What evolutionary account explains our capacity to reason mathematically? Identifying the biological provenance of mathematical thinking would bear on education, because we could then design learning environments that simulate ecologically authentic conditions for leveraging this universal phylogenetic inclination. The ancient mechanism coopted for mathematical activity, I propose, is our fundamental organismic capacity to improve our sensorimotor engagement with the environment by detecting, generating, and maintaining goal-oriented perceptual structures regulating action, whether actual or imaginary. As such, the phenomenology of grasping a mathematical notion is literally that – gripping the environment in a new way that promotes interaction. To argue for the plausibility of my thesis, I first survey embodiment literature to implicate cognition as constituted in perceptuomotor engagement. Then, I summarize findings from a design-based research project investigating relations between learning to move in new ways and learning to reason mathematically about these conceptual choreographies. As such, the project proposes educational implications of enactivist evolutionary biology.
Excerpt: Obviously perception is embodied. After all, if creatures were entirely disembodied, how could physical processes in the environment, such as the propagation of light or sound, be transduced into a neurobiological currency capable of generating experience? Is there, however, any deeper, more subtle sense in which perception is embodied?
Alrøe H. F. & Noe E. (2012) Observing Environments. Constructivist Foundations 8(1): 39–52. https://constructivist.info/8/1/039
Context: Society is faced with “wicked” problems of environmental sustainability, which are inherently multiperspectival, and there is a need for explicitly constructivist and perspectivist theories to address them. Problem: However, different constructivist theories construe the environment in different ways. The aim of this paper is to clarify the conceptions of environment in constructivist approaches, and thereby to assist the sciences of complex systems and complex environmental problems. Method: We describe the terms used for “the environment” in von Uexküll, Maturana & Varela, and Luhmann, and analyse how their conceptions of environment are connected to differences of perspective and observation. Results: We show the need to distinguish between inside and outside perspectives on the environment, and identify two very different and complementary logics of observation, the logic of distinction and the logic of representation, in the three constructivist theories. Implications: Luhmann’s theory of social systems can be a helpful perspective on the wicked environmental problems of society if we consider carefully the theory’s own blind spots: that it confines itself to systems of communication, and that it is based fully on the conception of observation as indication by means of distinction.
Alvarez De Lorenzana J. M. (2000) Closure, open systems, and the modeling imperative. In: Chandler J. & Van de Vijver G. (eds.) Closure: Emergent organizations and their dynamics. New York Academy of Sciences, New York: 91–99.
Natural systems cannot be closed to the environment. At the same time there is a necessity for closure in order to build the system. It is this quintessential tension between openness and closure that drives systems to unfold into further stages or levels of growth and development. In other words, the emergence of organization in natural systems is a result of cycles of openness and closure. There are two distinct and complementary ways by which a system will carry over closure while involved in a process of expansion across the environment. These two ways need to be expressed in any formal representation: (1) within a level this will be by means of transitive closure, which is additive; and (2) between levels (i.e., from one level to the next higher level) this requires algebraic closure, which is multiplicative. The former expresses space closure, whereas the latter expresses topological or time closure. The conjunction of these two closures generates a hierarchy of levels. Prior to, and outside of, the system lies semantic closure.
Andrew A. M. (2004) Questions about constructivism. Kybernetes 33(9/10): 1392–1395. https://cepa.info/2628
A number of observations are made about the nature of constructivism, with the suggestion that it is a less revolutionary development that has been claimed, and that some accounts imply an unwarranted disregard of the environment. The presentation is meant to be provocative and to invite discussion that may clarify the issues.
Ashby M. (2013) Cybernetics of cybernetics competition the winning entry: Structure, environment, purpose, and a grand challenge for the ASC. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 20(1–2): 113–123. https://cepa.info/3579
This proposal is based on a view of the ASC as a system that consists of an organism that exists in, and operates purposefully on an environment. We propose changes to the organism and its environment. Our first proposal changes the structure of the ASC organism to make it explicitly and functionally second-order cybernetic. The second proposal changes the environment of influence of the ASC organism.
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.
