Human Cognition is an Embodied Activity

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by coberst, Apr 13, 2010.

  1. coberst Registered Senior Member

    Human Cognition is an Embodied Activity

    We have all grown up to consider thought to be primarily a matter of language and propositions. We have not generally been taught this notion explicitly but have acquired it through social osmosis (picked it up without conscious effort because it is a notion that permeates our culture, i.e. it is a traditional notion). “…there is thought without language; this is possible because thought originates in our sense of spatial and kinesthetic orientation in the world.”

    Common sense or, as cognitive science labels it, folk theory informs us that “all things are a kind of thing”. All things have in common with other things certain characteristics; i.e. all things belong in categories with other like things. Things are categorized together based upon what they have in common. It might be worth while to think of category as being a container.

    In classical or conventional terms we categorize things in accordance with what are regarded as being that which is essential to that kind of thing. All things that are essentially the same fall into the same category. What is essential to a tree is that which is necessary and sufficient for that thing to be classified as a tree. To categorize a thing, i.e. define a thing, is to give its essential characteristics.

    In some way or another all creatures must categorize. At a minimum all creatures must distinguish friend from foe or eat and not eat. Categorization is part of the fundamental needs for survival of the creature. If the mouse mistakes a snake for a stick that mouse becomes toast; the same categorization problem applies to the lion and to the man.

    Categorization is meaningful. Meaning is not a thing; something is meaningful for a creature only when there is an association between that thing and the creature. “Meaningfulness derives from the experience of functioning as a being of a certain sort in an environment of a certain sort.” It is meaningful to a soldier when s/he mistakenly categorizes a tank to be only a harmless bush or an enemy to be a friend.

    There is nothing more meaningful for a creatures’ survival than correct categorization of the world in which that creature lives.

    Most all of us have heard the story of a group of blind men who were taken to touch an elephant to learn what elephants were like. Each of the blind men touched only one part of the elephant and then later, when comparing notes of what they felt, learned that they were all in complete disagreement as to what an elephant is. This story is useful for demonstrating how “reality” may be viewed based upon one’s perspective. That which often appears to be so obviously “true” may be just a matter of point of view.

    Imagine now how the blind man, who had touched the leg of the elephant and “categorized” it as like a tree or the one who had touched the tail of the elephant and “categorized” it as like a rope, might change their “categorization” had they been given a ride sitting on top of the elephants back.

    Scientists in the field of cognitive science inform us that categorization is neither consistently very abstract nor consistently very concrete. “It is rather consistently functional.” The first level of categorization is “followed by an endless process of further categorization which moves in both the abstract and the concrete direction.”

    These scientists inform us that they have “found that there is a level of categorization that is psychologically basic in the sense that: (1) categories at his level are learned earliest and named first; (2) category names at this level are the shortest and most frequently used in the language (e.g. “dog”, “cat”, “ball”, “chair”, “car”, “dime”,); (3) things at this level are remembered more readily and identified more quickly; (4) items at this level are perceived holistically, as a singular gestalt, rather than identified by a specific, distinctive features; and (5) there tend to be distinctive motor programs for interacting with objects at this level.”

    Human cognition is an embodied activity!

    Quotes from A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life, and Mind by Steven L. Winter director of the Center for Legal Studies at Wayne State University Law School
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  3. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

    You don't even say that "human cognition is "largely" an embodied activity" or you don't say that animals with brain raise their cognitive skills through embodied activities first; you say that "human cognition is an embodied activity". A bold claim.

    How would you explain human activities such as controlling fire, inventing writing, going to outer space, smashing atoms, communicating through internet, and millions of other issues? Your blind people are human too, and when it comes to confusing an elephant leg with a piece of rope or timber through "categorization", I bet they would recall some other core elements such as whether or not is that "thing" alive or not, whether or not the texture or material they are touching gives the feeling of softness, whether or not the leg standing still or moving, and so on and so forth...

    We are talking about humans you know, even if they are blind, they still have much wider perspectives of categorization as well as questioning in their minds. They can go beyond the borders of their bodies in order to engage their environment.
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  5. coberst Registered Senior Member

    These are complex and revolutionary concepts that require a great deal of study and thought.

    Damasio utilizes the lesion method for studying and developing hypothesis regarding the nature of human consciousness. This method consists in studying the effect on the brain’s dysfunctions resulting from such things as stroke, disease, or injury. Through this technique Damasio has been able to model brain functions that relate to certain disruption from normal behavior.

    The basic facts made available for analysis give testimony to the hypothesis that consciousness is not a monolith. Most importantly there is an abrupt division between what is identified as core consciousness and extended consciousness. There are also distinguishing levels within extended consciousness it self. When core consciousness fails then extended consciousness follows.

