This paper is based on psychology’s embodied cognitive identity theory to refute interactionism, one of the branches of mind-body dualism. The paper critiques the many dilemmas and problems of interactionism under personal identity theory based on the interpretation of embodied cognitive identity theory and thus corrects and reflects on some of the false views of interactionism.
Interactionism is primarily concerned with the dualism of soul and body interaction and can be seen as a branch of mind-body dualism. “Doubting everything” is the beginning of Descartes’ argument for mind-body dualism, and that is the possibility of doubting the material world, including the body (Mohammed, 2012). But logically, he cannot examine the “I” as a challenging process, because “I am doubting, and doubt is a thought. The thought must be possessed by the “I” as the subject, and there is a material world outside of me, both of which are real (Descartes, 2008). Thus there arises the paradox that I can doubt the existence of the material world, including the body, but I cannot check the thinking process of the mind. Therefore, the characteristics of the two are different. The nature of the reason is to be able to think, but without extension, while the heart of the object or body is to have an extension, but not to think, and they belong to two worlds (Urbani, 2019). The dualism of subject and object, mind and body, is thus established. In addition, the debate focuses on the so-called “mind-body relationship” that plagued scholars for centuries. The theory of interaction and mind-body parallelism are the by-products of this controversy.
However, various dualistic hypotheses have artificially created the illusion that the body and mind, cognition and body, can be separated. Many studies in the history of psychology have also provided evidence against mind-body dualism. The functional psychologist Dewey (1958) pointed out that it is wrong to separate experience from reason and that all rational thought is based on bodily experience. Experience is an original whole that does not accept any distinction between subject and object. The experience reflects the interaction between the human being and the environment, in which the organism satisfies the biological needs of the body, engages in practical activities in the background and the process, acquires various experiences.
The psychologists’ opposition to the mind-body dualism has a deep philosophical origin. After Descartes, human categories of thought had already made a clear distinction between mind and matter, leaving opponents of dualism to think in dualistic terms. Descartes’ dualism poses difficulties understanding the interaction of mind and body and the exchange of mind and social situations (Duncan, 2000). Epistemologically, if one recognizes that subject and object or mind and body are oppositional dualities, then the process of knowing must reflect a relationship of “representation and representation”—the world. Precise representation becomes the prerequisite and basis for knowing the world. Traditional cognitive psychology treats cognition as a representation and processing process independent of the body based on this mind-body dualism as the epistemological foundation. However, cognitive science, philosophy, robotics, and linguistics researchers are increasingly aware that mental representations and operations are rooted in their physical contexts. Such awareness has led to the emergence of embodied cognitive identity theories.
Cognition is embodied, with the primary implication that the physical properties of the body influence and shape understanding and play a crucial role in the formation of cognitive processes. Abstract ideas and complex emotional experiences have a physical and neural basis. The unique bodily mechanisms that humans develop in adapting to the environment determine the extraordinary form of our thoughts and the unique nature of our emotional experiences (Tooby and Cosmides,1990). Traditionally, cognitive researchers have acknowledged the role of physical properties of the body on lower-level mental processes such as sensation and perception and the influence of eye movements on perception formation (Proctor, R. W., & Proctor, J. D., 2021). However, these have argued that physical properties of the body have little or no impact on higher-level cognitive processes such as judgment and categorization associated with abstract linguistic-symbolic processing. However, researchers in embodied cognition have experimentally confirmed that the physical properties of the body directly affect mental formation.
Cognitive processes are deeply rooted in the interaction of the body with the objective world. The cognitive psychology of information processing is based on mind-body dualism and regards cognition as an abstract symbolic information processing process, similar to a computer’s software. Since software and hardware are functionally independent, cognition can be separated from the brain, and the existence of a disembodied mind or cognition is taken for granted (Teskes, 2013). However, the study of embodied cognition reveals that cognition is composed of the body’s physical state and the schema of the sensorimotor system and that higher mental processes such as memory, thought, and emotion are not processed by abstract symbols but by embodied cognitive simulation. In other words, cognition is the body’s cognition, and people know the world through the body. Cognition and the body are the same. Such a view avoids the dilemma of dualism, which cannot explain how two types of entities with completely different natures interact, and the abolitionism of monism treats cognition and body as one, emphasizing the dependence of cognition on the structure of the body and its activities. This view recognizes the existence of the mind or cognition. It highlights the inseparable character of mind or cognition and body, and its monistic theory of mind and body provides a new perspective for the correct understanding of the so-called mind-body relationship.
The dualism of traditional interactionist cognition in development has made it difficult for human cognitive models to break away from the domination of duality. Embodied cognition attempts to understand the way individuals construct understanding by taking the specific mental phenomena that occur in a particular environment for the complete individual, including the brain and the body, emphasizing the integrity of the mind and body and the interpenetration of the environment, and answering the question of the relationship between mind, body, and environment. Although it inherits Descartes’ concept of dualistic thought, the analysis and abandonment of mind-body interactionism are worthy of attention.
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