How are the mind and body harnessed together? In The Mind Incarnate, Lawrence Shapiro addresses this question by testing two widely accepted hypotheses, the multiple realizability thesis and the separability thesis. He argues that there is signficicant—though far from decisive—evidence against them.
While contemporary philosophers no longer view the mind as a supernatural entity—the famous "Ghost in the Machine" dogma that Gilbert Ryle ridiculed over fifty years ago—Shapiro argues that naturalistic approaches to understanding the mind retain their own naturalized varieties of ghosts. In particular, the multiple realizability thesis holds that the connection between human minds and human brains is in some sense accidental: the tie between mental properties and neural properties is not physically necessary. According to the separability thesis, the mind is a largely autonomous component residing in the body that contributes little to its functioning. Shapiro tests these hypotheses against two rivals, the mental constraint thesis and the embodied mind thesis. Collecting evidence from a variety of sources (e.g., neuroscience, evolutionary theory, and embodied cognition) he concludes that the multiple realizability thesis, accepted by most philosophers as a virtual truism, is much less obvious than commonly assumed, and that there is even stronger reason to give up the separability thesis. In contrast to views of mind that tempt us to see the mind as simply being resident in a brain or body, Shapiro view is a far more encompassing integration of mind, brain, and body than philosophers have supposed.
About the Author
Lawrence Shapiro is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
"This is a timely and well-argued exorcism of two of Descartes's ghosts. Shapiro's targets are, first, the idea that the mind is a self-contained entity, importantly akin to any other bodily organ, and second, that mental activity is the sort of thing that can be multiply realized by neural activity. In this book, Shapiro provides a lucid, cogent, and, in my view, compelling alternative: the idea of the embodied mind, or the mind incarnate."
—Mark Rowlands, Reader in Philosophy, University of Exeter
"Shapiro's important new book casts a critical eye at an idea that has long been standard in cognitive science and in philosophy of mind: that mental states and processes are 'multiply realizable.' Shapiro distinguishes trivial from substantive versions of this thesis and musters a variety of scientific reasons for doubting the substantive ones. This book should lead scientists and philosophers to reconsider the pervasive assumption that the mind can be understood without reference to the material basis of mental processes."
—Elliott Sober, Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University