John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument purports to demonstrate that syntax is not sufficient for semantics, and, hence, because computation cannot yield understanding, the computational theory of mind, which equates the mind to an information processing system based on formal computations, fails. In this paper, we use the CRA, and the debate that emerged from it, to develop a philosophical critique of recent advances in robotics and neuroscience. We describe results from a body of work that contributes to blurring the divide (...) between biological and artificial systems; so-called animats, autonomous robots that are controlled by biological neural tissue and what may be described as remote-controlled rodents, living animals endowed with augmented abilities provided by external controllers. We argue that, even though at first sight, these chimeric systems may seem to escape the CRA, on closer analysis, they do not. We conclude by discussing the role of the body–brain dynamics in the processes that give rise to genuine understanding of the world, in line with recent proposals from enactive cognitive science. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Exploration of the Functional Properties of Interaction: Computer Models and Pointers for Theory” by Etienne B. Roesch, Matthew Spencer, Slawomir J. Nasuto, Thomas Tanay & J. Mark Bishop. Upshot: We challenge the authors’ claim in the target article that “departing from cognitivism requires the development of a new functional framework that will support causal, powerful and goal-directed behavior in the context of the interaction between the organism and the environment.” We argue that (...) rather than a departure from cognitivism, the indicated goal is a natural complement or extension of the classical understanding of cognitivism. In order to reach such a goal, no new functional framework has to be developed right from scratch: there are many insights in related areas of research that can serve such a purpose well and can become an integral part of constructive cognitivism. We welcome the idea to build constructive foundations of cognitivism. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Exploration of the Functional Properties of Interaction: Computer Models and Pointers for Theory” by Etienne B. Roesch, Matthew Spencer, Slawomir J. Nasuto, Thomas Tanay & J. Mark Bishop. Upshot: Although the authors investigate a form of distributed swarm intelligence and solve some problems with it – including sorting and summing – the major goal, which is constructing cognition, cannot be achieved by this approach alone. I propose that anticipatory mechanisms have the potential (...) to construct cognition and may very well be combined with swarm intelligence principles. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Exploration of the Functional Properties of Interaction: Computer Models and Pointers for Theory” by Etienne B. Roesch, Matthew Spencer, Slawomir J. Nasuto, Thomas Tanay & J. Mark Bishop. Upshot: Artificial life computer simulations hold the potential for demonstrating the kinds of bottom-up, cooperative, self-organizing processes that underlie the self-construction of observer-actors. This is a worthwhile, if limited, attempt to use such simulations to address this set of core constructivist concerns. Although we concur (...) with much of the philosophical perspective in the target article, we take issue with some of the implied positions related to dynamical systems, sensorimotor contingency theory, and neural information processing. Ideally, we would like to see computational approaches more directly address adaptive, constructive processes and mechanisms operant in minds and brains. This would entail using tasks that are more relevant to the psychology of human and animal learning than performing digit sums or sorts. It also could involve relating the dynamics of agents more explicitly to ensembles of communicating neural assemblies. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Exploration of the Functional Properties of Interaction: Computer Models and Pointers for Theory” by Etienne B. Roesch, Matthew Spencer, Slawomir J. Nasuto, Thomas Tanay & J. Mark Bishop. Upshot: Why computer models of constructivist processes can enhance constructivist matters even though the models will always “seem incomplete.”.
Open peer commentary on the article “Exploration of the Functional Properties of Interaction: Computer Models and Pointers for Theory” by Etienne B. Roesch, Matthew Spencer, Slawomir J. Nasuto, Thomas Tanay & J. Mark Bishop. Upshot: We support Roesch and his co-authors’ theoretical stance on constructivist artificial agents, and wish to enrich their “exploration of the functional properties of interaction” with complementary results. By revisiting their experiments with an agent that we developed previously, we explore two issues that (...) they deliberately left aside: autonomous intentionality and dynamic reutilization of knowledge by the agent. Our results reveal an alternative pathway to constructivism that addresses the central question of intentionality in a single agent from the very beginning of its design, suggesting that the property of distributed processing proposed by Roesch et al. is not essential to constructivism. (shrink)
'Affective computing' is a branch of computing concerned with the theory and construction of machines which can detect, respond to, and simulate human emotional states. This book presents an interdisciplinary exploration of this rapidly expanding field, aimed at those in psychology, computational neuroscience, computer science, and AI. A Blueprint for Affective Computing: A sourcebook and manual is the very first attempt to ground affective computing within the disciplines of psychology, affective neuroscience, and philosophy. This book illustrates the contributions of each (...) of these disciplines to the development of the ever-growing field of affective computing. In addition, it demonstrates practical examples of cross-fertilization between disciplines in order to highlight the need for integration of computer science, engineering and the affective sciences. (shrink)
Upshot: Albeit mostly supportive of our work, the commentaries we received highlighted a few points that deserve additional explanation, with regard to the notion of learning in our model, the relationship between our model and the brain, as well as the notion of anticipation. This open discussion emphasizes the need for toy computer models, to fuel theoretical discussion and prevent business-as-usual from getting in the way of new ideas.
