Cognitive science's basic premises are under attack. In particular, its focus on internal cognitive processes is a target. Intelligence is increasingly interpreted, not as a matter of reclusive thought, but as successful agent-environment interaction. The critics claim that a major reorientation of the field is necessary. However, this will only occur when there is a distinct alternative conceptual framework to replace the old one. Whether or not a serious alternative is provided is not clear. Among the critics there is some (...) consensus, however, that this role could be fulfilled by the concept of a 'behavioral system'. This integrates agent and environment into one encompassing general system. We will discuss two contexts in which the behavioral systems idea is being developed. Autonomous Agents Research is the enterprise of building behavior-based robots. Dynamical Systems Theory provides a mathematical framework well suited for describing the interactions between complex systems. We will conclude that both enterprises provide important contributions to the behavioral systems idea. But neither turns it into a full conceptual alternative which will initiate a major paradigm switch in cognitive science. The concept will need a lot of fleshing out before it can assume that role. (shrink)
A discussion is going on in cognitive science about the use of representations to explain how intelligent behavior is generated. In the traditional view, an organism is thought to incorporate representations. These provide an internal model that is used by the organism to instruct the motor apparatus so that the adaptive and anticipatory characteristics of behavior come about. So-called interactionists claim that this representational specification of behavior raises more problems than it solves. In their view, the notion of internal representational (...) models is to be dispensed with. Instead, behavior is to be explained as the intricate interaction between an embodied organism and the specific make up of an environment. The problem with a non-representational interactive account is that it has severe difficulties with anticipatory, future oriented behavior. The present paper extends the interactionist conceptual framework by drawing on ideas derived from the study of morphogenesis. This extended interactionist framework is based on an analysis of anticipatory behavior as a process which involves multiple spatio-temporal scales of neural, bodily and environmental dynamics. This extended conceptual framework provides the outlines for an explanation of anticipatory behavior without involving a representational specification of future goal states. (shrink)
Van Gelder presents the distinction between dynamical systems and digital computers as the core issue of current developments in cognitive science. We think this distinction is much less important than a reassessment of cognition as a neurally, bodily, and environmentally embedded process. Embedded cognition lines up naturally with dynamical models, but it would also stand if combined with classic computation.
Borrett, Kelly and Kwan claim to provide neural-network models of important aspects of subjective human experience. To sidestep the long-standing and assumedly insurmountable problems with providing models of inner experience, they turn to a body-centered interpretation of experience, drawn from the work of Merleau-Ponty. This body-centered interpretation makes experience more tractable by linking it closely with bodily movement. However, when it comes to modeling, Borrett et al. ignore this body-centered interpretation and revert back to the traditional view of inner experience (...) as existing apart from the body. The result is uninteresting on two counts. The models that they present cannot be taken seriously as models of real inner experience. Additionally, these models do not apply to or extend the idea of a different, body-centered interpretation of experience either. (shrink)
Godfrey-Smith’s environmental complexity thesis is most often applied to multicellular animals and the complexity of their macroscopic environments to explain how cognition evolved. We think that the ECT may be less suited to explain the origins of the animal bodily organization, including this organization’s potentiality for dealing with complex macroscopic environments. We argue that acquiring the fundamental sensorimotor features of the animal body may be better explained as a consequence of dealing with internal bodily—rather than environmental complexity. To press and (...) elucidate this option, we develop the notion of an animal sensorimotor organization that derives from an internal coordination account for the evolution of early nervous systems. The ASMO notion is a reply to the question how a collection of single cells can become integrated such that the resulting multicellular organization becomes sensitive to and can manipulate macroscopic features of both the animal body and its environment. In this account, epithelial contractile tissues play the central role in the organization behind complex animal bodies. In this paper, we relate the ASMO concept to recent work on epithelia, which provides empirical evidence that supports central assumptions behind the ASMO notion. Second, we discuss to what extent the notion applies to basic animal architectures, exemplified by sponges and jellyfish. We conclude that the features exhibited by the ASMO are plausibly explained by internal constraints acting on and within this multicellular organization, providing a challenge for the role the ECT plays in this context. (shrink)
Brette criticizes the notion of neural coding as used in neuroscience as a way to clarify the causal structure of the brain. This criticism will be positioned in a wider range of findings and ideas from other branches of neuroscience and biology. While supporting Brette's critique, these findings also suggest the need for more radical changes in neuroscience than Brette envisions.
