From Embodied To Extended Cognition

John A. Teske, Elizabethtown College


Embodied cognitive science holds that cognitive processes are deeply and inescapably rooted in our bodily interactions with the world. Our finite, contingent, and mortal embodiment may be not only supportive, but in some cases even constitutive of emotions, thoughts, and experiences. My discussion here will work outward from the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the brain to a nervous system which extends to the boundaries of the body. It will extend to nonneural aspects of embodiment and even beyond the boundaries of the body to prosthetics of various kinds, including symbioses with a broad array of cultural artifacts, our symbolic niche, and our relationships with other embodied human beings. While cognition may not always be situated, its origins are embedded in temporally and spatially limited activities. Cognitive work also can be off-loaded to the body and to the environment in service of action, tool use, group cognition, and social coordination. This can blur the boundaries between brain areas, brain and body, and body and environment, transforming our understanding of mind and personhood to provide a different grounding for faith traditions in general, and of the historically dualist Christian tradition in particular. © 2013 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon.