Predictive processing (PP) approaches to the mind are increasingly popular in the cognitive sciences. This surge of interest is accompanied by a proliferation of philosophical arguments, which seek to either extend or oppose various aspects of the emerging framework. In particular, the question of how to position predictive processing with respect to enactive and embodied cognition has become a topic of intense debate. While these arguments are certainly of valuable scientific and philosophical merit, they risk underestimating the variety of approaches gathered under the predictive label. Here, we first present a basic review of neuroscientific, cognitive, and philosophical approaches to PP, to illustrate how these range from solidly cognitivist applications – with a firm commitment to modular, internalistic mental representation – to more moderate views emphasizing the importance of ‘body-representations’, and finally to those which fit comfortably with radically enactive, embodied, and dynamic theories of mind. Any nascent predictive processing theory (e.g., of attention or consciousness) must take into account this continuum of views, and associated theoretical commitments. As a final point, we illustrate how the Free Energy Principle (FEP) attempts to dissolve tension between internalist and externalist accounts of cognition, by providing a formal synthetic account of how internal ‘representations’ arise from autopoietic self-organization. The FEP thus furnishes empirically productive process theories (e.g., predictive processing) by which to guide discovery through the formal modelling of the embodied mind.
Anisfeld M. (2005) No compelling evidence to dispute Piaget’s timetable of the development of representational imitation in infancy. In: Hurley S. & Chater N. (eds.) Perspectives on imitation: From neuroscience to social science. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 107–131.
Excerpt: Recent experimental work on imitation in infancy has challenged Piaget’s theory and timetable. Two aspects of Piaget’s work have been criticized: his contention that imitation of invisible gestures (i.e., gestures the imitator cannot see when he or she performs them) could not occur until the third quarter of the first year, and his contention that deferred imitation of novel sequences of actions could not occur until the beginning of the second year. The critics have marshalled empirical research that they interpret as showing invisible imitation in the neonatal period and deferred imitation at 6–9 months. This chapter argues that in both areas the empirical criticism of Piaget is not well founded. It removes a source of support for theories that attribute mental representation to young infants. In turn, it provides support for Piagetian theories that see mental representation as evolving gradually in the course of the first year. The chapter starts with a brief summary of Piaget’s theory to provide a context for his work on imitation. This summary is followed by an examination of the work on invisible imitation and deferred imitation.
Borghi A. M. & Caruana F. (2015) Embodiment theory. In: Wright J. D. (ed.) International encyclopedia of the social & sciences. Second edition. Volume 7. Elsevier, Amsterdam: 420–426.
Embodied cognition (EC) views propose that cognition is shaped by the kind of body that organisms possess. We give an overview of recent literature on EC, highlighting the differences between stronger and weaker versions of the theory. We also illustrate the debates on the notions of simulation, of representation, and on the role of the motor system for cognition, and we address some of the most important research topics. Future challenges concern the understanding of how abstract concepts and words are represented, and the relationship between EC and other promising approaches, the distributional views of meaning and the extended mind views.
Cifarelli V. V. & Sevim V. (2014) Examining the Role of Re-Presentation in Mathematical Problem Solving: An Application of Ernst von Glasersfeld’s Conceptual Analysis. Constructivist Foundations 9(3): 360–369. https://constructivist.info/9/3/360
Context: The paper utilizes a conceptual analysis to examine the development of abstract conceptual structures in mathematical problem solving. In so doing, we address two questions: 1. How have the ideas of RC influenced our own educational theory? and 2. How has our application of the ideas of RC helped to improve our understanding of the connection between teaching practice and students’ learning processes? Problem: The paper documents how Ernst von Glasersfeld’s view of mental representation can be illustrated in the context of mathematical problem solving and used to explain the development of conceptual structure in mathematical problem solving. We focus on how acts of mental re‑presentation play a vital role in the gradual internalization and interiorization of solution activity. Method: A conceptual analysis of the actions of a college student solving a set of algebra problems was conducted. We focus on the student’s problem solving actions, particularly her emerging and developing reflections about her solution activity. The interview was videotaped and written transcripts of the solver’s verbal responses were prepared. Results: The analysis of the solver’s solution activity focused on identifying and describing her cognitive actions in resolving genuinely problematic situations that she faced while solving the tasks. The results of the analysis included a description of the increasingly abstract levels of conceptual knowledge demonstrated by the solver. Implications: The results suggest a framework for an explanation of problem solving that is activity-based, and consistent with von Glasersfeld’s radical constructivist view of knowledge. The impact of von Glasersfeld’s ideas in mathematics education is discussed.
This article presents a constructivist model of human cognitive development during infancy. According to constructivism, the elements of mental representation-even such basic elements as the concept of physical object-are constructed afresh by each individual, rather than being innately supplied. A (partially-specified, yet-unimplemented) mechanism, the Schema Mechanism, is proposed here; this mechanism is intended to achieve a series of cognitive constructions characteristic of infants' sensorimotor-stage development, primarily as described by Piaget. In reference to Piaget's “genetic epistemology”, I call this approach genetic AI-“genetic” not in the sense of genes, but in the sense of genesis: development from the point of origin. The Schema Mechanism focuses on Piaget's concept of the activity and evolution of cognitive schemas. The schema is construed here as a context-sensitive prediction of what will follow a certain action. Schemas are used both as assertions about the world, and as elements of plans to achieve goals. A mechanism of attribution causes a schema's assertion to be extended or revised according to the observed effects of the schema's action; due to the possible relevance of conjunctions of context conditions, the attribution facility needs to be able to sort through a combinatorial explosion of hypotheses. Crucially, the mechanism constructs representations of new actions and state elements, in terms of which schemas are expressed. Included here is a sketch of the proposed Schema Mechanism, and highlights of a hypothetical scenario of the mechanism's operation. The Schema Mechanism starts with a set of sensory and motor primitives as its sole units of representation. As with the Piagetian neonate, this leads to a “solipsist” conception: the world consists of sensory impressions transformed by motor actions. My scenario suggests how the mechanism might progress from there to conceiving of objects in space-representing an object independently of how it is currently perceived, or even whether it is currently perceived. The details of this progression paralledl the Piagetian development of object conception from the first through fifth sensorimotor stage.
