Excerpt: In Radicalizing Enactivism (RE), Hutto and Myin present compelling arguments for why basic minds do not have content. In particular, they introduce the Hard Problem of Content (HPC), which states that ‘informational content is incompatible with explanatory naturalism’ (xv). By reviewing a range of theories, the pair demonstrate the futility of attempts to distinguish content from covariance (content is information within a system, whereas a covariant system can be explained purely by way of causal interactions).
Becerra G. (2016) Los usos del constructivismo en las publicaciones científicas de Latinoamérica [Uses of constructivism among Latin-American scientific publications]. Mad 35: 38–59. https://cepa.info/4529
Constructivism is a heterogeneous intellectual movement that spans across different fields of knowledge. Within constructivism there is a variety of discussions that deal with their own questions and particular references, and that appear clustered in the journals and publications of different scientific areas. Attempting to clarify this communication, the present paper explores scientific publications from Latin America that include the term “constructivism” among their descriptors, as listed on CLASE, PERIODICA and SCIELO databases. These publications have been segmented into 3 very general groups, according to the way in which constructivism is used: (1) those that seek to “apply” constructivism to the problems of their area; (2) those that take “constructivism” as their object of study or criticism; (3) those that adopt constructivism as a “framework” for notional or conceptual analysis. Some data about those publication groups is described and compared in an attempt to show how scientific communication about constructivism organizes in Latin America (publication area, subjects, keywords, main authors).
The Tree of Knowledge, by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, is a landmark attempt to integrate biology, cognition, and epistemology into a single science, reversing the dualism of fact and value, and of observer and observed, that has haunted the West since the seventeenth century. The authors see perception as a reciprocal and interacting phenomenon, a “dance of congruity” that takes place between a living entity and its environment. This, they argue, implies a relativity of worldviews (there are no certainties), as well as the existence of a biology of cooperation going back millions of years. Recognition of a lack of absolutes, and of the nature of perception itself, they assert, make it possible for us today to change things for the better, as a deliberate and conscious act. What is overlooked in this discussion, however, are the origins and nature of conflict. By being pointedly apolitical, the authors wind up implying that one worldview is as good as the next. Cognitively speaking, the substitution of Buddhism for politics is a serious error, leaving, as it does, too many crucial questions unanswered. It is thus doubtful whether the biological argument being advanced here can stand up to serious scrutiny, and whether the dualism of modern science has indeed been overcome. Yet The Tree of Knowledge remains an important milestone in our current efforts to recognize that science is not value-free, and that fact and value are inevitably tied together. We are finally going to have to create a science that does not split the two apart, and that puts the human being back into the world as an involved participant, not as an alienated observer.
Blassnigg M. (2010) Review of The Origin of Humanness in the Biology of Love by Humberto Maturana Romesin and Gerda Verden-Zöller. Leonardo 43(2): 182–183. https://cepa.info/4121
Excerpt: The Origin of Humanness, written in the early 1990s, brings together two strands of research: Maturana Romesin’s research into the origin of humanness and Verden-Zöller’s research into the rise of self-consciousness in the child during early mother-child play relations. The authors’ core claim is that the human species has evolved by conserving love as a fundamental domain of cooperation expressed through the basic emotions or moods of mutual respect, care, acceptance and trust (Homo sapiens-amans) rather than competition and aggression (Homo sapiens aggressans or arrogance). In this, they do not declare an ethical imperative, but rather situate ethics in biology, since, in their view, a responsible concern for the well-being of the other (human, species, biosphere, etc.) arises naturally from a manner of living in the biology of love. This is what they propose as a way for conserving the existence of social human beings (and what they call “social consciousness”) and for countering the dominant culture of domination, submission or indifference in Western society. Ethics, in this sense, is a choice of emotioning on an individual basis that in relation to a social community defines how a particular manner of living is to be conserved over the coming generations.
