Affiliation: ELTE BTK Budapesta
Title: The Normality of the Consciousness and the Normality of the Body. Husserl’s Contradictory Views on Normality
Abstract: In my presentation, I will talk about Husserl’s view on normality. I will claim that there is a contradiction between his early, transcendental conception, which claims the absolute normality of the transcendental consciousness, and his late genetic-generative analyzes that lead back the normality of experience to the normality of the psychophysical body. I will argue that his contradiction can be resolved from the perspective of the embodied consciousness described by Merleau-Ponty.
Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Title: What is (not) the Body in the Embodied Cognition Approach
Abstract: The embodied cognition approach (ECA) in cognitive science does not differ from the traditional one(s) merely by its emphasis on the body. In fact, most cognitive scientists, and laypeople as well, see cognition as a bodily process, namely taking place “in the head”. Specifically, the still prevalent model in cognitive science conceives of cognition as a computational procedure in the brain working with representational, or symbolic, structures. The ECA challenges the whole conceptual framework of this model by maintaining that we must take into account the bodily “aspect” of cognition in its irreducibility to the (neural) processes in the brain. As such, the ECA is not (so much) about extending, or broadening, the scope of entities involved in cognition. Rather, it calls for rethinking the very corporeality, or physicality, of cognition. Whereas the concept of extended cognition, for example, claims that cognition takes place not only in the brain but also in the body and even in external objects (such as smartphones), thus extending the mind of the cognizing subject to what lies outside his or her body, the ECA does not aim at demonstrating that the non-neural body and the processes taking place beyond our brains and bodies are themselves cognitive/mental. When claiming that the brain is “coupled” with the body, the ECA abandons the brain-centred paradigm (without denying the importance, and “input”, of the brain). Rather than claiming that the body is just as important as the brain, the ECA maintains that the basic unit of explanation must be the body as a whole, i.e. including the brain, and that the brain would have no cognitive function without the rest of the body. The embodied approach thus questions prioritizing the brain as the (bodily) locus of cognition. Insofar as cognition refers to “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge”, the ECA implicitly calls for rethinking the mental as well: the mind must be understood as more, not less body-dependent. But what is meant by the body here? The body is conceived here as an organism conditioned by, and interconnected with, its environment. Rather than being a machine separated from the world outside of it, and getting in touch with it through its sensors, the organism is a part of a broader whole, living from not only itself but its environment as well. For this reason, the embodied cognition is always already embedded as well. It cannot be separated from the cognizing organism’s ecological niche: It is co-determined by “material” (as well as social and cultural) aspects of the world. To put it a bit paradoxically: although cognition, and mind, is subjective, it is co-shaped – in its very subjectivity – by objective factors. Which is most visible on the body itself: my body is not generated by me, I rather come to myself through it and through how it opens the world to me. Such a body is the very medium of cognition.