Cognitive functions are not reducible to biological ones: the case of minimal visual perception

Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-25 (2022)
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Abstract

We argue that cognitive functions are not reducible to biological functionality. Since only neural animals can develop complex forms of agency, we assume that genuinely cognitive processes are deeply related with the activity of the nervous system. We first analyze the significance of the appearance of the nervous system in certain multicellular organisms, arguing that it has changed the logic of their biological organization. Then, we focus on the appearance of specifically cognitive capacities within the nervous system. Considering a case of a minimal form of perceptual representation, we analyze the specific functional role of this minimal form of activity in relatively earlier nervous systems, arguing that though this role is only understandable within a biological organization, yet it is not reducible to the underlying biological functionality. Finally, we conclude that the appearance of cognition is in turn linked to the emergence of an autonomous neurodynamic domain and a qualitative change in body complexity.

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Argyris Arnellos
University of the Basque Country