In this article we analyze the methodological commitments of a radical embodied cognition (REC) approach to social interaction and social cognition, specifically with respect to the explanatory framework it adopts. According to many representatives of REC, such as enactivists and the proponents of dynamical and ecological psychology, sociality is to be explained by (1) focusing on the social unit rather than the individuals that comprise it and (2) establishing the regularities that hold on this level rather than modeling the sub-personal mechanisms that could be said to underlie social phenomena. We point out that, despite explicit commitment, such a view implies an implicit rejection of the mechanistic explanation framework widely adopted in traditional cognitive science (TCS), which, in our view, hinders comparability between REC and these approaches. We further argue that such a position is unnecessary and that enactive mechanistic explanation of sociality is both possible and desirable. We examine three distinct objections from REC against mechanistic explanation, which we dub the decomposability, causality and extended cognition worries. In each case we show that these complaints can be alleviated by either appreciation of the full scope of the mechanistic account or adjustments on both mechanistic and REC sides of the debate.
In his comment, McGann argues that in my “From Sensorimotor Dependencies to Perceptual Practices: Making Enactivism Social,” I have overlooked a group of enactivist theories that can be grouped under the participatory sense-making label. In this reply, I explain that the omission is due to the fact that such theories are not accounts of perception. It is argued that, unlike participatory sense-making, the approach of the “From Sensorimotor Dependencies to Perceptual Practices” article does not focus on the perceptual aspects of things social, but on the social aspects that are constitutive of perception in general. I conclude by underscoring the central argument of the original article: that the adequate notion to make enactivism about perception social is that of “perceptual practices,” a social practices-based notion of perception.
Niklas Luhmann died in November 1998. He had been elaborating his theory of the society for more than thirty years which has been well received in many quarters of society in the modern world. Yet somehow we are only now beginning to read him when he is no longer there to be asked. And we are beginning to discuss his work although we cannot invite him to lecture us anymore. The following article takes up Luhmann’s very recent small and comprehensive book on Husserl and places him, as he did himself, in a tradition of “enlightenment” which aims for a self-critical constitution of reason.
Becerra G. (2013) A brief introduction to Niklas Luhmann’s “Theory of Autopoietic Social Systems” and “Theory of Functional Social-Autopoietic Systems”. Intersticios. Revista sociológica de pensamiento crítico 7(2): 21–35. https://cepa.info/932
The aim of this paper is to present synthetically the central concepts and fundamental laws of Niklas Luhmann’s “Theory of Autopoietic Social Systems” and “Theory of Functional Social-Autopoietic Systems.” To do this we outline the conceptualization of notions like time, communications, observations, elements, relationships, complexity, connection, operation, environment, function, code, program, generalized symbolic media and their interrelationships and place within the laws of the theory. The guiding questions of this paper are: What entities do Luhmannian theory tell us about? How do these entities behave within the laws of the theory? And finally, the practical evaluation over the aims and goals of Luhmann’s theoretical program:, for which purposes? Relevance: The document presents, in a clear way, the central concepts of Luhmann’s theory of autopoiesis and its relevance to the study of social phenomena.
Becerra G. (2014) El “constructivismo operativo” de Luhmann. Una caracterización relacional con el constructivismo de inspiración piagetiana y el constructivismo radical. Enfoques 26(2): 29–54. https://cepa.info/4527
This paper aims to characterize the “operative constructivism” of Niklas Luhmann from a comparison with two other streams of epistemological constructivism: Piaget-inspired constructivism and radical constructivism. This comparison focuses on three topics: the characterization of the active role of the epistemic subject; the problem of the status of knowledge and its relation to reality; and the problem of the origin of conceptual meaning and the individual-society relationship. Based on these characterizations, it is evaluated in what respects the constructivist program of Luhmann diverges or converges with the other two schools of epistemological constructivism.
