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.
Abramova E., Slors M. & van Rooij I. (2017) Enactive mechanistic explanation of social cognition. In: Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society, Austin TX: 45–50. https://cepa.info/5795
In this paper we examine an enactive approach to social cog- nition, a species of radical embodied cognition typically pro- posed as an alternative to traditional cognitive science. Ac- cording to enactivists, social cognition is best explained by reference to the social unit rather than the individuals that par- ticipate in it. We identify a methodological problem in this approach, namely a lack of clarity with respect to the model of explanation it adopts. We review two complaints about a mechanistic explanatory framework, popular in traditional cognitive science, that prevent enactivists from embracing it. We argue that these complaints are unfounded and propose a conceptual model of enactive mechanistic explanation of so- cial cognition.
Hutto and Satne, Philosophia (2014) propose to redefine the problem of naturalizing semantic content as searching for the origin of content instead of attempting to reduce it to some natural phenomenon. The search is to proceed within the framework of Relaxed Naturalism and under the banner of teleosemiotics which places Ur-intentionality at the source of content. We support the proposed redefinition of the problem but object to the proposed solution. In particular, we call for adherence to Strict Naturalism and replace teleosemiotics with autopoietic theory of living beings. Our argument for these adjustments stems from our analysis of the flagship properties of Ur-intentionality: specificity and directedness. We attempt to show that the first property is not unique to living systems and therefore poses a problem of where to place a demarcation line for the origin of content. We then argue that the second property is a feature ascribed to living systems, not their intrinsic part and therefore does not form a good foundation for the game of naturalizing content. In conclusion we suggest that autopoietic theory can not only provide a competitive explanation of the basic responding of pre-contentful organisms but also clarify why Ur-intentionality is attributed to them in such an intuitive manner.
Amrine F. (2015) The music of the organism: Uexküll, Merleau-Ponty, Zuckerkandl, and Deleuze as Goethean ecologists in search of a new paradigm. Goethe Yearbook 22: 45–72.
Excerpt: Ecology is an eminently practical discipline, but the practical dilemmas of the ecological movement – and arguably of the environmental crisis itself – are the consequences of our failure to comprehend the complexity and unity of nature theoretically. The ecological crisis is first and foremost an epistemological crisis. 1 As Thomas Kuhn has taught us, such crises are potentially revolutionary episodes out of which new paradigms can emerge. 2 We have also learned from Kuhn that paradigm shifts are rarely sudden events; usually they unfold over decades or even centuries. So it has been with the search for a new paradigm that was inaugurated by Goethe’s scientific work. 3 As a practicing scientist and as a philosopher of science, Goethe both foresaw the crisis of mechanistic explanation and laid foundations for a new paradigm that might replace it. 4 In doing so, he also laid foundations for a future, alternative science of ecology. Although the term “ecology” did not exist until Ernst Haeckel coined it in 1866, Goethe was a profound ecologist in principle and practice if not yet in name. 5 This essay on four major “Goethean ecologists” seeks to add a brief chapter to the history of the reception of Goethe’s scientific work6 and also to Donald Worster’s now standard history of ecology, 7 which barely mentions Goethe in passing.
Apps M. A. & Tsakiris M. (2014) The free-energy self: A predictive coding account of self-recognition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 41: 85–97. https://cepa.info/5544
Recognising and representing one’s self as distinct from others is a fundamental component of self-awareness. However, current theories of self-recognition are not embedded within global theories of cortical function and therefore fail to provide a compelling explanation of how the self is processed. We present a theoretical account of the neural and computational basis of self-recognition that is embedded within the free-energy account of cortical function. In this account one’s body is processed in a Bayesian manner as the most likely to be “me”. Such probabilistic representation arises through the integration of information from hierarchically organised unimodal systems in higher-level multimodal areas. This information takes the form of bottom-up “surprise” signals from unimodal sensory systems that are explained away by top-down processes that minimise the level of surprise across the brain. We present evidence that this theoretical perspective may account for the findings of psychological and neuroimaging investigations into self-recognition and particularly evidence that representations of the self are malleable, rather than fixed as previous accounts of self-recognition might suggest.
Compared with traditional theories, systems theory presents a deviation. It replaces causal explanation by functional explanation. This paper shows what scandalon is inherent in this substitution and elucidates some models (self-organization, dance, non-triviality, structural coupling) which put the explanatory principle to work. The paper concludes by showing how systems theory aims at a general concept of communication that not only means a passing on of knowledge but above all the tracing of ignorance. Overall, systems theory is presented as a joker dealing with the paradox that the system is never identical to itself as soon as it is considered as a function of itself and its environment. The system has to withdraw into the function it is a function of in order to enfold this paradox.
