Recently, historians have focused on Warren S. McCul¬loch’s role in the cybernetics movement during the 1940s and 1950s, and his contributions to the develop¬ment of computer science and communication theory. What has received less attention is McCulloch’s early work in neurophysiology, and its relationship to his philosophical quest for an ‘experimental epistemology’ – a physiological theory of knowledge. McCulloch’s early laboratory work during the 1930s addressed the problem of cerebral localization: localizing aspects of behaviour in the cerebral cortex of the brain. Most of this research was done with the Dutch neurophysiolo¬gist J. G. Dusser de Barenne at Yale University. The con¬nection between McCulloch’s philosophical interests and his experimental work can be expressed as a search for a physiological a priori, an integrated mechanism of sensation.
Abraham T. H. (2012) Transcending disciplines: Scientific styles in studies of the brain in mid-twentieth century America. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43(2): 552–568. https://cepa.info/3935
Much scholarship in the history of cybernetics has focused on the far-reaching cultural dimensions of the movement. What has garnered less attention are efforts by cyberneticians such as Warren McCulloch and Norbert Wiener to transform scientific practice in an array of disciplines in the biomedical sciences, and the complex ways these efforts were received by members of traditional disciplines. In a quest for scientific unity that had a decidedly imperialistic flavour, cyberneticians sought to apply practices common in the exact sciences – mainly theoretical modeling – to problems in disciplines that were traditionally defined by highly empirical practices, such as neurophysiology and neuroanatomy. Their efforts were met with mixed, often critical responses. This paper attempts to make sense of such dynamics by exploring the notion of a scientific style and its usefulness in accounting for the contrasts in scientific practice in brain research and in cybernetics during the 1940s. Focusing on two key institutional contexts of brain research and the role of the Rockefeller and Macy Foundations in directing brain research and cybernetics, the paper argues that the conflicts between these fields were not simply about experiment vs. theory but turned more closely on the questions that defined each area and the language used to elaborate answers.
Purpose: Appreciating the relationship between Sylvio Ceccato and Ernst von Glasersfeld, both as people and in their work. Approach: historical and personal accounts, archeological approach to written evidence. Findings: Ceccato’s work is introduced to an English speaking audience, and the roots of Glasersfeld’s work in Ceccato’s is explored. Flaws in Ceccato’s approach are indicated, together with how Glasersfeld’s work overcomes these, specially in language and automatic translation, and what became Radical Constructivism. Conclusion: Glasersfeld willingly acknowledges Ceccato, who he still refers to as the Master. But Ceccato’s work is little known, specially in the English speaking world. The introduction, critique and delineation of extension and resolution of Ceccato’s ideas in Glasersfeld’s work is the intended value of the paper.
Ackermann E. K. (1996) Perspective-taking and object construction: Two keys to learning. In: Kafai J. & Resnick M. (eds.) Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah NJ: 25–37.
Piaget defines intelligence as adaptation, or the ability to maintain a balance between stability and change, or, in his own words, between assimilation and accommodation. When people assimilate the world to their current knowledge, they impose their order upon things. This momentary closure is useful to build “invariants” that lend existence to the world, independent of immediate interaction. In accommodation, people become one with the object of attention. This may lead to momentary loss of control, since fusion loosens boundaries, but allows for change. I choose the domain of perspective-taking to illustrate how this alternation between assimilation and accommodation punctuate individuals’ interactions with the world. I show that the ability to move away from one’s own standpoint, and to take on another person’s view, requires the construction of cognitive invariants: a recasting of the world’s stabilities that transcends any given viewpoint. I conclude that separation is a necessary step toward the construction of a deeper understanding, and that adopting a “god’s eyes view” is by no means contrary to situating one’s one stance in the world.
Ackermann E. K. (2010) Constructivism(s): Shared roots, crossed paths, multiple legacies. In: Clayson J. & Kalas I. (eds.) Constructionist approaches to creative learning, thinking and education: Lessons for the 21st century. Proceedings of Constructionism 2010. Comenius University, Bratislava: 1–9. https://cepa.info/6082
This paper examines the shared roots and crossed paths between Jean Piaget’s constructivism, what Seymour Paper refers to as “constructionism,” and socio-cultural theories as epitomized by Lev Vygotsky. We do so in the light of more situated, pragmatic, and ecological approaches to human cognition. All these views are developmental (stressing the genesis children’s interests and abilities over time), experiential (in the sense that knowledge is rooted in sensori-motor activity) and interactionist (people are seen as constructing their knowledge by transforming the world). Yet, the views also differ, each highlighting some aspects of how children grow and learn, while leaving other questions unanswered. Piaget’s main contribution was to flesh out what is common in children’s ways of thinking at different stages of their cognitive development and, more important, how consistent, robust, and generally “adapted” their views are. The theory stresses the progressive de-contextualization of knowledge (from here-and-now to then-and-there) and identifies some of the hidden mechanisms (internal reorganizations) that drive human cognitive development. Papert, in contrast, stresses how individuals learn in context and how they use their own – and other people’s – externalizations as objects to think with, especially as their convictions break down. His approach is more situated. Papert is particularly interested the role of new media in human learning. Both Papert and Vygotsky shed light on the articulations between direct and mediated experience (from action and tool-use to enactments, language, and symbol-use). Yet Vygotsky and the Russian school have paid much closer attention to the role of caring adults and peers in a child’s initiation to her culture. They remind us that it takes a whole village to raise a child. Integrating the views helps rethink how children come to make sense of their experiences, and how they find their own places – and voices – in the world. At once world-makers, world-readers, and dwellers in the world, human infants are granted from birth with the abilities to optimize exchanges with people and things by moving in and out of contexts, by shifting perspectives, and by switching roles or standpoint. They are extraordinary learners, and much can be learned from them. Lastly, while mostly inner-driven and curious, children need caring adults, secure grounds, and engaging peers and props to thrive and grow. Tools, media, and cultural artifacts are the tangible forms through which they explore their surrounds, express their thoughts, and share the fun with others – and the traces left by those who came before (cultural heritage) become a terrain for newcomers to create their paths.
