Friday, November 30, 2018

Being a Beast Machine: The Somatic Basis of Selfhood

Seth and Tsakiris offer a review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, with the title of this post, that immediately caught my eye. I'm working on a lecture now that incorporates some of its themes. Here I pass on the abstract, motivated readers can obtain a copy of the full article from me.

We conceptualise experiences of embodied selfhood in terms of control-oriented predictive regulation (allostasis) of physiological states.
We account for distinctive phenomenological aspects of embodied selfhood, including its (partly) non-object-like nature and its subjective stability over time.
We explain predictive perception as a generalisation from a fundamental biological imperative to maintain physiological integrity: to stay alive.
We bring together several cognitive science traditions, including predictive processing, perceptual control theory, cybernetics, the free energy principle, and sensorimotor contingency theory.
We show how perception of the world around us, and of ourselves within it, happens with, through, and because of our living bodies.
We draw implications for developmental psychology and identify open questions in psychiatry and artificial intelligence.
Modern psychology has long focused on the body as the basis of the self. Recently, predictive processing accounts of interoception (perception of the body ‘from within’) have become influential in accounting for experiences of body ownership and emotion. Here, we describe embodied selfhood in terms of ‘instrumental interoceptive inference’ that emphasises allostatic regulation and physiological integrity. We apply this approach to the distinctive phenomenology of embodied selfhood, accounting for its non-object-like character and subjective stability over time. Our perspective has implications for the development of selfhood and illuminates longstanding debates about relations between life and mind, implying, contrary to Descartes, that experiences of embodied selfhood arise because of, and not in spite of, our nature as ‘beast machines’.

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