Show Reference: "An embodied cognitive science?"

An embodied cognitive science? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 3, No. 9. (1 September 1999), pp. 345-351, doi:10.1016/s1364-6613(99)01361-3 by Andy Clark
    abstract = {The last ten years have seen an increasing interest, within cognitive science, in issues concerning the physical body, the local environment, and the complex interplay between neural systems and the wider world in which they function. Yet many unanswered questions remain, and the shape of a genuinely physically embodied, environmentally embedded science of the mind is still unclear. In this article I will raise a number of critical questions concerning the nature and scope of this approach, drawing a distinction between two kinds of appeal to embodiment: (1) 'Simple' cases, in which bodily and environmental properties merely constrain accounts that retain the focus on inner organization and processing; and (2) More radical appeals, in which attention to bodily and environmental features is meant to transform both the subject matter and the theoretical framework of cognitive science.},
    author = {Clark, Andy},
    citeulike-article-id = {3399554},
    citeulike-linkout-0 = {},
    day = {1},
    doi = {10.1016/s1364-6613(99)01361-3},
    issn = {13646613},
    journal = {Trends in Cognitive Sciences},
    keywords = {cognition, cognitive-neuroscience, embodiment},
    month = sep,
    number = {9},
    pages = {345--351},
    posted-at = {2014-09-04 14:57:43},
    priority = {2},
    title = {An embodied cognitive science?},
    url = {},
    volume = {3},
    year = {1999}

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The theory around situated cognition holds that cognitive processes cannot be separated from context:

  • What needs to be represented internally depends on what is readily available in the environment and
  • some things are easier to check in the environment (by gathering information, trying things out) than inferred or simulated in the cognitive agent itself.

`Disembodied' theories account for intentionality relatively well: they posit cognitive representations which stand for real-world entities even in their absence (or inexistence).

Embodied cognition has a harder time explaining off-line cognition, ie. cognition about things that don't stimulate the senses.

Mental simulation, ie. simulation of sensorimotor interaction, is one way in which embodied cognitive theories can account for offline cognition.

Some things we think about (like moral judgements, dynamics in economy) are very abstract and it is hard to connect them to sensorimotor interactions.

Clark calls theories `radical embodiment' if they make one or more of the following claims:

  1. Classical tools of cognitive science are insufficient to understand cognition (and others, like dynamical systems are needed)
  2. Representations and computation on them are inadequate to describe cognition
  3. Modularizing the brain is misleading.

Clark called evidence for the ideas that non-classical tools are necessary to understand cognition are necessary and that representations and computation are bad categories for thinking about cognition weak (in 1999).

He conjectured that there is a middle ground between embodied and disembodied cognition.

Biorobotics has been a driving force in embodiment theory.

There is the view that perception is an active process and cannot be understood without an active component.

Some argue that the main task of cognition is generating the correct actions.

If the main task of cognition is generating the correct actions, then it is not important in itself to recover a perfect representation of the world from perception.