What is cognition? Despite the existence of a science of cognition there is no clear agreement on what makes certain phenomena cognitive, and others not. Within cognitivism the issue was neglected. Human intelligence was used as a standard, and any process—natural or artificial—that fitted this standard sufficiently could be considered ‘cognitive’. For post-cognitivist psychology the situation is different. It cannot rely on the ‘human standard’ in the same way. One might even say that the need for a post-cognitivist psychology arose (...) because cognitivism began with this most complex of all cognitive systems without a good understanding and appreciation of more basic, biological cases. Embodied cognition approaches remedy this anthropocentric bias by addressing a more varied set of processes that are not strictly limited to humans. Under these circumstances the question what we take cognition to be is more urgent. Are phenomena like insect walking (Brooks) and goal-seeking missiles (O’Regan and Noë) examples of cognition or not? What criteria do we use to answer such questions? Given this problem, the notion of perception-action coupling (or sensorimotor contingencies) becomes an important and fairly obvious option to provide a foundation for the notion of cognition. However, and intriguingly, the same problem occurs again: What are perception-action couplings? What would make something an example of perception-action coupling? Where are we to draw a line, if anywhere? It is self-evident that O’Regan and Noë’s (2001) example of a goal-seeking missile is controversial, but why exactly? What is missing? Can we ever do more than making intuitive judgments here? A way out of this dilemma may be found by developing the claim that perception-action coupling must be grounded in a biological context (Keijzer, 2001), and following what Lyon (2005) calls a biogenic approach. This option raises a whole new field of issues and topics that is of central concern for a postcognitivist psychology. (shrink)
It remains a standing problem how and why the first nervous systems evolved. Molecular and genomic information is now rapidly accumulating but the macroscopic organization and functioning of early nervous systems remains unclear. To explore potential evolutionary options, a coordination centered view is discussed that diverges from a standard input–output view on early nervous systems. The scenario involved, the skin brain thesis, stresses the need to coordinate muscle-based motility at a very early stage. This paper addresses how this scenario with (...) its focus on coordination also deals with sensory aspects. It will be argued that the neural structure required to coordinate extensive sheets of contractile tissue for motility provides the starting point for a new multicellular organized form of sensing. Moving a body by muscle contraction provides the basis for a multicellular organization that is sensitive to external surface structure at the scale of the animal body. Instead of thinking about early nervous systems as being connected to the environment merely through input and output, the implication developed here is that early nervous systems provide the foundation for a highly specific animal sensorimotor organization in which neural activity directly reflects bodily and environmental spatiotemporal structure. While the SBT diverges from the input–output view, it is closely linked to and supported by ongoing work on embodied approaches to intelligence to which it adds a new interpretation of animal embodiment and sensorimotor organization. (shrink)
The Sphex story is an anecdote about a female digger wasp that at first sight seems to act quite intelligently, but subsequently is shown to be a mere automaton that can be made to repeat herself endlessly. Dennett and Hofstadter made this story well known and widely influential within the cognitive sciences, where it is regularly used as evidence that insect behavior is highly rigid. The present paper discusses the origin and subsequent empirical investigation of the repetition reported in the (...) Sphex story. The repetition was first observed by Henri Fabre in 1879, and the last empirical study I found was published in 1985. In contrast to the story's clear message, the actual results have always been equivocal: the endless repetition is not standard. In addition, this repetition itself has become a minor aside in the literature on digger wasps when put in the perspective of many other examples of adaptiveness and flexibility. Nevertheless, the story and its message have to this day persevered within the cognitive sciences. For some reason, the counterevidence has been neglected time and again. The paper closes by presenting two different but compatible hypotheses that could explain why humans keep repeating this particular anecdote. (shrink)
A serious difficulty for theories of consciousness is to go beyond mere correlation between physical processes and experience. Currently, neural workspace and sensorimotor contingency theories are two of the most promising approaches to make any headway here. This paper explores the relation between these two sets of theories. Workspace theories build on large-scale activity within the brain. Sensorimotor theories include external processes in their explanations, stressing the sensorimotor contingencies that arise from our interaction with the environment. Despite the basic differences, (...) we argue that workspace- and sensorimotor theories are complementary rather than competitive. By combining these theories, a number of problems that hamper them individually may be overcome and their strengths combined: Workspace theories have more to offer for explaining how there can be consciousness in the first place, while sensorimotor theories are strong in making sense of the specific phenomenal character of experiences. (shrink)
Dynamic, embodied and situated cognition set up organism-environment interaction — agency for short — as the core of cognitive systems. Robotics became an important way to study this behavioral kernel of cognition. In this paper, we discuss the implications of what we call the biological grounding problem for robotic studies: Natural and artificial agents are hugely different and it will be necessary to articulate what must be replicated by artificial agents such as robots. Interestingly, once this issue is explicitly raised, (...) it seems that a full replication of biological features is required for cognition itself to be plausibly cast as a biological phenomenon. Several issues come to the fore once one takes this implication seriously. Why does a full biological interpretation of cognition remain so controversial? How does this impact the relevance of robotics for the study of cognition? We try to articulate and ease the various tensions that arise from this biological scenario. (shrink)
This paper aims to do three things: First, to provide a review of John Staddon's book Adaptive dynamics: The theoretical analysis of behavior. Second, to compare Staddon's behaviorist view with current ideas on embodied cognition. Third, to use this comparison to explicate some outlines for a theoretical analysis of behavior that could be useful as a behavioral foundation for cognitive phenomena. Staddon earlier defended a theoretical behaviorism, which allows internal states in its models but keeps these to a minimum while (...) remaining critical of any cognitive interpretation. In his latest book, Adaptive dynamics, he provides an overview and analysis of an extensive number of these current, behaviorist models. Theoretical behaviorism comes close to the view of embodied cognition, which also stresses the importance of behavior in contrast to high-level cognition. A detailed picture of the overlaps and differences between the two approaches will be sketched by comparing the two on four separate issues: the conceptualization of behavior, loopy structures, parsimonious explanations, and cognitive behavior. The paper will stress the need for a structural analysis of behavior to gain a better understanding of both behavior and cognition. However, for this purpose, we will need behavioral science rather than behaviorism. (shrink)
To what extent can plants be considered cognitive from the perspective of embodied cognition? Cognition is interpreted very broadly within embodied cognition, and the current evidence for plant intelligence might find an important theoretical background here. However, embodied cognition does stress the presence of animal-like perception-action coupling as a key feature for cognitive systems to arise. In this paper, we discuss whether, or to what extent, plants may qualify as cognitive systems, given this criterion.
