Book Chapter

Embodied Cognition and the Extended Mind


Wheeler M (2011) Embodied Cognition and the Extended Mind. In: Garvey J (ed.) The Continuum Companion to Philosophy of Mind. Bloomsbury Companions. London: Continuum, pp. 220-238.

First paragraph: There is a seductive image of intelligent action that sometimes gets labelled Cartesian. According to this image, as I shall present it here, the psychological understanding of the operating principles by which an agent's mind contributes to the generation of reliable and flexible, perceptually guided intelligent action remains conceptually and theoretically independent of the details of that agent's physical embodiment. Less formally, one might say that, in the Cartesian image, the body enjoys no more than a walk-on part in the drama of intelligent action. Whether or not the Cartesian image is Cartesian in the sense that it ought to be attributed to Descartes himself is a matter that demands careful exegetical investigation (see e.g. Wheeler 2005 for an analysis which concludes that, by and large, it should). In general, positions that are currently identified as Cartesian may not map directly or completely onto Descartes' own views. This potential mis-match is an example of a widespread phenomenon and should come as no surprise. Were Karl Marx with us today, he might well express serious misgivings about some of what has been said and done in the name of Marxism. In Descartes' case, his views have been handed down to us via a rich intellectual history of contested interpretations and critical debate. Inevitably, perhaps, some ideas that now bear the stamp Cartesian will have as much to do with that intervening process as they have to do with Descartes himself. Anyway, for now, I intend to ignore the question of provenance. What is crucial in the present context is that the two views of intelligent action with which I shall be concerned in this chapter - the hypotheses of embodied cognition and of the extended mind - may be understood as different stop-off points in a flight from the image in question.

Title of seriesBloomsbury Companions
Publication date31/12/2011
Publisher URL…d-9780826431882/
Place of publicationLondon