Embodied Cognition and Extended Selves

1802 Words8 Pages
The body and mind dilemma has been of great interest by many since the first

philosophers began theorizing about their relationship and interconnectedness. There

remain two prominent, yet opposing claims. The first is the assertion that the body

provides “special and ineliminable contributions” to one’s understanding and cognitive

processes (Clark, 2006, pp. 4). The other claims a viewpoint of extended functionalism

which views physical behaviours as a method of processing information and environmental

structures as a method of storing the information (Clark, 2006, pp. 14-15). These claims

are in opposition of each other as the first requires the body of a species in order to

perceive the world as that species does whereas the second places emphasis on the role of

external structures to shape understanding and perception, therefore, does not require the

specific body. Many researchers have documented their experiences and work completed

with various animals to support one of the previous claims. Through use of the previous

streams of thought, an analysis of the embodied and embedded mind portrayed in the 2009

film, Avatar, will be completed to address Jake Sully’s transition from being a paraplegic

human to inhabiting a Na’vi body and experiencing the world through the eyes of a Na’vi

group member.

Philosophy professor, Andy Clark studies and analyzes the two competing strains

of thought in his 2006 article, “Pressing the flesh: A tension in the study of the embodied,

embedded mind?” in which he concisely describes the tension that exists between them.

The first claim, referred to as the “Larger Mechanism Story” (LMS) supports the idea of the

mind and body being able to exist without the pre...

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...ne cannot truly understand or experience another

species’ reality without having similar bodies by which the world is experienced and

perceived. However, one does not need to experience the exact, true reality of another to

empathize, build relationships, and share a mutual understanding with them. It is due to

Clark’s assertion on the mind/body relationship that allows Cameron’s character, Jake Sully

to inhabit the body of the Na’vi and control its actions using his human embodied mind.

The strength of the mind/body relationship is displayed when Sully begins to adopt the

consciousness and mind of the Na’vi after prolonged exposure in the Na’vi body and

community. This supports Clark’s claim that aspects of the body contribute both

functionally and computationally but also that they influence the subjective conscious

experience of the individual.

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