How the Body Shapes the Mind is an interdisciplinary work that addresses philosophical questions by appealing to evidence found in experimental psychology, neuroscience, studies of pathologies, and developmental psychology. There is a growing consensus across these disciplines that the contribution of embodiment to cognition is inescapable. Because this insight has been developed across a variety of disciplines, however, there is still a need to develop a common vocabulary that is capable of integrating discussions of brain mechanisms in neuroscience, behavioural expressions in psychology, design concerns in artificial intelligence and robotics, and debates about embodied experience in the phenomenology and philosophy of mind. Shaun Gallagher's book aims to contribute to the formulation of that common vocabulary and to develop a conceptual framework that will avoid both the overly reductionistic approaches that explain everything in terms of bottom-up neuronal mechanisms, and inflationistic approaches that explain everything in terms of Cartesian, top-down cognitive states.
Gallagher pursues two basic sets of questions. The first set consists of questions about the phenomenal aspects of the structure of experience, and specifically the relatively regular and constant features that we find in the content of our experience. If throughout conscious experience there is a constant reference to one's own body, even if this is a recessive or marginal awareness, then that reference constitutes a structural feature of the phenomenal field of consciousness, part of a framework that is likely to determine or influence all other aspects of experience. The second set of questions concerns aspects of the structure of experience that are more hidden, those that may be more difficult to get at because they happen before we know it. They do not normally enter into the content of experience in an explicit way, and are often inaccessible to reflective consciousness. To what extent, and in what ways, are consciousness and cognitive processes, which include experiences related to perception, memory, imagination, belief, judgement, and so forth, shaped or structured by the fact that they are embodied in this way?
Part I: Scientific and Phenomenological Investigations of Embodiment
1: The Terms of Embodiment
2: The Case of the Missing Schema
3: The Earliest Senses of Self and Others
4: Pursuing a Phantom
5: The Body in Gesture
Part II: Excursions in Philosophy and Pathology
6: Prenoetic Constraints on Perception and Action
7: Neurons and Neonates: Reflections on the Molyneux System
8: Complex Structures and Common Dynamics of Self-Awareness
9: The Interactive Practice of Mind
10: Before You Know It
Shaun Gallagher teaches in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Central Florida.
"[...] this book is a massive interdisciplinary achievement and a major contribution to a better understanding of the role of embodiemtn in consciousness and cognition [...] His book combines an impressive knowledge of contemporary research in the cognitive and neurocognitive sciences with a keen sense of the deep and important philosophical issues this research raises. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in the contribution of embodiment to cognition."
– Elisabeth Pacherie, Mind
"Any reader wishing for an exhaustive survey of neuroscience as it relates to the question of embodiment could not wish for a better guide than Gallagher. He is a philosopher who both knows and practises the relevant science, and his syntheses of the data are convincing because they never stray too far from their empirical base [...] This is a hugely well-informed and clearly reasoned intervention that will benefit both research and theory in the field."
– Vincent Deary, Times Literary Supplement
" [...] an extraordinarily rich and important collection [...] It deserves a wide audience"
– Jonathan Cole, Pragmatics and Cognition