    Damasio identifies wakefulness, low-level attention, specific emotion, and specific actions as aspects of core consciousness. When core consciousness fails extended consciousness also fails. “On the other hand, when an extended consciousness is disrupted, as exemplified by patients with profound disturbances of autobiographical memory, core consciousness remains intact.”

    “It is possible to separate consciousness in general from functions such as wakefulness, low-level attention, working memory, conventional memory, language, and reasoning.”
    Patients who lose wakefulness (REM sleep being an exception) can no longer be judged to be conscious.

    Such aspects of core consciousness as wakefulness, low-level attention, and brief, adequate behaviors can survive a disturbance of consciousness; emotion is lost, along with the sense of knowing and self when consciousness is lost. “The defect of knowing and self and of recognizably motivated emotion goes hand in hand with defects in planning, in high-level attention, and in sustained and adequate behaviors”.

    Damasio finds that “nearly all the sites of brain damage associated with a significant disruption of core consciousness share one important trait…these structures are of old evolutionary vintage, they are present in numerous nonhuman species, and they mature early in individual human development.”

    That is to say that his evidence indicates that core consciousness is centered about the brain’s physical areas that developed very early in the evolution of life on our planet, i.e. human core consciousness is directly evolved from early animal forms.

    Quotes from “The Feeling of what Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness” by Antonio Damasio
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  7. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

    Anything starts with such a sentence usually ends up being nothing but a bunch of nonsense, anyway let's not be judgemental beforehand and see:

    What is this to do with the "Human Cognition is an Embodied Activity" claim? Up until now, nothing. But maybe this was an introduction; let's continue:

    This is a classification attempt for consciousness, -a "model" if you like; or an approach to evaluate the consciousness. Basically says that consciousness has a strata, a division as core and extended, central and periphery, very important and less important, or similar type of class system. But it doesn't say anything about the border between these two assumed division: Where does core ends and extention start? Can core exist without the extention? What is the type of relation between them; hierarchic or complementary?

    This part sounds like giving some light to picture the relationship: Any disruption in Extension will not bother the Core, yet if anything happens to Core, Extension will fail as well. In order to support a conclusion of "Human Cognition is an Embodied Activity" from this division, one must totally ignore the role of Extension out of the total equation of Cognition. In other way of saying, Human Cognition has nothing to do with Extension, it's all about the Core. Or, is it? Actually, we have a good example of "confused" state of human definition. Why because reader are, and will be pushed to confuse consciousness/cognition and human/non-human dichotomies; they may be pushed to create these dichotomies; we don't know yet, we'll see:

    Before we go further, we must clarify what we understand from "cognition" for being able to keep a clear vision. According to Wikipedia:

    And further down, again in Wikipedia, it follows:

    My simplistic -because we need core understanding to build up or check out the rest- summary from above Wikipedia quotations can be this:

    Cognition is the "faculty" of information process that can be done by humans, non-humans, conscious or non-conscious alike. Yet, an independent agent, body, or unit must do it autonomously. That means currently we can not classify a computer information process as an example for cognitive process. Computers and their artificial intelligence have currently "lack of" this faculty. They are still the extension of human intelligence, they are not autonomous.

    However, it doesn't say that cognition is limited to alive things; if we can provide this autonomy to the machines, there is nothing theoretically against the possibility of artificial intelligence with cognition -as agents that are capable of having a faculty of information process-; again I underline "theoretically".

    Although it is not the main subject of this thread, now let's have a look at the concept of consciousness since it is mentioned anyway, again in Wikipedia:

    If we go back to claim, supposedly quoted from Damasio: “It is possible to separate consciousness in general from functions such as wakefulness, low-level attention, working memory, conventional memory, language, and reasoning.”

    But how? This definition totally contradicts the entire meaning of consciousness if we compare it to definition given by Wikipedia; actually, forget about Wikipedia, it contradicts the whole idea of consciousness in general and human consciousness in particular.

    Yes here the thing has happened; the thing that I was afraid of in the beginning of this post: Anything starts with such a sentence usually end up being nothing but a bunch of nonsense (I normally don't quote myself, but this time it was a necessity. What is this? Two contradictory definition or understanding of consciousness within a distance of a paragraph. How are we going to stay on the track without losing the main topic, and how are we going to develop a perception on consciousness?

    I am speechless...