Context: Constructivist approaches to cognition have mostly been descriptive, and now face the challenge of specifying the mechanisms that may support the acquisition of knowledge. Departing from cognitivism, however, requires the development of a new functional framework that will support causal, powerful and goal-directed behavior in the context of the interaction between the organism and the environment. Problem: The properties affecting the computational power of this interaction are, however, unclear, and may include partial information from the environment, exploration, distributed processing (...) and aggregation of information, emergence of knowledge and directedness towards relevant information. Method: We posit that one path towards such a framework may be grounded in these properties, supported by dynamical systems. To assess this hypothesis, we describe computational models inspired from swarm intelligence, which we use as a metaphor to explore the practical implications of the properties highlighted. Results: Our results demonstrate that these properties may serve as the basis for complex operations, yielding the elaboration of knowledge and goal-directed behavior. Implications: This work highlights aspects of interaction that we believe ought to be taken into account when characterizing the possible mechanisms underlying cognition. The scope of the models we describe cannot go beyond that of a metaphor, however, and future work, theoretical and experimental, is required for further insight into the functional role of interaction with the environment for the elaboration of complex behavior. Constructivist content: Inspiration for this work stems from the constructivist impetus to account for knowledge acquisition based on interaction. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Exploring the Depth of Dream Experience: The Enactive Framework and Methods for Neurophenomenological Research” by Elizaveta Solomonova & Xin Wei Sha. Upshot: Solomonova and Sha draw inspiration from the work programme that sparked the enactive extension to cognitive science, and propose a framework for dream scientists. This case study for a renewed cognitive science highlights key points that are worth developing, in light of current practices in neuroscience.
What role does non-genetic inheritance play in evolution? In recent work we have independently and collectively argued that the existence and scope of non-genetic inheritance systems, including epigenetic inheritance, niche construction/ecological inheritance, and cultural inheritance—alongside certain other theory revisions—necessitates an extension to the neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis (MS) in the form of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES). However, this argument has been challenged on the grounds that non-genetic inheritance systems are exclusively proximate mechanisms that serve the ultimate function of calibrating organisms (...) to stochastic environments. In this paper we defend our claims, pointing out that critics of the EES (1) conflate non-genetic inheritance with early 20th-century notions of soft inheritance; (2) misunderstand the nature of the EES in relation to the MS; (3) confuse individual phenotypic plasticity with trans-generational non-genetic inheritance; (4) fail to address the extensive theoretical and empirical literature which shows that non-genetic inheritance can generate novel targets for selection, create new genetic equilibria that would not exist in the absence of non-genetic inheritance, and generate phenotypic variation that is independent of genetic variation; (5) artificially limit ultimate explanations for traits to gene-based selection, which is unsatisfactory for phenotypic traits that originate and spread via non-genetic inheritance systems; and (6) fail to provide an explanation for biological organization. We conclude by noting ways in which we feel that an overly gene-centric theory of evolution is hindering progress in biology and other sciences. (shrink)
In a reflective and richly entertaining piece from 1979, Doug Hofstadter playfully imagined a conversation between ‘Achilles’ and an anthill (the eponymous ‘Aunt Hillary’), in which he famously explored many ideas and themes related to cognition and consciousness. For Hofstadter, the anthill is able to carry on a conversation because the ants that compose it play roughly the same role that neurons play in human languaging; unfortunately, Hofstadter’s work is notably short on detail suggesting how this magic might be achieved1. (...) Conversely in this paper - finally reifying Hofstadter’s imagination - we demonstrate how populations of simple ant-like creatures can be organised to solve complex problems; problems that involve the use of forward planning and strategy. Specifically we will demonstrate that populations of such creatures can be configured to play a strategically strong - though tactically weak - game of HeX (a complex strategic game).We subsequently demonstrate how tactical play can be improved by introducing a form of forward planning instantiated via multiple populations of agents; a technique that can be compared to the dynamics of interacting populations of social insects via the concept of meta-population. In this way although, pace Hofstadter, we do not establish that a meta-population of ants could actually hold a conversation with Achilles, we do successfully introduce Aunt Hillary to the complex, seductive charms of HeX. (shrink)
Answering a question of B. Karsenti on the relation between ontology and politics, E. Balibar reaffirms the irreducible character of politics, including the most philosophical objects. Between the two ontological and transcendental poles of politics, it appears in order to articulate the political and the anthropological. The social relations, functioning by introducing differences in the species, are constitutive of the question of violence that is at the heart of the it-reducibility of politics.
