Behavioral systems interpreted as autonomous agents and as coupled dynamical systems: A criticism

Philosophical Psychology 9 (3):323-46 (1996)
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.
Keywords Autonomy  Behavior  Cognitive Science  Mind  Psychology  Science
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DOI 10.1080/09515089608573187
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