A series of articles has recently appeared in which implications of second-order cybernetics for the practice of family therapy have been discussed. In this article, we attempt to advance the discussion by addressing ideas that we think have not been adequately emphasized thus far. Specifically proposed are ideas about conditions that might facilitate the emergence of consciously pragmatic strategy informed by the kind of systemic wisdom that delicately balances natural systems without the benefit of human planning. It is argued that a shift in the personal habits of knowing and acting that typically organize individual human experience is required. After attempting to specify what this shift might involve, implications of these ideas for the practice of family therapy and for human action in general are discussed.
Budnik V., Mpodozis J., Varela F. J. & Maturana H. R. (1984) Regional specialization of the quail retina: Ganglion cell density and oil droplet distribution. Neuroscience Letters 51(1): 145–150. https://cepa.info/571
The ganglion cell density of the quail’s retina was studied in sections and whole mounts. Two regions of high ganglion cell density were found, corresponding to an afoveate area centralis and an area dorsalis. Oil droplets were found to be isotropically distributed throughout the retina. It is proposed that the significance of such retinal regional specialization, in comparison to similar studies in the pigeon and the chick, is that regional specialization in the avian retina is more closely related to feeding habits than to phylogenetic descendence.
Davis B. & Sumara D. (2003) Why aren’t they getting this? Working through the regressive myths of constructivist pedagogy. Teaching Education 14: 123–140. https://cepa.info/6096
Through several collaborative inquiries with teachers in elementary and middle schools, we have noticed a troublesome trend: teachers have become familiar with many of the key terms and catchphrases of various constructivist discourses, yet they tend to be relatively unfamiliar with the developments in epistemology that have driven the rapid emergence of these vocabularies. In consequence, our efforts to invite teachers into current discussions of cognition have often been frustrated and frustrating. We argue that this situation is in large part due to two circumstances. First, the vocabularies chosen by constructivists are often too readily aligned with commonsense understandings of personal knowing and collective knowledge. Second, and closely related, educational theorists and researchers have not always been sufficiently attentive to the contexts of their work. As such, rather than prompting a break from deeply entrenched habits of thinking, constructivist discourses have often been co-opted to support renewed and regressive embraces of Platonic and Cartesian assumptions. Somewhat ironically, then, the work of many educational theorists and researchers appears to be carried out in ignorance of the tentative and participatory dynamics that are argued to be at the root of cognitive processes.
Fingerhut J. & Heimann K. (2017) Movies and the mind: On our filmic body. In: Durt C., Fuchs T. & Tewes C. (eds.) Embodiment, enaction, and culture: Investigating the constitution of the shared world. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 353–377. https://cepa.info/5081
Excerpt: Given that the average American citizen now spends one-fifth of her lifetime engaging with real and fictional worlds via moving images (U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014), we need a deeper understanding of how this medium influences our habits of perceiving, thinking, and feeling. 4EA cognitive science has already made ample reference to interactions between organisms and technologies (such as virtual realities or sensory substitution devices); yet film has largely been neglected. Here we will argue that an embodied approach to film can deepen our understanding of this medium, while at the same time providing the necessary means to understanding how film has already altered our embodied habits of perceiving and experiencing.
Gahrn-Andersen R. (2019) Biological simplexity and cognitive heteronomy. Language Sciences 71: 38–48. https://cepa.info/5836
Heteronomy informs parts of human sense-making including perceptual and linguistic activities. This article explores Berthoz’s (2012) notion of simplexity in relation to heteronomous aspects of human cognition while it criticises proponents of Active Externalism for presuming that cognitive activity is based in strong autonomy. Specifically, its negative target is the problematic aspects of Varelian Enactivism and Extended Cognitive Functionalism which are linked to the assumption that cognition is conditioned by the cogniser’s strong autonomy. Since active externalists presume that cognition has a clear agent-to-world directionality, they prove unable to account for cases where cognition is informed by novel sensuous inputs. The article presents a positive argument that acknowledges the embodied basis of human sense-making as well as the weak autonomy of the cogniser. It argues that biological simplexity not only enables human enacted perception, but also underlies the embodied habits that shape the perceptual horizon that grants us being-in-the-world. This horizon has a heteronomous dimension which allows us to set up habits, orient ourselves towards unknown parts of our surroundings and engage in conversations. In fact, we are able to communicate with others because linguistic activity originates in enacted perception and sense-saturated coordination.
Excerpt: Applying the findings of Professor Ceccato’s “Italian Operational School,” this research group approaches the problem of machine translation on the basis of the operational analysis of thought. […] In the course of research it has become clear that a considerable part (estimated at 40%) of the information normally used in understanding language is not supplied by language itself, but by the experience, previous knowledge, and common habits of readers or listeners.
