Embodied mind and phenomenal consciousness


  • Maria Venieri


philosophy of mind, cognitive process, embodied cognition, mind–body problem, Susan Hurley, Alva Noë, Evan Thompson


In recent years, a central debate in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science concerns the role of the body in perception and cognition. For many contemporary philosophers, not only cognition but also perception is connected mainly with the brain, where the processing of input from the senses takes place; whereas for the proponents of ‘embodied cognition’ other aspects of the body beyond the brain, including the environment, play a constitutive role in cognitive processes. In terms of perception, a new theory has emerged which stresses perception’s active character and claims that the embodied subject and the environment, with which it interacts, form a dynamic system. Supporters of ‘enactive perception’ such as Susan Hurley and Alva Noë maintain that the physical substrate or the supervenience basis of perceptual experience and phenomenal consciousness may include besides the brain and the nervous system other bodily and environmental features. Yet, it will be argued in this paper that the interaction between the subject and the environment forms a system of causal relations, so we can theoretically interfere in the causal chains and create hallucinations, which cannot be distinguished from veridical perception, or a virtual reality as in the film Matrix (1999). This kind of argument and its related thought experiments aim to stress the primacy of the brain in determining phenomenal states, and show that the body and certain interactions with the environment have a causal, but not a constitutive or essential role, in forming phenomenal consciousness.