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Robert Fludd, Spiritual Brain, Utriusque Cosmi Historia, 1617.jpg

3. Embodiment: Brain, Body, World


Image: Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi Historia, 1617

Slide 1: It is easy to forget that our perceptions, thoughts, and emotions are embodied experiences. They may be triggered by nature or our social experiences, but their qualities are constructed by our biology. The phenomenal world of the scientist, the businesswoman, or the athlete will not have gaps, it will be seamless, and because it has qualities (affect), it will have an aesthetic dimension.

Slide 2: The complexity of our world cannot be experienced directly or literally, not only would the information would overwhelm us every experience has to be, by nature mediated. As sentient creatures, we must filter what perceive. Therefore, we construct a world with the same senses we use to actively engage in day-to-day activities. Vermeer's Milkmaid purs a pitcher of milk from one container to another as we watch. Our senses actively filter, shape, and construct a simulation, which we project onto what we are experiencing. Our "life-world" is available to us as a controlled hallucination. Rich in color, sound, smells, tastes, and emotions; the world is infused with our habits, our knowledge, and our memories. It visits us in our dreams, and we share it when we use language, gesture, music, or visual images to share what we mean.

Slide 3: The amygdala is where our felt emotional responses, or affect kick in. The cerebellum is where skilled action becomes purposeful action. The hippocampus helps us orient ourselves in space. They act, primarily unconsciously, to integrate our emotions, purpose, and our actions. They help the notes become music. We may conceptualize a gap between our experience and reality, or between the self and nature, however, our everyday world is experienced as a "qualitative unity" (Dewey 1934).

Slide 4: Johannes Vermeer, View of Delft (1660-61)

Slide 5: The cerebellum allows us to "enact" an event as an affordance, as physical, not simply as mood or linguistic, but as a kinetic experience. Johannes Vermeer, Mistress and the Maid, 1667, appears to be a painting of a simple event; the maid arrives with a letter and the mistress stops writing; she seems caught in a moment of hesitation. Consider that the 'subject' of this painting is a subtle emotional state that Vermeer invites us to experience as a visceral tension we can enact only in our imagination.

Slide 6: Johannes Vermeer c. 1667, Mistress and Maid. These two women are caught in a moment of hesitation, like the Milkmaid, a suspended moment of reflection.

Slide 7: Organisms do not access information about the world in order to construct an accurate mental representation of it. Instead, we participate in our world -- we enact a meaningful world -- through our body's responses. Our actions have a "felt" sense of movement, risk, possibility and adventure.

Slide 8: Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earing, (1665). Thinking and feeling cannot be separated, We live in a phenomenal world infused with affect.

Slide 9: We are made up of multiple autopoietic subsystems that participate (unconsciously) in managing our metabolism, as well as our connections to a world we find meaningful. When all is well we are rarely aware of these systems. However, if something goes wrong with any of them they will most likely communicate by internal feelings, such as aches pains, sadness, or anger.

Slide 10: Although each internal subsystem is a world unto itself, each is also dependent on all the other systems to maintain one functioning body; an entity among other entities. We are multiple beings that form the illusion of one unified being.

Slide 11: Human beings communicate by an elaborate linguistic systems we invented at our inception. The meaning of a word is not in the word itself but how it triggers a "felt" understanding. Language is social, it results in communication because it is neither a mind-independent code, nor a source of meaningful "representations," language is meaningful because it activates the deeply "felt" responses embodied embedded in our physical and highly social environments. Speaking is integral to thinking and feeling, and how we have a world.


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