reconfigure experience. Meaning and value are enacted in the very process by which the organism engages its environment.
  4. Extended mind recognizes the many ways we off load cognitive processes, resources, and products into structures in our environment.
  5. The emotional character of consciousness, meaning, and mind marks the felt, qualitative dimensions of our enactive coupling with, and remaking of, parts of our surroundings.
  6. Meaning and cognition emerge through evolutionary development that is continuing as we speak, and will carry forward indefinitely in the future.
  7. Human congition is exaptative—our “higher”-level thought is rooted in and recruits our sensory, motor, and affective processes to generate abstract concepts and patterns of reasoning.

Further reading:

  • Lawrence Shapiro’s books are a good place to begin: Embodied Cognition and The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition (you may download the latter’s introduction for free). Shapiro also wrote the article on embedded cognition for The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science.
  • One of the earliest books on embodied cognition, The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience by Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch, links embodied cognition with Buddhist groundlessness.
  • The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology by Mark Rowlands
  • Ecology of the Brain: The Phenomenology and Biology of the Embodied Mind by Thomas Fuchs