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1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen 18 Years After, 20. Februar 2009
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Taschenbuch)
18 Years After
Writing a short review of a book 18 years aftere its original publishing can raise some questions. But there are books which are worth to remember.


When the book 'The Embodied Mind (TEM)' by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch appeared in 1991 this was an impressive synopsis of main lines of research in the cognitive sciences, but also a critical review of important positions. This resulted into at least two important working hypotheses which gained a strong influence in the years following the publication until today. The one hypothesis centered around the term 'embodied cognition' and the other around the term 'naturalistic drift'. These topics alone can give you an exciting time reading this book. But there is something which makes this book really unique: following the new insights into a very dynamic view of human experience they try to show how a certain variant of Buddhist thinking and practice could be of help in living such an open minded existence. What does this mean?


To understand this one has to explain a bit more that the idea of 'embodied cognition' results from the insight into the process of cognition: the authors try to show that there is not a pre-given world of objects which than are represented in the mind, but that the 'objects of the consciousness' are the result of complex processes where properties of the environment are processed by the body and the brain into certain patterns of activity which function as the 'objects of the world'. But these 'objects in the consciousness' are something 'new', 'productions of the body' which have no direct counterpart in the environment, although they are not completely independent of the world.


This line of thinking is extended into the history of the organisms arguing that the development of organisms in the process of evolution is not as 'simple' as outlined in the classical and neo-Darwinian view of a genetic diversification combined with adaptation guided by fitness. Reporting different findings from genetic and biology they argue that the determination of the final organism is by far not determined by individual genes alone. There is a complex machinery of mutual interdependencies between genes, between parts of the organism, between organism and environment, not only punctually but also during lengthy interaction processes of days, weeks, months and even years. Moreover there is also some part of randomness in all these events. Not the 'optimal' organism is the final goal but the 'viable' organism, that which works with the least effort in some possible combination. This is meant with their term 'naturalistic drift'.


From this analysis they draw the conclusion that the human consciousness has to be seen as 'groundless': there are no fixed 'objects of the world' and there is no fixed 'Ego-Self'. Kept in a stream of appearing phenomena the mind is 'flowing' in the time. They assume that most people of the Western culture are not used to such a 'groundless' experience and that this can cause several forms of anxieties. At this point they introduce parts of the Buddhist tradition of thinking and practice by stating that this groundlessness corresponds to the main experience of a meditator who is becoming 'aware' of his situation, and who can free himself from 'false' dependencies enabled by his growing awareness. Besides this groundlessness the authors are convinced that at that moment where the mind relaxes into awareness, a sense of warmth and inclusiveness dawns. Or: The full realization of groundlessness cannot occur if there is no warmth.


The authors criticize Western Culture because according to them one can in philosophy only find the naturalistic objectivistic position --which is in opposition to the above working hypotheses-- or idealism or nihilism, but no position which mediates the thinking with the practice like in the Buddhist tradition. This critic seems to be a bit too simple.

First of all consists Western Culture of more than only philosophy; there is also religion, science, technology, economy etc. And in the realm of religion (at least in the Jewish tradition, in the Christian tradition, and in the Islamic tradition) there is a practice of about 2000 years of religious communities (monasteries and the like) which form their lives according to their own religious experience which is a direct experience and which is leading their adherents to be freed from anxieties and to develop a deep compassion for all creatures and the whole world. This is not only practiced through all the centuries, this has also been written down in thousands of documents. Therefore there is some 'task sharing' in this culture: philosophy and science are doing some job, but are not good for everything; other domains are allowing other experiences.

The other important point is that western science emerged out of the field of experience because the unrestricted field of phenomenological experience is inherently very fuzzy and a real barrier for inter subjectively working theories. Therefore it was a real revolution of the human mind to invent empirical science by restricting the phenomenological space to those subparts which seem to be 'shareable' between different organisms having a consciousness. That this kind of specialized knowledge did not explain the whole of experience is some deficiency but at the same time it enabled a breathtaking new kind of knowledge which until that time has not been possible. This new advances in knowledge in some part of the phenomenological space are not necessarily a contradiction to those parts, which still are not completely explainable.

And the way how the authors introduce their ideas about Buddhism shows the impossibility to communicate the intended Buddhist experiences in a clear and understandable way. From a rich tradition of many schools they select one teacher. They are talking about the teaching of Nagarjuna in English words without giving the real sources. They are using lots of Buddhist terms in the English version with explanations which are not really understandable if one not has undergone many years the same training and has not made similar experiences. This is the 'fuzzy field' of the phenomenological space which can not be handled by empirical science. Instead of comparing Buddhist experience with Western Science they should compare Buddhist experience with Western religious experience, then perhaps they will detect that the western religious experience is not too much different (but perhaps they do not know Western religious experience...).


The polymorphic appearance of western culture in religion, science, business, art, architecture etc. which is very rich has perhaps nevertheless a weakness which can in the long run destroy this culture from within. The rich and energetic religious traditions which have in the past served like Buddhist practice to integrate all the different parts of the life have during the last 500 years stepwise lost their influence on the mind of the people. This has several reasons. At the moment of this writing it seems to be an open question whether the original 'force' of the Western religious experience can be renewed in a way which enables the people to integrate all the different facets of life (and knowledge) in their experience. Can Buddhist experience be a mediator for a renewed Western religious experience?
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5.0 von 5 Sternen grundlegendes werk zu "embodiment"!, 28. Januar 2014
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Taschenbuch)
ein ausnahmslos empfehlenswertes buch. in sich abwechselnden kapiteln werden neurologische erkenntnisse und buddhismus aufeinander bezogen - kapitel zu letzterem fand ich teilweise etwas langatmig. dennoch ein buch, welches eine ausgesprochen überraschende und interessante perspektive auf zusammenhänge zwischen dem großen und dem kleinen in der welt herstellt.
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3 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen This book is amazing!, 15. April 1998
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Taschenbuch)
This ranks up there with Chogyam Trungpa's books for clearly presented insights. Trunpa's genius is making Buddhist ideas come alive for Western readers by clearly presenting Buddhist ideas in everyday terms. This book is a wonderful addition to the same delicious feast, building a bridge from Eastern mindfulness/awareness traditions to Western scientific thought. The effect is to improve our understanding of both. Very powerful and thought-provoking. Each page is like a meal. Hungry? Chew this one slowly and enjoy every bite!
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The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience
The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience von Franscisco J. Varela (Taschenbuch - 22. Februar 1993)
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