Butt T. (2006) Reconstruing constructivism: A review of Studies in Meaning 2: Bridging the Personal and Social in Constructivist Psychology. Journal of Constructivist Psychology 19(1): 91–96. https://cepa.info/5366
Excerpt: Anyone who has seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian will probably remember the scene where a heated and hilarious argument breaks out between the Judean Liberation Front and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Judea. Although both have a common enemy – the Romans – they cannot make common cause because of their differences (small to us, but huge to them). One can sometimes be reminded of this when seeing the disputes between constructivists and social constructionists. Yes, there are differences between them, but might it not be better to focus on what they have in common? In a world dominated by objectivist psychology, would it not make more sense to build bridges and look for commonalities? This book sets out to do just that, and its aim is to build bridges between personal and social constructionism. It is divided into four sections: The Personal Meets the Social, The Personal and Social in Psychotherapy, The Personal and Social in Research, and Dialogue, Reflection and Anticipation: Future Directions. The chapters come mainly from two North American conferences (an APA and a NAPCN conference in 2002), although there are also two from the XV International Congress on Personal Construct Psychology held in Huddersfield, UK in 2003 as well as a further two prepared specially for this volume.
Campbell D. (2013) Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content By Daniel F. Hutto and Erik Myin (Book Review). Analysis 74(1): 174–176. https://cepa.info/6388
Excerpt: In Radicalizing Enactivism, D. D. Hutto and E. Myin develop a theory of mind they call ‘Radical Enactive (or Embodied) Cognition’ (REC). They argue that extant enac- tivist and embodied theories of mind are, although pretty radical, not radical enough, because such theories buy into the representationalist doctrine that perceptual experi- ence (along with other forms of ‘basic’ mentality) possesses representational content. REC denies this doctrine. It implies that perceptual experience lacks reference, truth conditions, accuracy conditions, or conditions of satisfaction.
Chemero A. (1998) A stroll through the worlds of animats and humans: Review of Andy Clark’s Being there. Psyche 4: 24. https://cepa.info/2265
Artificial Intelligence researchers and cognitive scientists commonly believe that thinking involves manipulating representations. Thinking involves search, inference, and making choices. This is how we model reasoning and what goes on in the brain is similar. Winograd and Flores present a radically different view, claiming that our knowledge is not represented in the brain at all, but rather consists of an unformalized shared background, from which we articulate representations in order to cope with new situations. In contrast, computer programs contain only pre-selected objects and properties, and there is no basis for moving beyond this initial formalization when breakdown occurs. Winograd and Flores provide convincing arguments with examples familiar to most artificial intelligence researchers. However, they significantly understate the role of representation in mediating intelligent behavior, specifically in the process of reflection, when representations are generated prior to physical action. Furthermore, they do not consider the practical benefits of expert systems and the extent of what can be accomplished. Nevertheless, the book is crisp and stimulating, and should make artificial intelligence researchers more cautious about what they are doing, more aware of the nature of formalization, and more open to alternative views.
Dell P. F. (1985) Review of The Invented Reality. Family Process 24: 281–296. https://cepa.info/7650
Review of Watzlawick P. (1984) The invented reality: How do we know what we believe we know? (Contributions to constructivism). W. W. Norton & Co., New York.
Dennett D. C. (1993) Review of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The American Journal of Psychology 106(1): 121–126. https://cepa.info/5077
Cognitive science, as an interdisciplinary school of thought, may have recently moved beyond the bandwagon stage onto the throne of orthodoxy, but it does not make a favorable first impression on many people. Familiar reactions on first encounters range from revulsion to condescending dismissal – very few faces in the crowd light up with the sense of “Aha! So that’s how the mind works! Of course! ” Cognitive science leaves something out, it seems; moreover, what it apparently leaves out is important, even precious. Boiled down to its essence, cognitive science proclaims that in one way or another our minds are computers, and this seems so mechanistic, reductionistic, intellectualistic, dry, philistine, unbiological. It leaves out emotion, or what philosophers call qualia, or value, or mattering, or… the soul. It doesn’t explain what minds are so much as attempt to explain minds away.