Baggs E. & Chemero A. (2021) Radical embodiment in two directions. Synthese 198(S9): 2175–2190. https://cepa.info/6675
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.
Bagheri Noaparast K. (2000) Constructs and words. Constructivism in the Human Sciences 5(1): 65–70. https://cepa.info/1058
What is the main characteristic of constructive explanation? In other words, what is the nature of a construct and, consequently, what kind of relationship is there between constructs and behavior? Kelly stated that a “psychological response is initially and basically the outcome of a construing act." (1955) Somewhere else, he asserts it more clearly: “Since they construe them differently, they will anticipate them differently and will behave differently as a consequence of their anticipations.” (Kelly, 1963, p. 90) The relationship between constructs and “psychological response” could be considered in terms of either “causation” or “implication." Relevance: This paper deals with the relation between constructs and words in George Kelly’s personal construct psychology.
Balsemão Pires E. (2013) The epistemological meaning of Luhmann\s critique of classical ontology. Systema: Connecting Matter, Life, Culture and Technology 1(1): 5–20. https://cepa.info/1126
This paper is a discussion of the sustainability of a concept of “world” compatible with the “operative constructivism” and the operative conception of observation of systems theory of according to Niklas Luhmann. The paper scrutinizes the concepts of observation of H. von Foerster, H. Maturana, G. Günther and N. Luhmann, providing the general framework of “operative constructivism.” Particularly, the paper will focus on N. Luhmann’s understanding of the role of observation in the constitution of the self-reference of the social systems of the modern society. The case of the “systems of art” will be briefly inspected. What place shall we concede to the idea of an “objective” world, according to the systems theory? Are systems “objective”? According to N. Luhmann, for the description of systems only operations are “objective.” However, an operation is not an entity, which means that we need to depict a new kind of “objects,” very different from the ’thing-objectivity” of the ancient metaphysics and different from the Cartesian concept of “res.” What does objectivity mean according to systems theory? This question was at stake in the formulation of N. Luhmann’s Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft: Society is “weder Subjekt noch Objekt.” This paper attempts to address this formula. Relevance: The paper deals with the epistemological explanation of second-order observations in social systems according to Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory. It clarifies the world vision of the constructivism movement.
Baquedano C. & Fabar C. (2017) Modeling Subjects’ Experience While Modeling the Experimental Design: A Mild-Neurophenomenology-Inspired Approach in the Piloting Phase. Constructivist Foundations 12(2): 166–179. https://cepa.info/4070
Context: The integration of data measured in first- and third-person frameworks is a challenge that becomes more prominent as we attempt to refine the ties between the dimensions we assume to be objective and our experience itself. As a result, cognitive science has been a target for criticism from the epistemological and methodological point of view, which has resulted in the emergence of new approaches. Neurophenomenology has been proposed as a means to address these limitations. The methodological application of this discipline, even in its mildest form, enriches the methodology typically used in cognitive sciences. Problem: Nowadays psychological studies are difficult to replicate. As a way to achieve replication of results published in a previous study in order to develop a methodological adaptation suitable for electroencephalographic (EEG) measurements in a subsequent experiment, first-person accounts from the participants in our pilot study were included in the experiment construction. This study’s objective is to show the benefit of including a mild-neurophenomenology-inspired approach in the adaptation from an original paradigm, which requires, foremost, the ability to replicate the original results. Method: Interviews with open and semi-structured questions were carried out at the end of an Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT. The first-person reports, together with the behavioral outcomes of each pilot, were taken into account for the development of the next piloting phase until replication of the original results was achieved, and the final experimental design was elaborated. Results: A sequence of four pilots, where the integration of third- and first-person information derived from subjects’ behavior and reported experiences while carrying them out rendered the behavioral replication we sought to achieve, providing support for a first-person enriched cognitive science paradigm. Implications: Including first-person accounts systematically during the development and performance of classic cognitive paradigms ensures that those paradigms are measuring what they claim to measure. This is the next logical step to improve replication rates, to refine the explanation of the results and avoid confounding third-person data interpretation. Constructivist content: Including first-person experiences and acknowledging the active role that participants’ experiences regarding the paradigm had in the modeling of its final version is in concordance with a constructivist standing.