Essential Embodiment Theory

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Robert Hanna and Michelle Maiese:

"the Essential Embodiment Theory. This view entails that creatures minded like us are neither ghosts-in-machines nor machines-in-machines. On the contrary, creatures with minds are essentially embodied minds and self-organizing thermodynamic systems. And because nature basically includes causally efficacious living organisms, then minds are causally efficacious in the same basic way. Or, in other words, creatures with minds are motile, neurobiologically complex, situated, forward-flowing living organisms that are truly globally intrinsic-ally structured by irreducible consciousness and intentionality, and are thereby inherently capable of performing intentional body movements under favorable endogenous and exogenous conditions. Or, in still other words, and not so longwindedly:

Because minds are alive it necessarily follows that, with a little bit of luck, creatures with minds can intentionally move their own living organismic bodies when they want to.."



Robert Hanna and Michelle Maiese:


"The two core ideas of the Essential Embodiment Theory —

(1) that conscious, intentional minds are the irreducible and truly global or inherently dominating intrinsic structures of motile, neurobiologically complex, situated, forward-flowing living organisms, and

(2) that because organismic life is basically included in nature and is basically causally efficacious, then our minds are basically causally efficacious too—when adequately elaborated, enable us to offer a radically revisionary explanation of mental causation and intentional action.

This is, as we have just said, a radically revisionary explanation in relation to contemporary mainstream philosophy of mind and cognitive science, but also one that is not wholly historically unprecedented. As we will see in a moment, it is significantly related to Aristotle’s metaphysics. But perhaps even more significantly, although the Essential Embodiment Theory is radically opposed to Cartesian Dualism and mechanism alike, it is also ironically true that Descartes’s own passing remarks about the ‘‘intermingling’’ of mind and body into a single ‘‘unit’’ strongly anticipate our core idea. There is, indeed, nothing that our own nature, and nature itself, teach us more directly and vividly than that we have living organismic bodies and that we are ‘‘very closely joined’’ to them. We believe that this is no mere metaphysical accident, and that the embodiment of our minds necessarily extends to all the vital systems, vital organs, and vital processes of our living bodies. This is not to say that we are always or even usually conscious of our living bodies and their vital systems, organs, or processes. Indeed, this is relatively rare, as, e.g., when I become single-mindedly and vividly attentive to the pounding of my heart and the heaving of my lungs after running up a flight of stairs .But it is indeed to say that minds are always and necessarily conscious and intentional with, or in-and-through, all the vital systems, organs, and processes of our living bodies. If we are correct that minds are always and necessarily conscious and intentional with or in-and-through our living bodies and their basic neurobiology, then it follows that minds are necessarily and completely incarnated, situated, forward-flowing, alive, and causally efficaciously engaged with the natural world."



"the Essential Embodiment Theory has sixcentral theses:

(1) The Essential Embodiment Thesis:

Creatures with conscious, intentional minds are necessarily and completely neurobiologically embodied.

(2) The Essentially Embodied Agency Thesis:

Basic acts (e.g., raising one’s arm) are intentional body movements caused by an essentially embodied mind’s synchronous trying to make those very movements and its active guidance of them.

(3) The Emotive Causation Thesis:

Trying and its active guidance, as the cause of basic intentional actions, is primarily a pre-reflective, desire-based emotive mental activity and only derivatively a self-conscious or self-reflective, deliberative intellectual mental activity.

(4) The Mind-Body Animalism Thesis:

The fundamental mental properties of conscious, intentional minds are

(a) non-logically or strongly metaphysically a priori necessarily reciprocally intrinsic-ally connected to corresponding fundamental physical properties in a living animal’s body (mental-physical property fusion), and

(b) irreducible truly global or inherently dominating intrinsic structures of motile, suitably neurobiologically complex, egocentrically-centered and spatially oriented, thermodynamically irreversible living organ-isms (neo-Aristotelian hylomorphism).

(5) The Dynamic Emergence Thesis:

The natural world itself is neither fundamentally physical nor fundamentally mental, but is instead essentially a causal-dynamic totality of forces, processes, and patterned movements and changes in real space and real time, all of which exemplify fundamental physical properties (e.g., molecular, atomic, and quantum properties). Some, but not all, of those physical events also exemplify irreducible biological properties (e.g., being a living organism), and some but not all of those biological events also exemplify irreducible fundamental mental properties (e.g., consciousness or intentionality). And both biological properties and fundamental mental properties are dynamically emergent properties of those events.

(6) The Intentional Causation Thesis:

A mental cause is an event or process involving both consciousness and intentionality, such that it is a necessary proper part of a nomologically jointly sufficient essentially mental-and-physical cause of intentional body move-ments. In so being, it is a dynamically emergent structuring cause of those movements. Then, under the appropriate endogenous and exogenous conditions, by virtue of synchronous trying and its act-ive guidance, conscious intentional essentially embodied minds are mental causes of basic acts from their inception in neurobiological processes to their completion in overt intentional body movements."