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.
Excerpt: This brief chapter will focus on two types of arguments for extended cognition inspired by Clark and Chalmers (1998). First, there has been the thought that cognition extends when processes in the brain, body, and world are suitably similar to processes taking place in the brain. We might describe these as cognitive equivalence arguments for extended cognition. Second, there has been the thought that, when there is the right kind of causal connection between a cognitive process and bodily and environmental processes, cognitive processes come to be realized by processes in the brain, body, and world. We might describe these as coupling arguments for extended cognition. What critics have found problematic are the kinds of similarity relations that have been taken to be applicable or suitable for concluding that there is extended cognition and the conditions that have been offered as providing the right kind of causal connection.
Aizawa K. (2017) Cognition and behavior. Synthese Online first94(11): 4269–4288.
An important question in the debate over embodied, enactive, and extended cognition has been what has been meant by “cognition”. What is this cognition that is supposed to be embodied, enactive, or extended? Rather than undertake a frontal assault on this question, however, this paper will take a different approach. In particular, we may ask how cognition is supposed to be related to behavior. First, we could ask whether cognition is supposed to be (a type of) behavior. Second, we could ask whether we should attempt to understand cognitive processes in terms of antecedently understood cognitive behaviors. This paper will survey some of the answers that have been (implicitly or explicitly) given in the embodied, enactive, and extended cognition literature, then suggest reasons to believe that we should answer both questions in the negative.
Carmona C. (2018) Dance and embodied cognition: Motivations for the enactivist program. Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio 12(2): 31–43. https://cepa.info/7805
This paper examines dance instruction and choreographic work within Western contemporary dance practice. Its goal is to re-contextualize the later Wittgenstein’s ideas regarding the nature of our linguistic competence and cognitive abilities at large in the light of the rise of enactivism. I discuss examples within dance practice that show that cognition is distributed across brain, body and environment. In the process, this paper supports a good number of sensorimotor enactivism’s fundamental claims. However, its main purpose is to bring insight into embodied cognition that is non-representational at root, which could motivate the radical version of enactivism. In this regard, I provide evidence against the conception of perceptual experience as like snapshots. I also argue that sensorimotor enactivism – due to its focus on visual experience – is held captive by such a picture, despite its battle against it. In this regard, I refute sensorimotor enactivism’s idea that practical knowledge mediates in perceptual experience by means of examples. I explore instances of non-conceptual, non-mediated perceptual experience that are a product of embodied engagements with the environment. As a result, I propose an enactivist view of embodied cognition that accounts for non-representational processes.
“In Are living beings extended autopoietic systems? An embodied reply”, Villalobos and Razeto-Barry offer an articulation of the embodied aspect of the autopoietic theory. Their aim is to block the extended interpretation of this theory. For them, living beings are, simply put, autopoietic bodies. In this commentary, I advance two concerns regarding the alleged cases of extended living beings. On the one hand, I argue that their proposal fails to account for the intuitive difference between these cases and living beings that are embedded in the environment. On the other hand, I argue that, from the perspective offered by the authors, there also seems to be a problem in the way the boundaries of a system are delineated.
Over the past few years, the prediction error minimization (PEM) framework has increasingly been gaining ground throughout the cognitive sciences. A key issue dividing proponents of PEM is how we should conceptualize the relation between brain, body and environment. Clark advocates a version of PEM which retains, at least to a certain extent, his prior commitments to Embodied Cognition and to the Extended Mind Hypothesis. Hohwy, by contrast, presents a sustained argument that PEM actually rules out at least some versions of Embodied and Extended cognition. The aim of this paper is to facilitate a constructive debate between these two competing alternatives by explicating the different theoretical motivations underlying them, and by homing in on the relevant issues that may help to adjudicate between them.
Clear statements of both extended and enactive conceptions of cognition can be found in John Dewey and other pragmatists. In this paper I’ll argue that we can find resources in the pragmatists to address two ongoing debates: (1) in contrast to recent disagreements between proponents of extended vs enactive cognition, pragmatism supports a more integrative view – an enactive conception of extended cognition, and (2) pragmatist views suggest ways to answer the main objections raised against extended and enactive conceptions – specifically objections focused on constitution versus causal factors, and the mark of the mental.
Herschbach M. (2012) On the role of social interaction in social cognition: A mechanistic alternative to enactivism. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11(4): 467–486. https://cepa.info/5834
Researchers in the enactivist tradition have recently argued that social interaction can constitute social cognition, rather than simply serve as the context for social cognition. They contend that a focus on social interaction corrects the overemphasis on mechanisms inside the individual in the explanation of social cognition. I critically assess enactivism’s claims about the explanatory role of social interaction in social cognition. After sketching the enactivist approach to cognition in general and social cognition in particular, I identify problems with an enactivist taxonomy of roles for social interaction in the explanation of social cognition (contextual, enabling, and constitutive). In particular, I show that this enactivist taxonomy does not clearly distinguish between enabling conditions and constitutive elements, which would make them in danger of committing the coupling-constitution fallacy found in some attempts to extend cognition. I explore resources enactivism has to more clearly demarcate constitutive parts of a cognitive system, but identify problems in applying them to some of themain cases of social cognition enactivists characterize as being constituted by social interaction. I offer the mechanistic approach to explanation as an alternative that captures much of what enactivists want to say about the relations between social and individual levels, but views social interactions from the perspective of embedded cognition rather than as being constitutive of social cognition.
Advocates of extended cognition argue that the boundaries of cognition span brain, body, and environment. Critics maintain that cognitive processes are confined to a boundary centered on the individual. All participants to this debate require a criterion for distinguishing what is internal to cognition from what is external. Yet none of the available proposals are completely successful. I offer a new account, the mutual manipulability account, according to which cognitive boundaries are determined by relationships of mutual manipulability between the properties and activities of putative components and the overall behavior of the cognitive mechanism in which they figure. Among its main advantages, this criterion is capable of (a) distinguishing components of cognition from causal background conditions and lower-level correlates, and (b) showing how the core hypothesis of extended cognition can serve as a legitimate empirical hypothesis amenable to experimental test and confirmation. Conceiving the debate in these terms transforms the current clash over extended cognition into a substantive empirical debate resolvable on the basis of evidence from cognitive science and neuroscience.
Kersten L., Dewhurst J. & Deane G. (2017) Resolving two tensions in 4E cognition using wide computationalism. In: Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society, Austin TX: 2395–2400. https://cepa.info/5683
Recently, some authors have begun to raise questions about the potential unity of 4E (enactive, embedded, embodied, extended) cognition as a distinct research programme within cognitive science. Two tensions, in particular, have been raised: (i) that the body-centric claims embodied cognition militate against the distributed tendencies of extended cognition and (ii) that the body/environment distinction emphasized by enactivism stands in tension with the world-spanning claims of extended cognition. The goal of this paper is to resolve tensions (i) and (ii). The proposal is that a form of ‘wide computationalism’ can be used to reconcile the two tensions and, in so doing, articulate a common theoretical core for 4E cognition.