Upshot: I offer responses to the commentaries on my target article in five short sections. The first section, about the plurality of lived worlds, concerns issues of quite general interest to readers of this journal. The second section presents some reasons for rejecting “enabling” as well as “constitutive” representational approaches to understanding the mind. In the remaining three sections, I clarify aspects of sensorimotor direct realism relating to the self, qualia, counterfactuals, and the notion of “mastery.”
Buhrmann T. & Di Paolo E. (2014) Non-representational sensorimotor knowledge. In: Del Pobil A , Chinellato E., Martinez-Martin E., Hallam J., Cervera E. & Morales A. (eds.) From animals to animats 13. Springer, New York: 21–31. https://cepa.info/2521
The sensorimotor approach argues that in order to perceive one needs to first “master” the relevant sensorimotor contingencies, and then exercise the acquired practical know-how to become “attuned” to the actual and potential contingencies a particular situation entails. But the approach provides no further detail about how this mastery is achieved or what precisely it means to become attuned to a situation. We here present an agent-based model to show how sen- sorimotor attunement can be understood as a dynamic and non-representational process in which a particular sensorimotor coordination is enacted as a response to a given environmental context, without requiring deliberative action selection.
Di Paolo E. A., Barandiaran X. E., Beaton M. & Buhrmann T. (2014) Learning to perceive in the sensorimotor approach: Piaget’s theory of equilibration interpreted dynamically. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8: 551. https://cepa.info/4799
Learning to perceive is faced with a classical paradox: if understanding is required for perception, how can we learn to perceive something new, something we do not yet understand? According to the sensorimotor approach, perception involves mastery of regular sensorimotor co-variations that depend on the agent and the environment, also known as the “laws” of sensorimotor contingencies (SMCs) In this sense, perception involves enacting relevant sensorimotor skills in each situation. It is important for this proposal that such skills can be learned and refined with experience and yet up to this date, the sensorimotor approach has had no explicit theory of perceptual learning. The situation is made more complex if we acknowledge the open-ended nature of human learning. In this paper we propose Piaget’s theory of equilibration as a potential candidate to fulfill this role. This theory highlights the importance of intrinsic sensorimotor norms, in terms of the closure of sensorimotor schemes. It also explains how the equilibration of a sensorimotor organization faced with novelty or breakdowns proceeds by re-shaping pre-existing structures in coupling with dynamical regularities of the world. This way learning to perceive is guided by the equilibration of emerging forms of skillful coping with the world. We demonstrate the compatibility between Piaget’s theory and the sensorimotor approach by providing a dynamical formalization of equilibration to give an explicit micro-genetic account of sensorimotor learning and, by extension, of how we learn to perceive. This allows us to draw important lessons in the form of general principles for open-ended sensorimotor learning, including the need for an intrinsic normative evaluation by the agent itself. We also explore implications of our micro-genetic account at the personal level.
Diettrich O. (1997) Kann es eine ontologiefreie evolutionäre Erkenntnistheorie geben? Philosophia naturalis 34(1): 71–105. https://cepa.info/3914
Most of what nowadays is called evolutionary epistemology tries to explain the phylogenetic acquisition of inborn ‘knowledge’ and the evolution of the mental instruments concerned – mostly in terms of adaptation to external conditions. These conditions, however, cannot be described but in terms of what is provided by the mental instruments which are said to be brought about just by these conditions themselves. So they cannot be defined in an objective and non-circular way. This problem is approached here by what is called the mastery – and none of them is ontologically privileged.
Glasersfeld E. von & Ackermann E. K. (2011) Reflections on the Concept of Experience and the Role of Consciousness. Unfinished Fragments. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 193–203. https://constructivist.info/6/2/193
Context: The idea to write this paper sprang up in a casual conversation that led to the question of how the word “experience” would be translated into German. Distinctions between the German “Erleben” and “Erfahren,” and their intricacies with “Erkennen” and “Anerkennen,” soon led to the conviction that this was a thread worth pursuing. Problem: Much has been written about the nature of experience, but there is little consensus, to this day, regarding the role of consciousness in the process of experiencing. Although RC acknowledges the significance of tacit or sensorimotor knowledge in the individual’s practical operating, it cannot admit it as a basis to the formation of conceptual structures that, by definition, are conscious. Method: Drawing from our backgrounds in epistemology and psychology, and a shared interest in Piaget’s psychogenetic approach, we investigate the origins and development of human experience, in this case the mastery of space, time, causation, and object-permanency. We focus on how “noticeable encounters” are gauged, reflected upon, and ultimately worked through, consciously or unconsciously, by the “experiencer.” Results: A child’s abilities to enact a certain action pattern in a given situation no more demonstrates a re-presentation of the pattern than does recognition in the case of objects. In his studies with children, Piaget has shown that the Kantian categories of space, time object, and “causality” are co-constitutive of the child’s own motion – and its felt impact – as a means to make the world cohere. Of importance here are the concepts of “effective causality,” felicitous encounters, and agency. Implications: Understanding the circumstances under which some “lived” events, whether self-initiated or striking as if out of nowhere, become noticeable and able affect a person’s life is a daunting task. This joint essay is no more than a conversation-starter and an invitation to further explore the intricacies between agency and causation, sensation and cognition, and, yes, motions and emotions in the making of consciousness itself.