The attempt to define living systems in terms of goal, purpose, function, etc. runs into serious conceptual difficulties. The theoretical biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela realized that any such attempt cannot capture what is distinctive about them: their autonomy and unity. Goal, purpose, etc. always define the system in terms of something extrinsic, whereas living systems are unique because they maintain their unitary continuity of pattern despite the ceaseless turnover of their components. So, system-closure is a prerequisite of their adequate conceptual comprehension. Maturana and Varela themselves found that system-closure pertains exclusively to their organization, i.e. the set of relations among system-components which unify them. For living systems this comprises the relation between the system-components and the processes which they undergo. This relation is self-referential because it is closed, i.e. it essentially (re)produces itself. \\While this model worked very well in the biological domain, attempts to extend it to the social domain met with serious conceptual obstacles. The reason for this is that Maturana did not make a consistent enough application of it. He understood the components of social systems biologically (individuals, persons, etc.) and the relations between them socially (language). This inconsistency ruptured the system’s organizational closure. Consequently organizational closure (autopoiesis) can be maintained only when both the components of social systems and their processes are of the same type: social. This interpretation can be found in the work of Niklas Luhmann who recognizes that the components of social systems are not persons, individuals, actors or subjects but communicative actions themselves. This preserves the organizational closure of the system and permits the concept of autopoiesis to be used as a powerful instrument of social analysis.
Berger J. (1987) Autopoiesis: Wie “systemisch” ist die Theorie sozialer Systeme? [Autopoiesis: How “systemic” is social systems theory?]. In: Haferkamp H. S. M. (ed.) Sinn, Kommunikation und soziale Differenzierung. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main: 129–152.
This paper reviews the debate between Carnap and Schrödinger about Hypothesis P (It is not only I who have perceptions and thoughts; other human beings have them too)–a hypothesis that underlies the possibility of doing science. For Schrödinger this hypothesis is not scientifically testable; for Carnap it is. But Schrödinger and Carnap concede too much to each other and miss an alternative understanding: science does not depend on an explicit hypothesis concerning what other human beings see and think; it is simply a practice of communication which anticipates or presupposes the perfect interchangeability of positions amongst the members of the linguistic community. The mentalistic vocabulary of folk-psychology, used by Carnap and Schrödinger, does not take first but last place in this perspective; because it does nothing but express after the event the confidence to which the disputants bear witness regarding a generally successful practice of communication.
Brinck I., Reddy V. & Zahavi D. (2017) The primacy of the “we”? In: Durt C., Fuchs T. & Tewes C. (eds.) Embodiment, enaction, and culture: Investigating the constitution of the shared world. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 131–147. https://cepa.info/5976
Excerpt: The capacity to engage in collective intentionality is a key aspect of human sociality. Social coordination might not be distinctive of humans – various nonhuman animals engage in forms of cooperative behavior (e.g., hunting together) – but humans seem to possess a specific capacity for intentionality that enables them to constitute forms of social reality far exceeding anything that can be achieved even by nonhuman primates. During the past few decades, collective intentionality has been discussed under various labels in a number of empirical disciplines including social, cognitive, and developmental psychology, economics, sociology, political science, anthropology, ethology, and the social neurosciences. Despite all this work, however, many foundational issues remain controversial and unresolved. In particular, it is by no means clear exactly how to characterize the nature, structure, and diversity of the we to which intentions, beliefs, emotions, and actions are often attributed. Is the we or we-perspective independent of, and perhaps even prior to, individual subjectivity, or is it a developmental achievement that has a firstand second-person-singular perspective as its necessary precondition? Is it something that should be ascribed to a single owner, or does it perhaps have plural ownership? Is the we a single thing, or is there a plurality of types of we?
Broonen J. P. (1998) Social autopoiesis: A concept in search of a theory. AIP Conference Proceedings 437: 284–294. https://cepa.info/7739
This paper is a brief report on the issue of extension of the concept of autopoiesis to social systems. The arguments developed by four groups of authors to bring a response to that issue are summarized: Maturana and Varela, the fathers of the concept of autopoieis; Zeleny & Hufford who proposed a simple extension of the concept to social systems; Luhmann and Hejel with two different transformations of the concept; Morgan and his metaphorical perspective. The determinist vs teleological conception of (social) autopoiesis explicitly or implicitly sustained by several authors is emphasized.