Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Slow down--My ego can't keep up

Wow. Varela, Thompson and Rosch present a definitely new way of looking at cognition. While the beginning of their book seems verly clearly written for the "educated layperson" as they noted, the last chapters seems to speed up, as if the authors are afraid the reader will stop reading before they get their ideas across. This is frustrating, since their enactive approach is the one part--being new--that needs more patience in presentation. Introducing non-Western views into a very Western discussion of cognition takes a lot of preparation and explanation, and I'm afraid the book left me with the feeling that the mind as "embodied" is a great perspective I don't entirely get.

That said, I did find much of their discussion interesting. The discussion on codependent arising, using the twelve links of the Wheel of Life, is illuminating. The example helps distinguish a level of metacognition. In my own reflections, I have found that freedom is associated with metacognition in that breaking the cycle of cravings to grasping allows one to gain control of future responses and environments. That makes sense. I don't get, though, how something lacking self could separate itself to evaluate its own cognition. How do you know that your metacognition isn't just more ego focus and another layer of the percieved world? Where does the perceived world end? I get how perception is interwoven between object and perciever, and I really appreciate the example of color. For me, I fail to see how to further apply the concept.

I thought, too, that the end of the book was weak. It seems the entire book builds to show why an enactive approach is valid in the Western conception of cognitive science, focused on pragmatism, but then it ends by retreating into the highly philosophical discussion of buddhism. I almost felt like they were afraid to make too much of a connection between lived experience and theory and moved back into the safe domain of philosophy. Then again, I don't totally get this embodied mind thing, so it's entirely possible that was the pinnacle of their discussion and I missed it. After reading this, I guess I'm just not myself today...or any day?


Blogger gfp said...

Sorry--I meant to post this yesterday, but I must have hit the draft button. Darn it.

12:30 PM  
Blogger IB said...

gfp, interesting question! We are getting to a kind of circular reasoning and back to the chicken-or-egg question! I have no answer to your question, but you are right, if we become mindful/aware and let go of our self what then is it that is mindful/aware and what instance can we refer to to evaluate the degree of mindfulness/awareness that we have reached? I feel unconformtable about the use they make of philosophy but that is because my background is so different from their approach. I never thought a philosopher was lost in me…

3:49 PM  

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