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Embodiment is the way in which human (or any other animal's) psychology arises from the brain's and body's physiology. It is specifically concerned with the way the adaptive function of categorisation works, and how things acquire names. It is distinguished from developmental psychology and physical anthropology by its focus on cognitive science, ontogeny, ontogenetics, chaos theory and cognitive notions of entropy - far more abstract and more reliant on mathematics.
Philosophy of embodiment
In essence embodiment as an idea binds two worlds of substance and spirit (or culuture, thought of as intentional objects and phenomena), contrary to a duality long posited by notables like Descartes. The core idea looks to find the biological substrate not as a vessel, but as the being itself. The mind and spirit are not a sublimation of the biology, but are a method of its workings. Thus body and mind are fused into a single being - the only distinction between matter and person being the way of observing the being.
Some consider such a reduction to mathematics, or alternatively an attempt to explain mathematics (as in the cognitive science of mathematics), to be at best premature. Critics of embodiment argue that there is no one process by which the brain and linguistic and categorization categories bind to things in the environment, be they ecological or social. Thus no one model could exist.
The political ramifications of some of these points of view are extreme, as they imply both psychological and political notions of environmentalism - in effect, if embodiment is valid as an idea, then a single process may bind the mind to its body, family, language, and ultimately even to its environment (eco-somatics), society, species, and planet. Those who accepted some limited biological aspects of it as useful theory would find it hard to argue with more general application of it as a political or moral principle - exactly as happened with evolution.
Another concern is that embodiment theory simply reiterates ideas from behaviorism and sociobiology, combining them with theories of massive neural networks and a society of mind from computer science. It does to a degree treat ecology and environment as a homunculus, and assumes that these are beyond direct human investigation, and certainly beyond more than a very dilute control.
This in turn can offend those who believe in human dignity or the ongoing human control of Earth after a technological singularity. Embodiment theory tends to contradict many common understandings of humanism including, high on the list, that of free will. Defenders however point out that free will itself is not so compatible with real life on a planet with many incalculable forces:
- If an unknowable process guides our conceptual development as a whole, starting with our neural structure, then our impressions of our family, then our home, then our local ecology and society, can we knowing that all of these are affected by global processes really feel in control of ourselves?
Key ideas applied in embodiment theory are:
- prototype in the sense of computer science (roughly)
- level of abstraction
- conceptual landscape
- latent learning
- behavioural silence
- global mapping
- recursive synthesis
- homunculus (in the scientific sense of an unknowable prime actor)
- classification couple
- parallel and reciprocal connection
- secondary repertoire
- neuronal group selection
- ontogenetic realization of categorization
- cognitive bias as the product of embodiment itself, and as an input
- Embodied philosophy
- the Embodiment
Embodiment in Artificial Intelligence
Embodiment theory was brought into Artificial Intelligence most notably by Rodney Brooks in the 1980s. Brooks and other scruffies 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 autonomous 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).
- Body psychotherapy
- Embodied philosophy
- Embodied cognitive science
- Embodied cognition
- Embodied Embedded Cognition
- Embodied music cognition
- Embodied language processing,
- Gregory Bateson
- Mind-body dichotomy
- Mind-body problem
- Somatic psychology
- Clark, Andy (1997) Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again, Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
- Hendriks-Jansen, Horst (1996) Catching Ourselves in the Act: Situated Activity, Interactive Emergence, Evolution, and Human Thought. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
- 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
- Society for the Scientific Study of Embodiment
- 1995 Summary of Embodiment - mentions most key theorists of the physiology
- The Embodiment - Cultural and Social Implications
- Embodiment Resources - for those researching into embodiment, particularly as it relates to phenomenology, sociology and cognitive neuroscience.
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