Publication 5701

De Jesus P. (2018) Thinking through enactive agency: Sense-making, bio-semiosis and the ontologies of organismic worlds. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 17(5): 861–887. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/5701
According to enactivism all living systems, from single cell organisms to human beings, are ontologically endowed with some form of teleological and sense-making agency. Furthermore, enactivists maintain that: (i) there is no fixed pregiven world and as a consequence (ii) all organisms “bring forth” their own unique “worlds” through processes of sense-making. The first half of the paper takes these two ontological claims as its central focus and aims to clarify and make explicit the arguments and motivations underlying them. Our analysis here highlights three distinct but connected problems for enactivism: (i) these arguments do not and cannot guarantee that there is no pregiven world, instead, they (ii) end up generating a contradiction whereby a pregiven world seems to in fact be tacitly presupposed by virtue of (iii) a reliance on a tacit epistemic perspectivalism which is also inherently representationalist and as a consequence makes it difficult to satisfactorily account for the ontological plurality of worlds. Taking these considerations on board, the second half of the paper then aims to develop a more robust ontologically grounded enactivism. Drawing from biosemiotic enactivism, science and technology studies and anthropology, the paper aims to present an account which both rejects a pregiven world and coherently accounts for how organisms bring forth ontologically multiple worlds.

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