James Gibson’s concept of affordances was an attempt to undermine the traditional dualism of the objective and subjective. Gibson himself insisted on the continuity of “affordances in general” and those attached to human artifacts. However, a crucial distinction needs to be drawn between “affordances in general” and the “canonical affordances” that are connected primarily to artifacts. Canonical affordances are conventional and normative. It is only in such cases that it makes sense to talk of the affordance of the object. Chairs, (...) for example, are for sitting-on, even though we may also use them in many other ways. A good deal of confusion has arisen in the discussion of affordances from (1) the failure to recognize the normative status of canonical affordances and (2) then generalizing from this special case. (shrink)
Modern cognitive psychology presents itself as the revolutionary alternative to behaviorism, yet there are blatant continuities between modern cognitivism and the mechanistic kind of behaviorism that cognitivists have in mind, such as their commitment to methodological behaviorism, the stimulus–response schema, and the hypothetico-deductive method. Both mechanistic behaviorism and cognitive behaviorism remain trapped within the dualisms created by the traditional ontology of physical science—dualisms that, one way or another, exclude us from the "physical world." Darwinian theory, however, put us back into (...) nature. The Darwinian emphasis upon the mutuality of animal and environment was further developed by, among others, James, Dewey, and Mead. Although their functionalist approach to psychology was overtaken by Watson's behaviorism, the principle of animal–environment dualism continued to figure (though somewhat inconsistently) within the work of Skinner and Gibson. For the clearest insights into the mutuality of organism and environment we need to set the clock back quite a few years and return to the work of Darwin and the early functionalist psychologists. (shrink)
Stoffregen & Bardy argue that unimodal invariants do not exist, and that only invariants are possible. But they confuse two separate issues. Amodal invariants, we argue, do indeed exist to specify features of the environment, but not even an amodal invariant, in isolation, could specify their or.
Drawing upon the work of Merleau-Ponty, Borrett et al. (2000) have attempted to model the primordial, "empty heads turned towards the world." Putting the issue of embodiment aside for another day, they propose two separate models, one of movement and the other of perception. While I am sympathetic to the point of their project, I argue in this commentary that their models are insufficiently vague. The following analytic abstractions to which they commit themselves seem seriously at odds with the nature (...) of their task: action versus perception; vision versus the other senses; spatial properties versus, for example, colour and meaning; and 'a controller' versus the body and its environment. (shrink)