Masciotra D., Medzo F. & Jonnaert P. (2010) Vers une approche située en éducation: Réflexions, pratiques, recherches et standards [Toward a Situations-based Approach in Education: Reflections, Practices, Research and Standards]. ACFAS, Montreal.
A situated or situations-based approach is becoming increasingly adopted by education reforms as either a continuation of or an alternative to the competency-based approach. In fact, recent curriculum reforms have begun to organize the content of their programs of study around classes of situations. While proponents of the competency-based approach generally view competency as the mastery of decontextualized knowledge, advocates of a situations-based approach define it in terms of the mastery of situations. In this latter perspective, the acquisition of competency and knowledge is contextualized, that is, it develops by acting in situation. The situations-based approach is grounded in different theoretical orientations, such as the communicative approach (in language teaching), the problem-based approach, constructivism, socioconstructivism, situated action, situated cognition, distributed cognition and enaction. In short, the book explores a wide range of practices and research associated with the situations-based approach.
Mintrop H. (2001) Educating students to teach in a constructivist way: Can it all be done? Teachers College Record 103(2): 207–239.
Our challenge as teacher educators and researchers was to design a teacher education program module that centered on an ambitious constructivist teaching model. How could such a program be designed that stirred vision, motivation, and inquiry on classroom, self, and the aims of education, that furnished considerable disciplinary and design knowledge and management skills, and that hatched professional community? The project experimented with three different versions over three years. In the first year, the program generated a great deal of inspired pioneering; but technical skill and keen observation was submerged at times in ideological commitment, and understanding of the model was truncated. In the second year, the program placed great emphasis on the mastery of the model aiming at clinical tryouts. Unfortunately, this formal sapped the novices’ inspiration by over-burdening them with abstract theory and fixed pedagogical forms, thus disconnecting the model from the philosophical and moral reasons of teaching it. In the third year, the program concentrated on practical inquiry and careful bottom-up reflection to develop classroom community. Novices maintained their vision and motivation for the constructivist model, left the project with “reflective prompts, ” but missed fundamental design competencies. Thus, none of the program iterations stands out as a shining example of success, but together they demonstrate the indispensability of all the components.
Oblak A., Boyadzhieva A. & Bon J. (2021) Author’s Response: The Boundaries and Frontiers of Perceptual Presence. Constructivist Foundations 16(3): 322–326. https://cepa.info/7171
Abstract: In our response, we demonstrate how theoretical constructs of philosophical phenomenology do not correspond to findings from lived experience. We provide additional subjective reports illustrating the active nature of perceptual presence, and how this phenomenon can be considered a socially reinforced mastery of veridicality. Finally, we outline future directions for computational modelling.
Roberts T. (2010) Understanding “sensorimotor understanding”. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9(1): 101–111. https://cepa.info/2528
Sensorimotor theories understand perception to be a process of active, exploratory engagement with the environment, mediated by the possession and exercise of a certain body of knowledge concerning sensorimotor dependencies. This paper aims to characterise that exercise, and to show that it places constraints upon the content of sensorimotor knowledge itself. Sensorimotor mastery is exercised when it is put to use in the service of intentional action-planning and selection, and this rules out certain standard readings of sensorimotor contingency knowledge. Rather than holding between movements and sensory inputs or appearances, sensorimotor contingencies concern the suite of ways in which an object can be revealed through exploration. Sensorimotor knowledge is thus directed through experience to the world itself.
Seth A. K. (2014) A predictive processing theory of sensorimotor contingencies: Explaining the puzzle of perceptual presence and its absence in synesthesia. Cognitive Neuroscience 5: 97–118. https://cepa.info/2529
Normal perception involves experiencing objects within perceptual scenes as real, as existing in the world. This property of “perceptual presence” has motivated “sensorimotor theories” which understand perception to involve the mastery of sensorimotor contingencies. However, the mechanistic basis of sensorimotor contingencies and their mastery has remained unclear. Sensorimotor theory also struggles to explain instances of perception, such as synesthesia, that appear to lack perceptual presence and for which relevant sensorimotor contingencies are difficult to identify. On alternative “predictive processing” theories, perceptual content emerges from probabilistic inference on the external causes of sensory signals, however, this view has addressed neither the problem of perceptual presence nor synesthesia. Here, I describe a theory of predictive perception of sensorimotor contingencies which (1) accounts for perceptual presence in normal perception, as well as its absence in synesthesia, and (2) operationalizes the notion of sensorimotor contingencies and their mastery. The core idea is that generative models underlying perception incorporate explicitly counterfactual elements related to how sensory inputs would change on the basis of a broad repertoire of possible actions, even if those actions are not performed. These “counterfactually-rich” generative models encode sensorimotor contingencies related to repertoires of sensorimotor dependencies, with counterfactual richness determining the degree of perceptual presence associated with a stimulus. While the generative models underlying normal perception are typically counterfactually rich (reflecting a large repertoire of possible sensorimotor dependencies), those underlying synesthetic concurrents are hypothesized to be counterfactually poor. In addition to accounting for the phenomenology of synesthesia, the theory naturally accommodates phenomenological differences between a range of experiential states including dreaming, hallucination, and the like. It may also lead to a new view of the (in)determinacy of normal perception.