Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Philosophy

Advisor

Jack Lyons

Committee Member

Ed Minar

Second Committee Member

Eric Funkhouser

Abstract

Embodied cognition has received a fair amount of attention in philosophical, neuroscientific, and robotic research during the past several decades, yet the precise nature of its goals, methods, and claims are unclear. This dissertation will ascertain and examine the primary themes in the field of embodied cognition as well as why, and if, they offer significant challenges to traditional cognitive science models. Though many theories believe they are providing accounts that should replace traditional models, to do so they will have to overcome the very difficult challenge of arguing that mental content and capabilities derived from sensorimotor activity can continue to function independent from the sensorimotor processes necessary for their instantiation. In short, they have to rule out brain-in-a-vat scenarios. Upon examination, most embodiment theorists either do not attempt to address this fundamental issue or they fail to provide a successful account of how it can be achieved through a model of embodied cognition. And for those who are able to overcome this obstacle, doing so will require reconsidering the brain/mind as an extension of the body once it has become thoroughly entangled with sensorimotor processes and activities.

The first portion will attempt to clarify the various claims of embodied cognition to understand what the theories are saying and how they are at odds with traditional cognitive science. Then, several of the most significant embodied arguments will be looked at in detail to determine their philosophical and empirical strength. Finally, the fundamental issue of the metaphysical dependence of mental content and capabilities on embodied activity will be laid bare and it will be shown that nearly all embodiment theories are in alignment with traditional cognitive science on this topic, and those that aren’t will require some additional work.

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