The way Cambodian patients and health professionals judge the priority of HIV-infected patients in relation to the allocation of antiretroviral drugs was examined. Participants were either HIV-infected patients attending the HIV/AIDS Care and Support Centre for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Phnom Penh (29 females and 21 males) or members of the staff (9 physicians, 6 pharmacists and 15 health counsellors and health educators). They were presented with stories of a few lines depicting a patient's situation and were instructed to (...) judge the extent to which the patient should be given priority for HIV drugs. The stories were composed according to a four within-subject factor design: (a) the patient's family responsibilities, (b) the severity of infection, (c) the time elapsed since the first consultation, and (d) the financial difficulties of the family. Most patients expressed the view that the drugs should be used for the patients who are most important from a familial point of view, namely, when the family contains small children and/or is already in a precarious financial condition. (shrink)
Etienne Gilson once remarked that if philosophers cannot agree about the nature or meaning of being, they will in all likelihood agree about very little else. This observation is certainly applicable to Professor Webster’s putative "dialogue" with Anglo-American philosophy on the problem of being, rational thought and natural theology. He contends that a genuinely fundamental interpretation of scientism, logicism or linguisticism necessitates a philosophical strategy based on unity as a transcendental which is accessible to logic. This initial confrontation leads (...) to another involving being as a radical transcendental. The author claims that whether we regard What is being? as the most primordial of questions, or as a meaningless phrase, or as a Scheinproblem, modern philosophical developments, antimetaphysical and metaphysical alike, provide the solution to that question in spite of themselves. He thinks that the various different forms of contemporary analytical philosophy represent a renewal of the radical Cartesian demand for univocity. Yet for him being is least of all univocal; rather it is analogous in a nonmathematical sense. His orientation is Thomistic and the book is basically an attempt "to show the functioning of being, univocity and analogy as they inevitably appear against the background of the dominant trends in Anglo-American philosophy." After outlining some general approaches to the respective problems of being, realism, and truth, he devotes almost two thirds of the volume to an analysis of the consequences of exclusive univocity and the logic of being. The remainder of the book turns to a philosophical consideration of the human being and some additional but rather peripheral matters. Webster writes with fervor on behalf of the inevitability of metaphysics, but his valuable insights are somewhat vitiated by the haphazard character of his overall presentation.—C. F. B. (shrink)
In this slim volume, Klocker intends to offer a different and more sympathetic reading of Ockham's philosophical and theological ideas than that afforded by what Klocker terms the "traditional view." According to the latter view, chiefly found in the writings of Etienne Gilson and Anton Pegis, Ockham's thought is fundamentally skeptical, a medieval precursor of the philosophical skepticism of Hume in the eighteenth century. Klocker proposes instead to present Ockham's thought as inspired by the condemnations of 1270 and 1277 (...) and concerned, as were the authors of the condemnatory documents, to preserve the freedom of the Christian God. Accordingly, the central thesis of this book is that the unity in the often negative and critical thought of Ockham is the constructive goal of articulating a philosophical vision of the universe in which the freedom of God both to create the universe and to intervene for His own purposes in the created order is assured. (shrink)