Volume 14 · Number 1 · Pages 8–21
Decentering the Brain: Embodied Cognition and the Critique of Neurocentrism and Narrow-Minded Philosophy of Mind

Shaun Gallagher

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Context: Challenges by embodied, enactive, extended and ecological approaches to cognition have provided good reasons to shift away from neurocentric theories. Problem: Classic cognitivist accounts tend towards internalism, representationalism and methodological individualism. Such accounts not only picture the brain as the central and almost exclusive mechanism of cognition, they also conceive of brain function in terms that ignore the dynamical relations among brain, body and environment. Method: I review four areas of research (perception, action/agency, self, social cognition) where enactivist accounts have shown alternative ways of thinking about the brain. Results: Taken together, such analyses form a comprehensive alternative to the classic conceptions of cognitivist, computational neuroscience. Implications: Such considerations motivate the need to re-think our understanding of how the brain itself works. They suggest that the best explanation of brain function may be found in the mixed vocabularies of embodied and situated cognition, developmental psychology, ecological psychology, dynamic systems theory, applied linguistics, the theory of affordances and material engagement, rather than the narrow vocabulary of computational neuroscience. Constructivist content: This account is consistent with an enactivist-constructivist approach to cognition.

Key words: Internalism, perception, agency, autonomy, self, social cognition, predictive processing, enactivism.


Gallagher S. (2018) Decentering the brain: Embodied cognition and the critique of neurocentrism and narrow-minded philosophy of mind. Constructivist Foundations 14(1): 8–21. http://constructivist.info/14/1/008

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