ARE YOU YOUR BODY, YOUR MIND, BOTH (to the same extent?), OR SOME KIND OF MERGER (IDENTITY?) OF THEM? (please, add other options in the comments section) [About the discussion on Dreyfus´ paper and extended mind]

by alfredoms

Although my example wasn´t the best one (improvisation better for jazz), I think that my description of Clark´s extended functionalism was essentially right. I will write down some quotation from Supersizing the Mind to support that description.

But before some minor words about the (indeed poor) example: from a functionalist standpoint the object of my example (chair) is a chair due to its functional features, so considering a chair as a chair in this sense is quite obvious that I cannot say that what is functionally a chair is functionally something distinct from a chair (that is, if something is essentially and functionally defined as a chair cannot be essentially and functionally a humanlike mind –so, I did not mean that–). However, according to some strong functionalism, deeply committed to multiple realizability, an intelligent (even human-like intelligence) being from a possible world could have the appearance of a chair; that is, to look like a chair without being a chair (but perhaps a living being –taking “living” in a very broad sense–). In the case of extended functionalism (see the quotations below) such a system-being-creature (in particular her body) would be, in fact, part (“participant machinery” in Clark´s terms) of a larger system: the humanlike (extended) mind at issue would be, then, a property of the larger system, which is the material supervenience base of it. This was the point of the example, although I recognize that it is possible to think of better illustrations.

Nevertheless, the example was just a peripheral, improvised, and rather dramatic illustration, the main point of my worry was this: from the standpoint of extended functionalism what makes us humans? Does it make sense to say “I am my body”? Would a radically different creature from us in terms of body, but with a humanlike mind, be human in some respect?  (I leave the Cartesian part for another occasion to not make this to long, but I suggest thinking in the consequences of the two possible answers to the last question: If yes…/If not…).

Quotations (I will just focus on the notion of Distributed Functional Descomposition I mentioned in class):

-“The use of the term functional in distributed functional descomposition is meant to remind us that even in these larger systems, it is the roles played by various elements, and not the specific ways those elements are realized, that do the explanatory work” (14).

-Take the case of “a snakelike creature lying on top of an advanced touch-screenlike environment […]”. “The snake being (call it Adder) uses this setup, let us suppose, to carry out the same complex accounting as the standard, pen-and-paper accountant Ada”. “As far as the distributed functional descomposition (DFD) goes, there is no reason to suppose […] that the accounting-relevant states of Ada and Adder need differ in any respect” (203).

-“DFD-style work in embodied, embedded cognition thus lends no support to the idea that minds like ours require bodies like our […]. Creatures with radically different bodies, brains, and worlds from us might thus contrive to use their varying resources to implement many of the very same cognitive and information-processing routines” (203-204).