Thinking embodiment with genetics: epigenetics and postgenomic biology in embodied cognition and enactivism

Synthese 198 (11):10685-10708 (2020)
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The role of the body in cognition is acknowledged across a variety of disciplines, even if the precise nature and scope of that contribution remain contentious. As a result, most philosophers working on embodiment—e.g. those in embodied cognition, enactivism, and ‘4e’ cognition—interact with the life sciences as part of their interdisciplinary agenda. Despite this, a detailed engagement with emerging findings in epigenetics and post-genomic biology has been missing from proponents of this embodied turn. Surveying this research provides an opportunity to rethink the relationship between embodiment and genetics, and we argue that the balance of current epigenetic research favours the extension of an enactivist approach to mind and life, rather than the extended functionalist view of embodied cognition associated with Andy Clark and Mike Wheeler, which is more substrate neutral.
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