Framing cognition: Dewey’s potential contributions to some enactivist issues

Synthese:1-22 (forthcoming)

Abstract
It is well known that John Dewey was very far from embracing the traditional idea of cognition as something happening inside one’s own mind and consisting in a pictorial representation of the alleged purely external reality out there. His position was largely convergent with enactivist accounts of cognition as something based in life and consisting in human actions within a natural environment. The paper considers Dewey’s conception of cognition by focusing on its potential contributions to the current debate with enactivism. It claims that Dewey’s anti-substantial, continuistic, and emergentistic conception of the mind as a typically human conduct pulls the rug out of the idea of cognition as representation, as well as pushes the current discussion towards a serious reconsideration of representationalist assumptions about conceptuality and language. The paper emphasises that Dewey—differently from enactivists—frames the role of cognition within experience: he argues that cognition concerns those intermediate phases of our experiences of the world which are characterised by an indeterminate or troubled situation, because he claims that human beings’ interactions with their own environment are qualitatively richer and broader than cognition, including as they do many different and intertwined modes of experience. Finally, the author suggests that a coherent development of Dewey’s lines of thought should avoid rigid distinctions and hierarchies between lower and higher degrees of cognition in humans, which are still maintained in certain forms of radical enactivism. Differently, we should consider the impact of the cultural and broadly linguistic configuration of the human–environment even on perception, motor action, and affective sensibility.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-019-02212-x
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Participatory Sense-Making: An Enactive Approach to Social Cognition.Hanne De Jaegher & Ezequiel Di Paolo - 2007 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 6 (4):485-507.
Language, Embodiment, and the Cognitive Niche.Andy Clark - 2006 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (8):370-374.
Ontogenesis of the Socially Extended Mind.Joel Krueger - 2013 - Cognitive Systems Research 25:40-46.

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