Publication 6971

Barrett L. (2019) Enactivism, pragmatism…behaviorism? Philosophical Studies 176: 807–818. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/6971
Shaun Gallagher applies enactivist thinking to a staggeringly wide range of topics in philosophy of mind and cognitive science, even venturing into the realms of biological anthropology. One prominent point Gallagher makes that the holistic approach of enactivism makes it less amenable to scientific investigation than the cognitivist framework it seeks to replace, and should be seen as a “philosophy of nature” rather than a scientific research program. Gallagher also gives truth to the saying that “if you want new ideas, read old books”, showing how the insights of the American pragmatists, particularly Dewey and Mead, offer a variety of resources and tools that can be brought to bear on modern day enactivism. Here, I suggest that the adoption of enactivist thinking would undermine the assumptions of certain scientific positions, requiring their abandonment, rather than simply making it more difficult to conduct research within an enactivist framework. I then discuss how Mead’s work has been used previously as a “pragmatist intervention” to help resolve problems in a related 4E endeavour, Gibson’s ecological psychology, and make a case for the inclusion of radical behaviorism as another pragmatist resource for 4E cognition. I conclude with a plea for further enactivist intervention in studies of comparative cognition.

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