Distributed memory, coupling, and history

In R. Heath, B. Hayes, A. Heathcote & C. Hooker (eds.), Dynamical Cognitive Science: Proceedings of the Fourth Australasian Cognitive Science Conference. University of Newcastle (1999)
A case study in historical cognitive science, this paper addresses two claims made by radical proponents of new dynamical approaches. It queries their historical narrative, which sees embodied, situated cognition as correcting an individualist, atemporal framework originating in Descartes. In fact, new Descartes scholarship shows that 17th-century animal spirits neurophysiology realized a recognizably distributed model of memory; explicit representations are patterns of spirit flow, and memory traces are changes left by experience in connections between brain pores. This historical sketch supports the second dynamicist claim, that connectionists' stress on the cognitive importance of pattern-recreation needs supplementing by dynamicists' real-time focus and attention to the active roles of body and environment. Animal spirits theory exhibits just the 'continuous reciprocal causation' between brain, body, and environment which Andy Clark sees as dynamicism's central contribution, and allows for the embedding of brains in culture as well as the physical world
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