Adams F. & Aizawa K. (2009) Why the mind is still in the head. In: Robbins P. & Aydede M. (eds.) The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 78–95. https://cepa.info/4734
Philosophical interest in situated cognition has been focused most intensely on the claim that human cognitive processes extend from the brain into the tools humans use. As we see it, this radical hypothesis is sustained by two kinds of mistakes, confusing coupling relations with constitutive relations and an inattention to the mark of the cognitive. Here we wish to draw attention to these mistakes and show just how pervasive they are. That is, for all that the radical philosophers have said, the mind is still in the head.
Aizawa K. (2014) The enactivist revolution. Avant 5(2): 19–42. https://cepa.info/4485
Among the many ideas that go by the name of “enactivism” there is the idea that by “cognition” we should understand what is more commonly taken to be behavior. For clarity, label such forms of enactivism “enactivismb.” This terminology requires some care in evaluating enactivistb claims. There is a genu-ine risk of enactivist and non-enactivist cognitive scientists talking past one another. So, for example, when enactivistsb write that “cognition does not require representations” they are not necessarily denying what cognitivists claim when they write that “cognition requires representations.” This paper will draw attention to instances of some of these unnecessary confusions.
Aizawa K. (2015) What is this cognition that is supposed to be embodied? Philosophical Psychology 28(6): 755–775. https://cepa.info/3949
Many cognitive scientists have recently championed the thesis that cognition is embodied. In principle, explicating this thesis should be relatively simple. There are, essentially, only two concepts involved: cognition and embodiment. After articulating what will here be meant by ‘embodiment’, this paper will draw attention to cases in which some advocates of embodied cognition apparently do not mean by ‘cognition’ what has typically been meant by ‘cognition’. Some advocates apparently mean to use ‘cognition’ not as a term for one, among many, causes of behavior, but for what has more often been called “behavior.” Some consequences for this proposal are considered.
This paper reports a study on conceptions of assessment held by students and instructors. The conceptions of assessment are considered to be one of the four interrelated sets of conceptions which together constitute the conception of education. The three other sets are the conceptions of (1) knowledge, (2) learning, and (3) instruction. Conceptions of knowledge were measured using an adapted version of the Epistemic Beliefs Questionnaire (EBQ). Conceptions of learning and instruction were measured with the Teaching and Learning Conceptions Questionnaire (TLCQ) developed by Elliott (2002)1, and Chan (2004)2. Since no instrument was available to measure conceptions of assessment, an experimental Conceptions of Assessment Scale (CAS) was developed and tested. Students filled out a 32-item forced-choice version, while instructors filled out a 25-item version in a four-point rating format. On all three instruments a dichotomy was created to distinguish subjects with ‘traditional’ conceptions from the ones with more ‘constructivist’ views. Results indicate that students and instructors hold different conceptions of assessment. Students have more traditional conceptions of assessment than instructors. With regard to conceptions of knowledge, students are more traditional than instructors. The conceptions of teaching and learning also show students to be more traditional than instructors. With respect to the congruency of conceptions of education, students seem to be equally (in) consistent as the instructors. An important implication of the present study is to pay more attention to the alignment between the educational philosophy of an institute and the conceptions of education held by its students and instructors.
al-Rifaie M. M., Leymarie F. F., Latham W. & Bishop M. J. (2017) Swarmic autopoiesis and computational creativity. Connection Science 29(4): 276–294. https://cepa.info/5027
In this paper two swarm intelligence algorithms are used, the first leading the “attention” of the swarm and the latter responsible for the tracing mechanism. The attention mechanism is coordinated by agents of Stochastic Diffusion Search where they selectively attend to areas of a digital canvas (with line drawings) which contains (sharper) corners. Once the swarm’s attention is drawn to the line of interest with a sharp corner, the corresponding line segment is fed into the tracing algorithm, Dispersive Flies Optimisation which “consumes” the input in order to generate a “swarmic sketch” of the input line. The sketching process is the result of the “flies” leaving traces of their movements on the digital canvas which are then revisited repeatedly in an attempt to re-sketch the traces they left. This cyclic process is then introduced in the context of autopoiesis, where the philosophical aspects of the autopoietic artist are discussed. The autopoetic artist is described in two modalities: gluttonous and contented. In the Gluttonous Autopoietic Artist mode, by iteratively focussing on areas-of-rich-complexity, as the decoding process of the input sketch unfolds, it leads to a less complex structure which ultimately results in an empty canvas; therein reifying the artwork’s “death”. In the Contented Autopoietic Artist mode, by refocussing the autopoietic artist’s reflections on “meaning” onto different constitutive elements, and modifying her reconstitution, different behaviours of autopoietic creativity can be induced and therefore, the autopoietic processes become less likely to fade away and more open-ended in their creative endeavour.