The Body in Mind: Understanding Cognitive Processes

The Body in Mind: Understanding Cognitive Processes

The Body in Mind: Understanding Cognitive Processes

The Body in Mind: Understanding Cognitive Processes

Synopsis

In this book, Mark Rowlands challenges the Cartesian view of the mind as a self-contained monadic entity, and offers in its place a radical externalist or environmentalist model of cognitive processes. Drawing on both evolutionary theory and a detailed examination of the processes involved in perception, memory, thought and language use, Rowlands argues that cognition is, in part, a process whereby creatures manipulate and exploit relevant objects in their environment. This innovative book provides a foundation for an unorthodox but increasingly popular view of the nature of cognition.

Excerpt

Philosophy since Kant has been, well, neo-Kantian. Indeed, neoKantianism in philosophy arguably predates Kant by a considerable time. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume were all neo-Kantians. Kant was a neo-Kantian. Hegel was a neo-Kantian, as was Marx (at least the Marx of the first and second Internationals). Nietzsche, that most professedly anti-Kantian of thinkers, was a neo-Kantian. the linguistic turn in philosophy is essentially a linguistic form of neo-Kantianism. Mainstream twentieth-century philosophy of science has been about as neo-Kantian as you can get. Structuralism is neo-Kantian. and anybody, but anybody, who writes about literary theory is neoKantian to their intellectual core. As you might have already gleaned, I am using the expression 'neo-Kantian' in a somewhat broad sense. Indeed, the way I am using the expression makes it difficult to imagine anyone who is not neo-Kantian. Neo-Kantianism is the view that there are activities of the mind whose function is to structure the world. At least some aspects of the world that is presented to us, therefore, are mind-dependent in that they depend for their existence or nature on the structuring activities of the mind. the significance of recent strands of thought that have been labelled externalist, or antiindividualist is that they effectively invert this picture of the relation of mind to world. What is essential to externalism, or, as I shall call it here, environmentalism, in all its forms, is the idea that the contents of the mind are, in some sense at least, worldly: they are environmentally constituted. This does not, of course, provide a refutation of neoKantianism, but it does, in effect, turn neo-Kantianism on its head.

This book was written over a period of time that straddled life both in the usa and in Ireland. My philosophical debts incurred on both sides of the Atlantic have been many and large. Colin McGinn first started me thinking about externalism. Max Hocutt helped me realize that commonalities between anti-Cartesian positions were more . . .

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