Connectionism and classicism, it generally appears, have at least this much in common: both place some notion of internal representation at the heart of a scientific study of mind. In recent years, however, a much more radical view has gained increasing popularity. This view calls into question the commitment to internal representation itself. More strikingly still, this new wave of anti-representationalism is rooted not in ‘armchair’ theorizing but in practical attempts to model and understand intelligent, adaptive be-havior. In this paper we first present, and then critically assess, a variety of recent antirepresentationalist treatments. We suggest that so far, at least, the sceptical rhetoric outpaces both evidence and argument. Some probable causes of this premature scepticism are isolated. Nonetheless, the anti-representationalist challenge is shown to be both important and progressive insofar as it forces us to see beyond the bare representa-tional/non-representational dichotomy and to recognize instead a rich continuum of degrees and types of representationality.
Kletzl S. (2017) Who wants to be a non-dualist and why? In: Kanzian C., Kletzl S., Mitterer J. & Neges K. (eds.) Realism – relativism – constructivism. De Gruyter, Berlin: 59–72. https://cepa.info/4242
In this paper I argue that Josef Mitterer’s non-dualizing mode of discourse and Richard Rorty’s ironist philosophy should team up. After an introduction (1), my starting point is the portrayal of anti-representationalism which is of central importance in Rorty’s philosophical project (2). Then I argue that the nondualizing mode of discourse is the best available way to cash out anti-representationalism (3). To close this paper I will describe a type of philosopher who will most likely be sympathetic towards such a non-dualizing project (4). Here I will make use of Rorty’s ideas in calling this figure the edifying ironist. My claim is that edifying ironists should consider adopting the non-dualizing way of speaking and that non-dualists should consider becoming edifying ironists.
In this paper, we evaluate the pragmatic turn towards embodied, enactive thinking in cognitive science, in the context of recent empirical research on the memory palace technique. The memory palace is a powerful method for remembering yet it faces two problems. First, cognitive scientists are currently unable to clarify its efficacy. Second, the technique faces significant practical challenges to its users. Virtual reality devices are sometimes presented as a way to solve these practical challenges, but currently fall short of delivering on that promise. We address both issues in this paper. First, we argue that an embodied, enactive approach to memory can better help us understand the effectiveness of the memory palace. Second, we present design recommendations for a virtual memory palace. Our theoretical proposal and design recommendations contribute to solving both problems and provide reasons for preferring an embodied, enactive account over an information-processing treatment of the memory palace.
Despite its internal divisions and the uncertainty surrounding many of its foundations, there is a growing consensus that the on-going search for an alternative model of the mind finds a minimal theoretical identity in the pursuit of an anti-Cartesian conception of mental phenomena. Nevertheless, this anti-Cartesianism remains more or less explicitly committed to the neo-Brentanian idea that intentionality is an essential feature of the mental – an idea that has prevailed since the advent of modern cognitive science in the 1950s. An issue of compatibility is thereby raised, as neo-Brentanism arguably sides with cognitive Cartesianism. The main goal of the paper is to put into full light one specific aspect of this largely unperceived problem of compatibility by arguing that the neo-Brentanian property of intentionality is an essentially representational one that runs counter to the salient anti-representationalism of anti-Cartesianism. And, that this representational essence confronts the search for alternative models of the mind of an anti-Cartesian kind with the following theoretical issue: To what extent is it possible to devise a non-Brentanian property of intentionality, particularly one that is fully dissociated from the property of representation? This issue is shown to be much deeper and more difficult than it looks once the nature of representation is properly apprehended; it seems to be still waiting for an answer in the current search for an alternative model of the mind, if only because it has not yet be set in fully adequate terms.
Steiner P. (2014) Enacting anti-representationalism: The scope and the limits of enactive critiques of representationalism. Avant 2014(2): 43–86. https://cepa.info/5838
I propose a systematic survey of the various attitudes proponents of enaction (or enactivism) entertained or are entertaining towards representationalism and towards the use of the concept â€śmental representationâ€ť in cognitive sci-ence. For the sake of clarity, a set of distinctions between different varieties of representationalism and anti-representationalism are presented. I also reca-pitulate and discuss some anti-representationalist trends and strategies one can find the enactive literature, before focusing on some possible limitations of eliminativist versions of enactive anti-representationalism. These limita-tions are here taken as opportunities for reflecting on the fate of enactivism in its relations with representationalism and anti-representationalism.
