Environmental Representation of the Body

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Much recent cognitive neuroscientific work on body knowledge is representationalist: “body schema” and “body images”, for example, are cerebral representations of the body (de Vignemont 2009). A framework assumption is that representation of the body plays an important role in cognition. The question is whether this representationalist assumption is compatible with the variety of broadly situated or embodied approaches recently popular in the cognitive neurosciences: approaches in which cognition is taken to have a ‘direct’ relation to the body and to the environment. A “direct” relation is one where the boundaries between the body and the head, or between the environment and the animal are not theoretically important in the understanding of cognition. These boundaries do not play a theoretically privileged role in cognitive explanations of behavior. But representationalism appears to put a representational veil between the locus of cognition and that which is represented, making cognitive relations to the body and to the environment be indirect, with a high associated computational load. For this reason, direct approaches have tried to minimize the use of internal representations (Suchman 1987; Barwise 1987; Agre and Chapman 1987; Brooks 1992; Thelen and Smith 1994; van Gelder 1995; Port and van Gelder 1995; Clark 1997, 1999; Rupert 2009, p. 180). Does a cognitive neuroscience committed to direct relations rule out a representationalist approach to body knowledge? Or is direct representationalism possible?
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Archival date: 2013-02-06
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