Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension

By Andy Clark | Go to book overview

8
Painting, Planning, and Perceiving

8.1 Enacting Perceptual Experience

Inner neural processes, we have seen, are often productively entangled with gross bodily and extrabodily processes of storage, representation, materialization, and manipulation. These extraneural elements play key information-processing roles as parts of extended organizations selected and maintained for their problem-solving virtues. Might this intimacy of brain, body, world, and action shed light on the nature and mechanisms of conscious perception? A positive answer is suggested by what I shall call “strongly sensorimotor” models of perception (O’Regan and Noë 2001; Noë 2004). According to such models, perceptual experience gains its content and character courtesy of an agent’s implicit knowledge of the ways sensory stimulation will vary as a result of movement. Perceptual experience, on such accounts, is said to be enacted (Varela, Thompson, and Rosch 1991) via skilled sensorimotor activity.

Though correct to stress the importance of embodiment and action, strong sensorimotor models take us (or so I shall argue) one step too far. For despite the important role of embodied action both in information pickup and in initially tuning the circuitry that supports perceptual awareness, such models end up tying the contents and character of human experience too closely to the fine details of human embodiment.

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