Monday, May 28, 2012

Disembodied Cognition?

Our cognition can be disembodied? There is a common thought experiment of this kind.

"Let's start with a fully cognizing human being who is complete in body and mind, and ask what we could subtract while still retaining a cognizing mind."

What do you think?

Getting rid of the legs, the arms, the trunk, the neck... We often come to the 'brain-in-a-vat' conclusion.

Given that "we can directly stimulate the parts of the brain responsible for registering sensory information and thereby, supposedly, have exactly the same experience we would have if our sensory organs were delivering that information."

In fact, however, we can go one step forward to the pure functionalist view: "not only is the body unnecessary for experience and cognition, but we don't even need the brain, as long as we have the program and information running on the right kind of hardware."

Quotations are from:
[Gallagher, S. and Zahavi, D. (2012). The Phenomenological Mind (2nd edition). New York: Routledge, pp.147-8.]

But we should notice that there must be another kind of body and world in either case.

The brain needs the nutrition water to be kept alive, the electrodes which gives the sensory inputs, and the vat to float on. The brain is embodied with electrodes and situated in the vat.

The computer program or artificial neural network also needs to be installed on the appropriate hardware, and the hardware needs to be placed in the real world.

They both need to be embodied and situated, in the same manner as our mind is embodied and situated, in order to realize the cognition.