Artifacts and affordances

Synthese 198 (Suppl 17):4007-4026 (2019)
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What are the affordances of artifacts? One view is that the affordances of artifacts, just as the affordances of natural objects, pertain to possible ways in which they can be manipulated. Another view maintains that, given that artifacts are sociocultural objects, their affordances pertain primarily to their culturally-derived function. Whereas some have tried to provide a unifying notion of affordance to capture both aspects, here I argue that they should be kept separate. In this paper, I introduce a distinction between standard affordances, which concern the function of artifacts, and ad-hoc affordances, which refer to how artifacts are manipulated. I then argue for the neuropsychological plausibility of such a distinction, linking it to the dissociation between function knowledge and manipulation knowledge. Finally, I defend the equal status of these forms of knowledge and, hence, of standard and ad-hoc affordances, and I show that this has some implications for the debate on the role of motor processes in the conceptual knowledge of artifacts.



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Erica Cosentino
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

References found in this work

The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.Marc H. Bornstein - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (2):203-206.
Perceptual symbol systems.Lawrence W. Barsalou - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):577-660.
Functional analysis.Robert Cummins - 1975 - Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.

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