Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Anthropology has developed powerful ways of understanding the whole spectrum of “folk psychological” attributions that endow objects with mind, and make minds into objects. Since battles over neurobiological reductionism tend to be fought over how far mind can be turned into a thing and how far is it permissible to project intentions into regions of the brain or the mind’s homunculi, on the other, a turn from philosophical thought experiments to anthropology may be salutary. I intend to focus primarily on the way Alfred Gell and Gregory Schrempp approach Dennett’s use of homunculi. My basic premise is that all the positions taken on the issue of neurobiological reduction could be profitably seen as variants of ensoulment-objectification processes systematically examined by Gell and Schrempp. I will, moreover, try to suggest some ways in which the externalist philosophy of mind, or the conception of mental processes as embodied, embedded, enacted and extended can be enriched and reframed through the distributed person theory developed in anthropology by Munn, Strathern, Gell and others, as well as Gregory Bateson.