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Beyond Embodiment: John Dewey and the Integrated Mind
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Introduction

In 1916 John Dewey expressed a worry that American philosophy would be relegated to “chewing a historic cud long since reduced to a woody fibre, or an apologetics for lost causes (lost to natural science).” In this paper, I will attempt to contribute to a growing body of literature within the classical American philosophical tradition that seeks to avoid this fate by engaging Dewey’s thought with debates in contemporary philosophy of mind. To date, the vast majority of this work has centered around Dewey’s notion of embodiment and its relation to the thesis of the embodied mind. In this paper I will evaluate the degree to which the embodied mind thesis (henceforth “EMT”) provides the proper framework for understanding Dewey’s notion of embodiment. In doing so, I will advance a three-stage argument: (1) I will argue that although Dewey did anticipate the positions of many embodied mind theorists—a fact that is now approaching the status of the proverbial woody fiber—a thoroughgoing treatment of the biological/ecological dimension of Dewey’s notion of embodiment entails a more radical position than is traditionally attributed to philosophers of mind working in a Deweyan vein. This more radical position is the extended mind thesis (henceforth “XMT”). After briefly elucidating this thesis, (2) I will argue that, while XMT is compatible with EMT, and while the former does capture more of Dewey’s notion of embodiment than the latter, both theses may still fail to capture the full scope of Dewey’s notion of embodiment. Finally, (3) I will argue that the best solution to the conceptual problems presented in (1) and (2) is offered by Richard Menary’s notion of cognitive integration—a notion that turns on a Deweyan understanding of the organism-environment dynamic emphasized in (1). Thus, the conclusion to be argued for in this paper is that while Dewey certainly was a first-rate embodied mind theorist, a proper treatment of his notion of embodiment requires us to move beyond a conception of the mind as merely embodied and toward a conception of the mind as extended, and ultimately, integrated.

1. Dewey’s Notion of Embodiment

I will first provide a brief overview of the Deweyan notion of embodiment. There are (at least) three distinct but interrelated dimensions: biological/ecological, physiological/psychological, and social/political. Each dimension is expounded in Dewey’s work by way of an analysis of the traditional dualisms or dichotomies that correspond to each dimension: organism-environment, stimulus-response, and individual-society, respectively. In this paper, I will limit my focus to the biological/ecological and the physiological/psychological dimensions. I contend that Dewey’s notion of embodiment is traditionally linked with the latter dimension, but that a thoroughgoing treatment of the former dimension is more amenable to contemporary philosophy of mind debates. To be more specific, I believe that if Dewey’s thought is to have a place in contemporary philosophy of mind, the locus of his notion of embodiment should not necessarily be the “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” essay of 1896, as the vast majority of the secondary literature has it. Rather than casting Dewey’s notion of embodiment in terms of stimulus and response (the physiological/psychological dimension), I suggest that works such as the Lectures on Ethics and Experience and Nature, which explicitly embrace the language of organism-environment transactions (biological/ecological dimension), are more suitable for appropriation in twenty-first-century debates.

Because there is no shortage of excellent secondary material that analyzes the notion of embodiment that emerges from the reflex arc essay, I will refrain from further chewing this cud and instead focus my attention on justifying the shift in emphasis from the physiological/psychological dimension to the biological/ecological. To begin, we need an emblematic formulation of the physiological/psychological dimension of embodiment. In a sentence, it might be reduced to Dewey’s assertion that “both sensation and movement lie inside, not outside the act” (EW 5:98). This is to say that in explaining behavior, we must take the act as the fundamental unit of analysis; we must start from the standpoint of active engagement with and through the...



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