John Stewart commits himself to the defence of a demanding version of enaction. Among its many original features, John’s version of enaction includes a questionable form of anti-representationalism, and leaves room for the Varelian idea that intentionality is a biological property. This stance anticipates contemporary endorsements in 4E cognition of intentionality as a non-representational and non-contentful property. Once it is deprived of its representational tinsels, intentionality appears to us again as a property of object-directedness. Nevertheless, is the autopoietic model of intentionality as object-directedness coherent and convincing? And do we need intentionality when we describe the meaningful relations between organisms and their environments? The article seeks to answer to these questions.
Vörös S., Froese T. & Riegler A. (2016) Epistemological Odyssey: Introduction to Special Issue on the Diversity of Enactivism and Neurophenomenology. Constructivist Foundations 11(2): 189–204. https://cepa.info/2540
Context: In the past two decades, the so-called 4E approaches to the mind and cognition have been rapidly gaining in recognition and have become an integral part of various disciplines. Problem: Recently, however, questions have been raised as to whether, and to what degree, these different approaches actually cohere with one another. Specifically, it seems that many of them endorse mutually incompatible, perhaps even contradictory, epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions. Method: By retracing the roots of an alternative conception of mind and cognition, as propounded by Varela, Thompson & Rosch, we provide an outline of the original philosophical framework of enactivism and neurophenomenology. We focus on its three central tenets - reflexivity, subject-world co-determination, and the construal of cognition as situated, skillful and embodied action - and show how they collectively add up to a radical change in attitude towards the age-old philosophical dilemmas. Results: We show how contemporary enactivist and embodied approaches relate to the original Varelian conception, and argue that many of them, despite frequent claims to the contrary, adopt significantly less radical philosophical positions. Further, we provide some tentative suggestions as to why this dilution of the original impetus might have occurred, paying special attention to the deep-rooted disparities that span the field. Implications: It is argued that more attention should be paid to epistemological and metaphysical tenets of different proposals within the 4E movement in general and enactivism in particular. Additionally, in emphasizing the inescapable multilayeredness and contextuality of scientific knowledge, enactivism and neurophenomenology accord with pluralist accounts of science and might provide important contributions to contemporary debates in the field. Constructivist content: The epistemological odyssey, construed as a journey to find a middle way between realism and idealism, is a central tenet of anti-representationalist, non-dualist constructivist approaches aimed at avoiding age-old philosophical traps.
Zilio F. (2020) The body surpassed towards the world and perception surpassed towards action: A comparison between enactivism and Sartre’s phenomenology. Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy 28(1): 73–99. https://cepa.info/7796
Enactivism maintains that the mind is not produced and localized inside the head but is distributed along and through brain-body-environment interactions. This idea of an intrinsic relationship between the agent and the world derives from the classical phenomenological investigations of the body (Merleau-Ponty in particular). This paper discusses similarities and differences between enactivism and Jean-Paul Sartre’s phenomenology, which is not usually considered as a paradigmatic example of the relationship between phenomenological investigations and enactivism (or 4E theories in general). After a preliminary analysis of the three principal varieties of enactivism (sensorimotor, autopoietic and radical), I will present Sartre’s account of the body, addressing some key points that can be related to the current enactivist positions: perception-action unity, anti-representationalism, anti-internalism, organism-environment interaction, and sense-making cognition. Despite some basic similarities, enactivism and Sartre’s phenomenology move in different directions as to how these concepts are developed. Nevertheless, I will suggest that Sartre’s phenomenology is useful to the enactivist approaches to provide a broader and more complete analysis of consciousness and cognition, by developing a pluralist account of corporeality, enriching the investigation of the organism-environment coupling through an existentialist perspective, and reincluding the concept of subjectivity without the hypostatisation of an I-subject detached from body and world.