Where Brain, Body and World Collide
The brain fascinates because it is the biological organ of mindfulness itself. It is the inner engine that drives intelligent behavior. Such a depiction provides a worthy antidote to the once-popular vision of the mind as somehow lying outside the natural order. But it is a vision with a price. For it has concentrated much theoretical attention on an uncomfortably restricted space; the space of the inner neural machine, divorced from the wider world which then enters the story only via the hygienic gateways of perception and action. Recent work in neuroscience, robotics and psychology casts doubt on the effectiveness of such a shrunken perspective. Instead, it stresses the unexpected intimacy of brain, body and world and invites us to attend to the structure and dynamics of extended adaptive systems -- ones involving a much wider variety of factors and forces. Whilst it needs to be handled with some caution, I believe there is much to be learnt from this broader vision. The mind itself, if such a vision is correct, is best understood as the activity of an essentially situated brain: a brain at home in its proper bodily, cultural and environmental niche.