What is cognition? It is now common knowledge that, so far, no one has a ready answer. It is much less generally acknowledged that this is a matter of strong concern when it comes to the further development of the cognitive sciences. We discuss how cognitivism provided a strongly human orientation on cognition, which hindered the development of the standard piecemeal approach, which has been so extremely successful in the biological sciences more generally: first study simple cases and then move (...) onward to more difficult ones. (shrink)
John Staddon wrote a book Adaptive dynamics (2001), which explicated his theoretical behaviorism. In this review essay, I compare his theoretical behaviorism with embodied cognition, which also has a strong focus on behavior and also remains critical of mentalistic mechanisms for explaining it.
We investigate the notion of minimal cognition, and claim that this notion already applies to bacterial behavior. On the basis of the example of E. coli, we argue that the basis of cognition can be profitably cast as sensorimotor coordinations which subserve the metabolic requirements of organisms.
We argue that embedded cognition provides an argument against Jaegwon Kim’s neural reduction of mental causation. Because some mental, or at least psychological processes have to be cast in an externalist way, Kim’s argument can be said to lead to the conclusion that mental causation is as safe as any other form of higher-level of causation.
Fred Adams : 619–628, 2010) criticizes the theory of embodied cognition which holds that conceptual and linguistic thought is grounded in the brain’s perceptual and sensorimotor systems. Among other things, Adams claims that: EC is potentially committed to an implausible criterion of sentence meaningfulness; EC lacks claimed advantages over rival accounts of conceptual thought; relevant experimental data do not show constitutive, but only causal, involvement of perception in conception; and EC cannot account for the comprehension of abstract concepts. I (...) respond to Adams that: EC is not committed to an implausible criterion of meaningfulness, though it may be committed to holding that comprehension admits of degrees; EC does have its claimed advantages over rival views; the data do make a strong case for constitutive involvement and a broad and comprehensive EC approach probably can account for the comprehension of abstract concepts. (shrink)
Fred Dretske asserts that the conscious or phenomenal experiences associated with our perceptual states—e.g. the qualitative or subjective features involved in visual or auditory states—are identical to properties that things have according to our representations of them. This is Dretske's version of the currently popular representational theory of consciousness . After explicating the core of Dretske's representational thesis, I offer two criticisms. I suggest that Dretske's view fails to apply to a broad range of mental phenomena that have rather (...) distinctive subjective or qualitative features. I also suggest that Dretske's view, in identifying conscious experiences with features of our perceptual states, casts its aim too low. It deflates further than it should and, in consequence, fails to capture what are arguably some of the most important phenomena associated with our conscious lives. (shrink)
As an advocate of ‘comparative political theory,’ Fred Dallmayr has long engaged with Confucianism with a new vision for democracy suitable in East Asia but little attention has been paid to his idea of Confucian democracy, which he presents as a specific mode of ethical or relational democracy. This paper investigates Dallmayr’s ethical vision of Confucian democracy, first, by articulating his postmodern reconceptualization of democracy in terms of post-humanism and, second, by examining his post-humanist reevaluation of Confucian virtue ethics (...) as a critical resource for ethical democracy. It argues that the ethical vision of Confucian democracy, though morally appealing, should not dismiss the important instrumental value of democracy as a political system and, rather, find a way to integrate democracy’s instrumental and intrinsic values in a way that can enhance the qualitative relationality between people, political agents, and the common good. (shrink)
In this short essay I respond to the criticism of Action in Perception (2004) advanced by Ryan Hickerson and FredKeijzer. In particular, I provide a brief precis of the main argument of Action in Perception. I seek to clarify the claims made in the book about the relation between perception and action, the importance of sensorimotor knowledge. I discuss the problem of "sensorimotor chauvinism," that of the "ping-pong playing robot," and the problem of perceptual presence.