Situating Mental Depth

Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 13 (1):1-30 (2022)
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Abstract

Is the mind flat? Chater (2018) has recently argued that it is and that, contrary to traditional psychology and standard folk image, depth of mind is just an illusory confabulation. In this paper, we argue that while there is a kernel of something correct in Chater’s thesis, this does not in itself add up to a critique of mental depth per se. We use Chater’s ideas as a springboard for creating a new understanding of mental depth which builds upon findings in contemporary cognitive science. First, we rely on the predictive processing framework in order to determine a proposed neural contribution to mental depth, specifically in hierarchical predictive knowledge. Second, drawing from an embodied approach to cognition, we argue that mental depth results from the depth of our embodied skills and the situations in which we are embedded. This allows us to introduce to a new realist notion of mental depth, one which can only be explained once we attend to the dense patterns of skillful interaction within a rich artefactual and social environment.

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