Goldenberg E. P. (2019) Problem Posing and Creativity in Elementary-School Mathematics. Constructivist Foundations 14(3): 319–331. https://cepa.info/6045
Context: In 1972, Papert emphasized that “[t]he important difference between the work of a child in an elementary mathematics class and […]a mathematician” is “not in the subject matter […]but in the fact that the mathematician is creatively engaged […]” Along with creative, Papert kept saying children should be engaged in projects rather than problems. A project is not just a large problem, but involves sustained, active engagement, like children’s play. For Papert, in 1972, computer programming suggested a flexible construction medium, ideal for a research-lab/playground tuned to mathematics for children. In 1964, without computers, Sawyer also articulated research-playgrounds for children, rooted in conventional content, in which children would learn to act and think like mathematicians. Problem: This target article addresses the issue of designing a formal curriculum that helps children develop the mathematical habits of mind of creative tinkering, puzzling through, and perseverance. I connect the two mathematicians/educators - Papert and Sawyer - tackling three questions: How do genuine puzzles differ from school problems? What is useful about children creating puzzles? How might puzzles, problem-posing and programming-centric playgrounds enhance mathematical learning? Method: This analysis is based on forty years of curriculum analysis, comparison and construction, and on research with children. Results: In physical playgrounds most children choose challenge. Papert’s ideas tapped that try-something-new and puzzle-it-out-for-yourself spirit, the drive for challenge. Children can learn a lot in such an environment, but what (and how much) they learn is left to chance. Formal educational systems set standards and structures to ensure some common learning and some equity across students. For a curriculum to tap curiosity and the drive for challenge, it needs both the playful looseness that invites exploration and the structure that organizes content. Implications: My aim is to provide support for mathematics teachers and curriculum designers to design or teach in accord with their constructivist thinking. Constructivist content: This article enriches Papert’s constructionism with curricular ideas from Sawyer and from the work that I and my colleagues have done. Key words: Problem posing, puzzles, mathematics, algebra, computer programming.
Mojica L. (2021) The enactive naturalization of normativity: From self-maintenance to situated interactions. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43(4): 1–27. https://cepa.info/8117
The autopoietic enactive account of cognition explains the emergence of normativity in nature as the norm of self-maintenance of life. The autonomous nature of living agents implies that they can differentiate events and regulate their responses in terms of what is better or worse to maintain their own precarious identity. Thus, normative behavior emerges from living organisms. Under this basic understanding of normativity as self-maintenance, autopoietic enactivism defends a continuity between biological, cognitive, and social norms. The self-maintenance of an agent’s sensorimotor identity establishes the cognitive norms that regulate its behavior, and the self-maintenance of its social identity determines the social norms. However, there is no clear explanation of how individuals, who by their very constitution are primarily moved to interact with the world under the norm of self-maintenance, could interact with the world driven by non-individual norms. Furthermore, understanding all normativity as self-maintenance makes it unclear how agents establish genuine social interactions and acquire habits that have no implication for their constitution as individuals. So, to face these challenges, I propose an alternative notion of normativity grounded on a Wittgensteinian, action-oriented, and pragmatic conception of meaning that distinguishes between an agent with a normative point of view and external normative criteria. I defend that a normative phenomenon is an interaction that is established by an individual point of view as defined by autopoietic enactivism and that is part of a self-maintaining system. The latter establishes the external normative criteria to evaluate the interaction, and it may or may not coincide with the identity of the interacting agent. Separating external normative criteria from the self-constitution of the interactant agent not only solves the challenge but potentially explains the situated and relational character of agency.
Puolimatka T. (2003) Constructivism and critical thinking. Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines 22(4): 5–12.
The problem with the traditional model of education is that the student is largely receptive. The constructivist model corrects this defect by promoting learning within a highly interaction oriented pedagogy. The problem is that sometimes it combines this with a constructivist view of knowledge, which does not provide an adequate epistemological framework for critical thinking. Even though individual creativity should be encouraged, students’ constructions must be subject to critical scrutiny. This assumes the development of the capacity for critical evaluation on the basis of generally valid rational criteria. The constructivist view of learning is most useful, when it is combined with moderate foundationalism about knowledge. Adequate knowledge constructions presuppose the development of the capacity for critical thinking with its constitutive habits, skills and attitudes.
Raimondi V. (2019) The role of languaging in human evolution: An approach based on the theory of natural drift. Chinese Semiotic Studies 15(4): 675–696. https://cepa.info/7955
The notion of languaging provides a new understanding of the intimate relationship between sociality and language. In this paper, I address the evolutionary emergence of language by subscribing to the autopoietic theory of natural drift (Maturana and Varela 1987; Varela et al. 1993; Maturana and Mpdozis 2000) I show that this systemic approach to evolution can offer the ideal epistemological background to evaluate the role of languaging throughout hominization. The central idea is that the languaging-based way of living acted as an attractor for the evolutionary process. This claim relies on three interrelated assumptions: 1) behavioral and relational habits may channel the course of genetic and structural change; 2) recursive coordination and specific forms of sociality set the systemic conditions for coexistence-through-languaging to be conserved over generations; 3) the conservation of these systemic conditions gives rise to a spiraling, positive-feedback process that involves body, cognition, and culture.