Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Diversity of Thought

Varela, Thompson and Rosch took me to another level of what cognition can mean from this week’s reading. I found the Buddhist approach they take in analyzing cognitive science an interesting perspective to understanding our minds and how they function. Reading the first six chapters of this book, I became educated in certain Buddhist concepts that I never heard of before that was really interesting (from the five aggregates to the nidanas). In the past I have read some books by the Dalai Lama and his Buddhist principles, and I found myself thinking back to those books and what I had gained from them. However, I found this text much richer in giving me a better understanding of Buddhist teachings.

I thought Varela, Thompson and Rosch offer a refreshing look at how we can understand cognition, how it works and if we know it is working adequately as they position these questions in Chapter 3 and 5. But, the main aspect I think that the authors provide in this text above all else is diversity. Diversity in how we can look at the mind and its abilities by combining aspects from the fields of psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and non-western thought. I like the way they structured the book by taking the reader along one step at a time from cognitivism to emergence to enactive concepts. I thought this slow build-up from chapter to chapter helped me with getting the concept of the enactive state and embodied approach.

Another aspect that I did find refreshing was the lack of studies or anthropological studies of cultures and other groups in this text. I found it to be a nice break from the previous texts we have read that have applied a concept to a particular study or community. Whereas in the first six chapters at least, the authors spend much of the time scaffolding the ideas of the enactive program.

I found the chart the authors provide on page 112 of the Wheel of Life was a useful visual in demonstrating the 12 links and how they connect. In this same section, the authors helped to debunk for me the myth of Karma and what it is not in Buddhism. (Karma constitutes a description of psychological causality – of how habits form and continue over time.) I found this aspect to be so interesting and really it helped me to understand the 12 links on the Wheel of Life so much better than thinking it was our predestined nature to go through the motions of these 12 links. One aspect I did wonder in this Wheel is where the role of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation would play out? Would this fall under the link of grasping or craving? Or not at all?I was trying hard this week to think of how this text could tie into technology and I was having some difficulties since the concept is much more oriented on a different plane than other literature we have read thus far in the class that has been more readily applicable to technology.

But I will give it a shot – the authors mention that we should view cognition more as an embodied activity with open-ended reflection. (27) If this is the approach that I understood correctly in the text, when we are working with technology on a daily basis – whether talking on a cell phone, designing a website, sending an instant message to a friend, or surfing the Internet for research purposes, is the technology a part of us as we are a part of it and is it only through understanding this embodied experience can we demonstrate that our learning of the technology is really occurring? How far do we need to be from the technology and the world mentally to engage in this enactive state of cognition?


Blogger jmj said...

ASW--I thought the theory was fascinating as well. Overall, I think it gives another useful tool with which we can analyze/interpret our experience.

11:45 AM  

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