    Excuse me, even if we accepted that there was a "clear distinction" between the faculties of consciousness -mind you; I am not talking about brain lobes yet, I am talking about conceptual identity of consciousness!-; question is still there: What are the faculties of core areas and what are the faculties of extension? On top of it, is there any structure on human mind that can be held out of an "evolutionary vintage" (old or relatively new, doesn't matter)

    What evidence? Which consciousness? What is core? How is it possible to claim that "brain's physical areas were developed very early in the evolution of life on our planet"; while we know that brain itself was not evolved in the early stages of more than 3.5 Billion year history of life in this planet, but relatively late stages? How can we get an overall judgement of "Human Cognition is an Embodied Activity" while we are trying to develop artificial intelligence in our era? What is going on? What all this crap for?

    All right, maybe I can have a look, one day....
  8. coberst Registered Senior Member

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science), over the last four decades, has advanced theories that are directed at answering the question “What is cognition?”

    SGCS brings together many academic disciplines such as psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy to answer this very important question.

    Cognitive science has introduced a new way of viewing the world and our self by declaring a new paradigm which I call the embodied mind. The primary focus is upon the fact that there is no mind/body duality but that there is indeed an integrated mind and body. The mind and body are as integrated as is the heart and the body.

    The human thought process is dominated by the characteristic of our integrated body. The sensorimotor neural network is an integral part of our mind. The neural network that makes movement and perception possible is the same network that processes our thinking.

    The unconscious categories that guide our human response to the world are constructed in the same way as are the categories that make it possible of other animals to survive in the world. We form categories both consciously and unconsciously.

    Why do we feel that both our consciously created and unconsciously created categories fit the world?

    Our consciously formed concepts fit the world, more or less, because we consciously examine the world with our senses and our reason and classify that world into these concepts we call categories.

    Our unconsciously formed categories are a different matter. Our unconsciously formed categories fit our world because these basic-level categories “have evolved to form at least one important class of categories that optimally fit our bodily experiences of entities and certain extremely important differences in the natural environment”.

    Our perceptual system has little difficulty distinguishing between dogs and cows or rats and squirrels. Investigation of this matter makes clear that we distinguish most readily those folk versions of biological genera, i.e. those “that have evolved significantly distinct shapes so as to take advantage of different features of their environment.”

    If we move down to subordinate levels of the biological hierarchy we find the distinguishing ability deteriorates quickly. It is more difficult to distinguish one species of elephant from another than from distinguishing an elephant from a buffalo. It is easy to distinguish a boat from a car but more difficult distinguishing one type of car from another.

    “Consider the categories chair and car which are in the middle of the category hierarchies furniture—chair—rocking chair and vehicle—car—sports car. In the mid-1970s, Brent Berlin, Eleanor Rosch, Carolyn Mervis, and their coworkers discovered that such mid-level categories are cogently “basic”—i.e. they have a kind of cognitive priority, as contrasted with “superordinate” categories like furniture and vehicle and with “subordinate” categories like rocking chair and sports car” (Berlin et al 1974 “Principles of Tzeltal Plant Classification”; Mervis and Rosch 1981 Categorization of Natural Objects, “Annual Review of Psychology” 32: 89-115))

    The differences between basic-level and non basic-level categories is based upon bodily characteristics. The basic-level categories are dependent upon gestalt perception, sensorimotor programs, and mental images. “Because of this, classical metaphysical realism cannot be true, since the properties of categories are mediated by the body rather than determined directly by a mind-independent reality”

    In humans basic level categories are developed primarily based upon our bodily configuration and its interrelationship with the environment. For other animals almost all, if not all, categories are basic-level categories.

    Quotes from Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson
  9. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    *** MOD NOTE ***
    Coberst, I will repeat Glaucon's message from here, and reiterate mine from here.
    If you continue to post along the lines of "X thinks such and such" without giving any a personal interpretation or suggesting a line of questioning the your threads will be locked and Cesspooled.
    All you seem to be doing so far (in your "career" here) is giving someone else's opinion.
    And try actually replying to other posts instead of continuing to wend your merry solitary way on whatever path you think you're following
  10. coberst Registered Senior Member


    My dear mother whispered into my ear with her dying breath "Son never argue with the hand holding the mic".
  11. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

    You fucking arrogant asshole of a liar. You unmitigatedly disrespectful bastard. On another forum you claimed that the dying words of your mother were "Son never argue with a heckler."

    You have the gall, the audacity, the self righteous, snide disrespect to lie about the death bed words of your own mother. Shame on you. That is even more disgusting than your normal self centered, egostostical, self indulgent, delusional ramblings.
  12. coberst Registered Senior Member

    My dear mother had many considered opinions and did not go easily into this good night; perhaps that is why I write so much.
  13. francois Schwat? Registered Senior Member

    Philosophy is nice and all that, but let's hear more about the mother. My curiosity has been amply piqued.

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