Spongy Brains and Material Memories

In Mary Floyd-Wilson & Garrett Sullivan (eds.), Embodiment and Environment in Early Modern England. Palgrave (2007)
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Embodied human minds operate in and spread across a vast and uneven world of things—artifacts, technologies, and institutions which they have collectively constructed and maintained through cultural and individual history. This chapter seeks to add a historical dimension to the enthusiastically future-oriented study of “natural-born cyborgs” in the philosophy of cognitive science,3 and a cognitive dimension to recent work on material memories and symbol systems in early modern England, bringing humoral psychophysiology together with material culture studies. The aim is to sketch an integrative framework which spans early modern ideas and practices relating to brains, bodies, memory, and objects. Embodiment and environment, I’ll argue, were not (always) merely external influences on feeling, thinking, and remembering, but (in certain circumstances) partly constitutive of these activities.

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John Sutton
Macquarie University


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