To accept that cognition is embodied is to question many of the beliefs traditionally held by cognitive scientists. One key question regards the localization of cognitive faculties. Here we argue that for cognition to be embodied and sometimes embedded, means that the cognitive faculty cannot be localized in a brain area alone. We review recent research on neural reuse, the 1/f structure of human activity, tool use, group cognition, and social coordination dynamics that we believe demonstrates how the boundary between the different areas of the brain, the brain and body, and the body and environment is not only blurred but indeterminate. In turn, we propose that cognition is supported by a nested structure of task‐specific synergies, which are softly assembled from a variety of neural, bodily, and environmental components (including other individuals), and exhibit interaction dominant dynamics.
The notion that human activity can be characterised in terms of dynamic systems is a well-established alternative to motor schema approaches. Key to a dynamic systems approach is the idea that a system seeks to achieve stable states in the face of perturbation. While such an approach can apply to physical activity, it can be challenging to accept that dynamic systems also describe cognitive activity. In this paper, we argue that creativity, which could be construed as a ‘cognitive’ activity par excellence, arises from the dynamic systems involved in jewellery making. Knowing whether an action has been completed to a ‘good’ standard is a significant issue in considering acts in creative disciplines. When making a piece of jewellery, there a several criteria which can define ‘good’. These are not only the aesthetics of the finished piece but also the impact of earlier actions on subsequent ones. This suggests that the manner in which an action is coordinated is influenced by the criteria by which the product is judged. We see these criteria as indicating states for the system, e.g. in terms of a space of ‘good’ outcomes and a complementary space of ‘bad’ outcomes. The skill of the craftworker is to navigate this space of available states in such a way as to minimise risk, effort and other costs and maximise benefit and quality of the outcome. In terms of postphenomonology, this paper explores Ihde’s human-technology relations and relates these to the concepts developed here.
Radical embodied cognitive science is split into two camps: the ecological approach and the enactive approach. We propose that these two approaches can be brought together into a productive synthesis. The key is to recognize that the two approaches are pursuing different but complementary types of explanation. Both approaches seek to explain behavior in terms of the animal–environment relation, but they start at opposite ends. Ecological psychologists pursue an ontological strategy. They begin by describing the habitat of the species, and use this to explain how action possibilities are constrained for individual actors. Enactivists, meanwhile, pursue an epistemic strategy: start by characterizing the exploratory, self-regulating behavior of the individual organism, and use this to understand how that organism brings forth its animal-specific umwelt. Both types of explanation are necessary: the ontological strategy explains how structure in the environment constrains how the world can appear to an individual, while the epistemic strategy explains how the world can appear differently to different members of the same species, relative to their skills, abilities, and histories. Making the distinction between species habitat and animal-specific umwelt allows us to understand the environment in realist terms while acknowledging that individual living organisms are phenomenal beings.
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
This paper has two primary aims. The first is to provide an introductory discussion of hyperset theory and its usefulness for modeling complex systems. The second aim is to provide a hyperset analysis of several perspectives on autonomy: Robert Rosen’s metabolism-repair systems and his claim that living things are closed to efficient cause, Maturana and Varela’s autopoietic systems, and Kauffman’s cataytically closed systems. Consequences of the hyperset models for Rosen’s claim that autonomous systems have non-computable models are discussed.
Most of Shaun Gallagher’s Enactivist Interventions into philosophical issues about the mind are quite effective, but there are a few that could be improved. In what follows, we attempt to make two of Gallagher’s arguments more convincing. Our focus will be on Gallagher’s use of Francisco Varela’s “threefold distinction in temporal and dynamical registers” (Gallagher 2017, 8; Varela 1999). Gallagher uses this threefold distinction to address issues concerning what he calls the “causal-constitution fallacy” and issues concerning neuroscientific findings and free will. Gallagher is less convincing than he could be when he addresses these issues, because although he invokes Varela’s threefold distinction, he does not also provide a detailed story about how these “temporal and dynamical registers” relate to one another. We will provide a counter-intuitive, but empirically well-supported story about how the registers relate to one another, and, in so doing, improve upon Gallagher’s.…
Corris A. & Chemero A. (2020) The broad scope of enactivism. Adaptive Behavior 28(1): 27–28. https://cepa.info/6258
Villalobos and Razeto-Barry suggest that extended enactivist interpretations of the autopoietic theory do not adequately address the bodily dimensions of living beings. In reply, we suggest that the extended enactivist view provides a richer account of living beings than a theory confined to autopoiesis, and therefore should not be supplanted by a modified autopoietic theory.
This brief commentary has three goals. The first is to argue that “framework debate” in cognitive science is unresolvable. The idea that one theory or framework can singly account for the vast complexity and variety of cognitive processes seems unlikely if not impossible. The second goal is a consequence of this: We should consider how the various theories on offer work together in diverse contexts of investigation. A final goal is to supply a brief review for readers who are compelled by these points to explore existing literature on the topic. Despite this literature, pluralism has garnered very little attention from broader cognitive science. We end by briefly considering what it might mean for theoretical cognitive science.
Dotov D. G. & Chemero A. (2014) Breaking the perception-action cycle: Experimental phenomenology of non-sense and its implications for theories of perception and movement science. In: Cappuccio M. & Froese T. (eds.) Enactive cognition at the edge of sense-making: Making sense of non-sense.. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills: 37–60.
Merleau-Ponty’s description of Cezanne’s working process reveals two things: first, cognition arises on the basis of perception and action, and, second, cognition arises out of frustration, when an agent confronts non-sense. We briefly present the history of the domain of philosophy and psychology that has claimed that perception-action comes before cognition, especially the work of Merleau-Ponty, Gibson, and Heidegger. We then present an experimental paradigm “front-loading” the Heideggerian phenomenology of encountering tools. The experiments consisted of a dynamical perception-action task and a cognitive task. The results reinforce the distinction between tools being experienced as ready-to-hand and turning into unreadyor present-at-hand when sense-ma kin g was thwarted. A more cognitive attitude towards the task emerged when participants experienced non-sense. We discuss implications of this for the movement sciences.