Dreyfus H. (2002) Intelligence without representations – Merleau-Ponty’s critique of mental representation: The relevance of phenomenology to scientific explanation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1(4): 367–383.
Existential phenomenologists hold that the two most basic forms of intelligent behavior, learning, and skillful action, can be described and explained without recourse to mind or brain representations. This claim is expressed in two central notions in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception: the intentional arc and the tendency to achieve a maximal grip. The intentional arc names the tight connection between body and world, such that, as the active body acquires skills, those skills are “stored”, not as representations in the mind, but as dispositions to respond to the solicitations of situations in the world. A phenomenology of skill acquisition confirms that, as one acquires expertise, the acquired know-how is experienced as finer and finer discriminations of situations paired with the appropriate response to each. Maximal grip names the body’s tendency to refine its responses so as to bring the current situation closer to an optimal gestalt. Thus, successful learning and action do not require propositional mental representations. They do not require semantically interpretable brain representations either. Simulated neural networks exhibit crucial structural features of the intentional arc, and Walter Freeman’s account of the brain dynamics underlying perception and action is structurally isomorphic with Merleau-Ponty’s account of the way a skilled agent is led by the situation to move towards obtaining a maximal grip.
Dreyfus H. L. (2002) Intelligence without representation – Merleau-Ponty’s critique of mental representation: The relevance of phenomenology to scientific explanation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1(4): 367–383. https://cepa.info/4592
Existential phenomenologists hold that the two most basic forms of intelligent behavior, learning, and skillful action, can be described and explained without recourse to mind or brain representations. This claim is expressed in two central notions in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception: the intentional arc and the tendency to achieve a maximal grip. The intentional arc names the tight connection between body and world, such that, as the active body acquires skills, those skills are “stored,” not as representations in the mind, but as dispositions to respond to the solicitations of situations in the world. A phenomenology of skill acquisition confirms that, as one acquires expertise, the acquired know-how is experienced as finer and finer discriminations of situations paired with the appropriate response to each. Maximal grip names the body’s tendency to refine its responses so as to bring the current situation closer to an optimal gestalt. Thus, successful learning and action do not require propositional mental representations. They do not require semantically interpretable brain representations either. Simulated neural networks exhibit crucial structural features of the intentional arc, and Walter Freeman’s account of the brain dynamics underlying perception and action is structurally isomorphic with Merleau-Ponty’s account of the way a skilled agent is led by the situation to move towards obtaining a maximal grip.
Critics of the paradigm of enaction have long argued that enactive principles will be unable to account for the traditional domain of orthodox cognitive science, namely “higher-level” cognition and specifically human cognition. Moreover, even many of the paradigm’s “lower-level” insights into embodiment and situatedness appear to be amenable to a functionalist reinterpretation. In this review, I show on the basis of the recently published collection of papers, Enaction, that the paradigm of enaction has (a) a unique foundation in the notion of sense-making that places fundamental limits on the scope of functionalist appropriation; (b) a unique perspective on higher-level cognition that sets important new research directions without the need for the concept of mental representation; (c) a new concept of specifically human cognition in terms of second-order sense-making; and (d) a rich variety of approaches to explain the evolutionary, historical, and developmental origins of this sophisticated human ability. I also indicate how studies of the role of embodiment for abstract human cognition can strengthen their position by reconceiving their notion of embodiment in enactive terms.
According to the predictive coding theory of cognition (PCT), brains are predictive machines that use perception and action to minimize prediction error, i.e. the discrepancy between bottom–up, externally-generated sensory signals and top–down, internally-generated sensory predictions. Many consider PCT to have an explanatory scope that is unparalleled in contemporary cognitive science and see in it a framework that could potentially provide us with a unified account of cognition. It is also commonly assumed that PCT is a representational theory of sorts, in the sense that it postulates that our cognitive contact with the world is mediated by internal representations. However, the exact sense in which PCT is representational remains unclear; neither is it clear that it deserves such status – that is, whether it really invokes structures that are truly and nontrivially representational in nature. In the present article, I argue that the representational pretensions of PCT are completely justified. This is because the theory postulates cognitive structures – namely action-guiding, detachable, structural models that afford representational error detection – that play genuinely representational functions within the cognitive system.
Intentionality and consciousness are the fundamental kinds of mental phenomena. Although they are widely regarded as being entirely distinct some philosophers conjecture that they are intimately related. Prominently it has been claimed that consciousness can be best understood in terms of representational facts or properties. Representationalist theories vary in strength. At their core they seek to establish that subjective, phenomenal consciousness (of the kind that involves the having of first-personal points of view or perspectives on the world – perspectives that incorporate experiences with specific phenomenal characters) is either exhausted by, or supervenes on, capacities for mental representation. These proposals face several serious objections.