A New Framework in Embodied Cognition and Its Philosophical Review

Author:Xie Lili (Seah Lily)

Supervisor:Li Shuhua


Degree Year:2013





While we come into existence in a natural world that exists,the "man-made" world we live in comes about from our collective knowledge,for human beings stand alone in the ability to envision possible futures and bring them into the material world.The quest to understand the mind dated back to early civilizations around the world.For Aristotle,the mind is "the part of the soul by which it knows and understands".Such a desire for knowledge sets human beings apart from the rest of the living world.Cognitive science is the scientific endeavor to understand our own unique mental abilities.It is an inter-disciplinary field of research across linguistics,neuroscience,psychology,philosophy,artificial intelligence,education and anthropology.This dissertation is a multi-disciplinary study on the topic of.embodied cognition.For more than two thousand years since Plato distinguishes between universals and particulars of human intelligence,this question around the universal principles of the mind is still the quest of science to discover a generalized theory of how the principles function.Aristotle’s view that the universals are embodied is receiving attention as increasing evidence in neuroscience points to the truth of it.But,the concept of embodiment is revolutionary in this age,both philosophically and scientifically.It is not a tradition of western philosophy and science in the last 500 years to consider the mind as rooted in the body.How does the mind,which is not extended in space,interact with the material body?This is the well-known mind-body problem in philosophy.Towards the end of the 20th century,the paradigm of a duality between the mind and body found its limit.Changed began to happen.Instead of reducing problems they investigate by breaking them down into parts,researchers are starting to integrate the parts so they could understand the whole.As this development unfolds,the pertinent questions in philosophy of cognitive science change.There are inquiries in these five themes:(1)generalization and distinctions,(2)objective and subjective knowledge,(3)intelligence of the sub-conscious,(4)dynamic interactions of the mind and body,and(5)the boundary of cognition.This dissertation has four aims.One,it is to introduce a body of knowledge known as Human Dynamics as a cognitive framework.Human Dynamics identifies fundamental distinctions in human functioning that cross age,culture,race and gender.The proposition is that human functioning is governed by three universal principles,namely mental,emotional and physical.These principles are embodied in the biological process to form nine patterns of functioning known as personality dynamics.Two,it is to critically review Human Dynamics under the five major themes of inquiries that are current in cognitive science.Three,it is to propose a new framework of embodied cognition that expands Human Dynamics’ ability to explain these important questions.The final aim of the dissertation is to clarify the philosophical position of this new framework.Embodiment is an ancient idea.It is in the philosophy of Aristotle as well as eastern philosophies of India and China.This dissertation interprets Zhou Yi,a body of knowledge regarded as the foundation of the Chinese philosophy,as a worldview on the embodied mind.The rise of cognitive science marked the decline in the influence of philosophy on knowledge of the human mind.The only way philosophy can contribute in cognitive science is by participating in topics of relevance to cognitive scientists.Philosophy can take a naturalistic approach that has a direct impact on cognitive science.A naturalized philosophy of science would study the scientific processes in actual lines of research.Taking this consideration into account,the dissertation stays relevant on the focus of embodied cognition by weaving pertinent philosophical developments and considerations into an empirical approach of study.The ideas put forth in Human Dynamics is revolutionary from the perspective of today’s cognitive science.It makes a complete break from the behavioural-oriented and reductionist approach to understanding people.There is only one proposition that comes close to this framework.This is Popper’s framework of the three worlds that has its origin from Plato.It is found that re-consideration of the existing framework of Human Dynamics is required to offer a generalized explanation for cognitive processes,such as perception,that applies to all people.That means,beyond distinguishing differences in functioning,are there existing in reality deeper processes that cross these distinctions(on top of crossing age,culture,gender and race)to bridge human being as one common whole.Related to the generalized theory are the themes to explain for the source of objectivity and the intelligence of the sub-conscious.Both aspects are not clearly incorporated in the framework of Human Dynamics and needs further consideration.To consider further,an exploratory field study was undertaken to investigate this question:"Are there nine patterns in listening,one for each personality dynamics?" The investigation involved 134 subjects in Sweden and Singapore.A follow-on case study of four of the subjects was carried out.The field study suggests that there is no distinct pattern of listening between subjects of the same personality dynamics,and no distinct differences in listening between subjects of different personality dynamics.Findings of the studies suggest that patterns of personality dynamics are not all being formed in consciousness since there are no discernible patterns in the listening test.Rather,it is more plausible that the patterns of personality dynamics arise from three different zones.Of which,human beings is only conscious in one.The result of this investigation provided the basis to remodel and put forth a new framework of human functioning.Here are the four most important points that the new framework proposes;First,there are three zones of human functioning,a supra-conscious zone,a conscious zone and a sub-conscious zone.Each zone functions according to a principle.Each principle governs the way information is processed.Second,there are three primary ways in which cognition is embodied.It can be embodied either in the supra-conscious zone,in the conscious zone or in the sub-conscious zone.In each zone,there are three further variations,to make a total of nine basic patterns of embodied cognition.Third,as the nine patterns of embodied cognition arise from three separate zones,there are possibilities for individuals who are embodied supra-consciously and sub-consciously to develop the conscious function and bring into active operation the conscious principle.Fourth,it is in the structure of human cognition,as a potential,that all nine functions can be experienced in the course of human evolution,even though it is given one in the beginning as the physiological foundation of cognition.This new framework depicts the dynamics of human functioning more closely to the way it is and is more robust.In this moderm time,the idea of embodiment challenges western thoughts about the mind.The mind is regarded as the source for objectivity whereas the senses are mere tools for the mind.At the core of it is this philosophical question:"With embodiment,how do we know objective reality?" The philosophical position to this question can be summarized in these nine points:First,the idea of embodiment of the mind is plausible only within the context of realism.Second,the mind and body interact as three-in-one,i.e.three functions bound as one.There is an intermediate function,i.e.feelings,binding mind to the body.Cognition is in a threefold structure,so is consciousness.Third,embodied cognition evolves with the biological body.That means knowledge is an outcome of an evolutionary process of knowing.The process of knowing is dynamic.Fourth,this process of knowing is supported and bound by the biological form of a particular body.People of different biological forms can have different consciousness of reality.Therefore,knowing is a subjective process.Fifth,at the same time,this process of knowing is subjected to collective forces.The presence of collective forces means that objectivity is possible in every pattern of functioning.Sixth,this process is an expression of how thinking,feeling and sensing are causally integrated.To study this process is to study the structure of thinking,feeling and sensing as they unfold.Seventh,causal forces in the threefold structure function as a whole.It is to continuously bind the relationships in a particular three-in-one structure.But,this structure can change,though not easily.That change is transformational in nature,leading to a new whole experience of reality.Eighth,reality as perceived by consciousness is a subjective experience that the body have achieved through evolution.Being subjective does not mean that it is not real.A subjective experience of a person has an objective reality.It is this objective reality that science is investigating in research.Ninth,the idea of embodiment is of a human journey of "rooting spirit in matter over eons of evolution," to arrive at an extraordinary experience of life.In this way,objectivity is a way life,not only a way of thinking.To be objective is to be in a biological state in which all neurons are in harmony towards one purpose.That is,to know reality as it is.