Balint T. S. & Pangaro P. (2017) The emerging roles of the observer on human space missions: Curated autonomy through boundary objects. In: Proceedings of the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2017), Volume 18. International Astronautical Federation, Paris: 12309–12324. https://cepa.info/7369
The roles of art, design, and architecture on long-duration human space missions could have deep, significant impact on the functional capabilities of human environments in space, far beyond mere form and aesthetics. Yet, today’s technology-driven paradigm of space design pays limited attention to “soft” disciplines that relate to artistic and designerly modes of operations. This current worldview is governed by engineers and project managers. “Soft” considerations are looked at as nice-to-have add-ons at the end of the project, dependent on resource availability. While sufficient for short missions, this unnecessarily constrained view of artistic and designerly modes must change for long-duration missions, as the crew spends nearly 100% of their time inside a severely limited volume, in virtual isolation. Thus, it becomes necessary for all the systems, usable objects, and artistic artifacts inside the habitat to be connected to the goal of facilitating engaging interactions with the crew. Artifacts – as boundary objects in the intersection of various disciplines – facilitate circular conversations between an observer (crew member) and the environment of the spacecraft, and have many important functions. They provide emotional connections and comfort, promote well-being, support autonomy, help thinking to evolve novel ideas, and aid discovery and entertainment. When designing for experiences and interactions in space, artists, designers, and architects are able to look at artifacts from the perspective of the crew as observers, and imagine a rich set of interactions through various aspects and stages of the spaceflight. As a result, these artifacts support the higher-level needs of the observer, beyond basic physiological, psychological, and safety needs. They are designed for the well-being of the crew members, while sustainably utilizing the habitat volume and resources. In this paper we systematically show how human-centered roles and circular conversations between the observers and their environments can be incorporated into the culture of designing for space travel through the involvement of artists, designers and architects, from an early stage of designing the mission and its elements. This process is inclusive of the people who envision and create the environments and user experiences, and those who experience, use, and evolve them. Making the case about the importance of these considerations may help artists, designers, and architects to reframe the discourse of their contributions to space exploration and, in effect, find a stronger acceptance from the decision makers of a technology-driven human space exploration paradigm.
This paper compares the enactive approach to perception, which has recently emerged in cognitive science, with the phenomenological approach. Inspired by Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, the enactive theorists Alva Noë and Evan Thompson take perception to be a result of the interaction between the brain, the body and the environment. Their argument turns mostly on the role of self-motion and sensorimotor knowledge in perceptual experience. It was said to be entirely consistent with phenomenology, indeed its revival. However, this issue is under debate. To show this, I begin with analyzing the enactive conception as a physicalist attempt to overcome the challenge of dualism and representationalism. I then turn to Husserl’s transcendental method and argue that Noë’s solution, unlike Husserl’s, remains naturalistic, as it does not take the phenomenon of intersubjectivity and the constitution of the “cultural world” into account. Afterwards I turn to Merleau-Ponty and demonstrate that there is some certain common ground with Noë, but also major differences. I conclude that the enactive approach is not completely refuted by the phenomenological one, insofar as the latter partly contains the first. Yet the enactivists deal merely with the necessary physiological conditions of perception qua animal perception, not with the sufficient sociocultural conditions for the understanding of human perception, like the inquiry into the historical and linguistic circumstances under which the understanding of human mind is made possible. The reason why the recent transformation of phenomenology into neurophenomenology is perceived as a revival is virtually inherent to the specific scientific ethos of enactivism and reveals a certain oblivion of the objectives of philosophical phenomenology.
This paper describes a transdisciplinary theoretical-practical research, which address on the discussion about the possible applications of Multi-agent Systems, underlying the Maturana and Varela’s autopoietic concept considering the achievement of emergent results as heuristics to creativity. Autopoiesis (from the Greek “auto” which means “itself” and “poiesis” which means “creation”) describes the autonomous systems, able to self-reproduce and self-regulate, while iterating with the environment. In order to explore those concepts, we present Zer0, a game that invites the player to drift in a universe ruled by geometric shapes. Through interactions with other shapes, the player is able to evolve from a single line shape to more complex ones. Zer0 is a multi-agent system able to compose emergent music in real time. As interactions occur, chain reactions create the game soundtrack. There are two main agents involved: the player and the other shapes. While the player enjoys the ride, the other shapes are trying to interact with each other in order to expand their lifespan. The communication between agents is made through generated pulses, which are emitted by them and also serves as sonar, in order to perceive the environment.