The emergence of mind and brain: an evolutionary, computational, and philosophical approach

Prog Brain Res. 2008:168:115-32. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(07)68010-8.


Modern philosophy of mind cannot be understood without recent developments in computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, neuroscience, biology, linguistics, and psychology. Classical philosophy of formal languages as well as symbolic AI assume that all kinds of knowledge must explicitly be represented by formal or programming languages. This assumption is limited by recent insights into the biology of evolution and developmental psychology of the human organism. Most of our knowledge is implicit and unconscious. It is not formally represented, but embodied knowledge, which is learnt by doing and understood by bodily interacting with changing environments. That is true not only for low-level skills, but even for high-level domains of categorization, language, and abstract thinking. The embodied mind is considered an emergent capacity of the brain as a self-organizing complex system. Actually, self-organization has been a successful strategy of evolution to handle the increasing complexity of the world. Genetic programs are not sufficient and cannot prepare the organism for all kinds of complex situations in the future. Self-organization and emergence are fundamental concepts in the theory of complex dynamical systems. They are also applied in organic computing as a recent research field of computer science. Therefore, cognitive science, AI, and robotics try to model the embodied mind in an artificial evolution. The paper analyzes these approaches in the interdisciplinary framework of complex dynamical systems and discusses their philosophical impact.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Philosophy*
  • Psychophysiology*