University of Innsbruck

Project description

In recent years there has been an increased focus on the role of the body in cognitive science and the humanities. Embodied theories of the mind challenge the guiding assumption of ‘classical’ cognitive science that mental capabilities such as perceiving, thinking and recognizing can be reduced to brain activity. Instead they argue that the entire organism, as well as parts of its natural, cultural and technological environment not only cause mental states and events, but instead constitute them in such a way that the distinction between mind and world, ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ becomes questionable.

These theories, which in recent years have become known under the heading of ‘4E Cognition’ (embodied, embedded, enacted, extended), have interesting points of contact with classical Christian anthropology, which so far have remained unexplored. For instance, Augustine’s trinitarian anthropology conceives of the mind in its character as image of God as a relational triad of memory, insight and will, which involves the entire human being and its surroundings. The doctrine of the incarnation, as well as the hope for the resurrection of the body at the end of days also point to an embodied and holistic anthropology, which largely has been neglected since the dawn of modernity and often been replaced with a simple-minded mind-body dualism, even where the classical doctrines theoretically remained in place.

It is the task of the present project to develop, on the basis of classical Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas as well as modern proponents of 4E Cognition from Maurice Merleau-Ponty to present-day thinkers like Thomas Fuchs and Alva Noë, an embodied and holistic theological anthropology, which also does justice to recent developments in empirical cognitive science and the philosophy of technology. It thus aims to contribute to the dialogue between natural science, philosophy and theology – the development of a ‘science-engaged theology.’

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