Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? The question invites two standard replies. Some accept the demarcations of skin and skull, and say that what is outside the body is outside the mind. Others are impressed by arguments suggesting that the meaning of our words "just ain't in the head", and hold that this externalism about meaning carries over into an externalism about mind. We propose to pursue a third position. We advocate a very different (...) sort of externalism: an _active externalism_, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes. (shrink)
How is it that thoroughly physical material beings such as ourselves can think, dream, feel, create and understand ideas, theories and concepts? How does mere matter give rise to all these non-material mental states, including consciousness itself? An answer to this central question of our existence is emerging at the busy intersection of neuroscience, psychology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.In this groundbreaking work, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark explores exciting new theories from these fields that reveal minds like ours to (...) be prediction machines - devices that have evolved to anticipate the incoming streams of sensory stimulation before they arrive. These predictions then initiate actions that structure our worlds and alter the very things we need to engage and predict. Clark takes us on a journey in discovering the circular causal flows and the self-structuring of the environment that define "the predictive brain." What emerges is a bold, new, cutting-edge vision that reveals the brain as our driving force in the daily surf through the waves of sensory stimulation. (shrink)
Brains, it has recently been argued, are essentially prediction machines. They are bundles of cells that support perception and action by constantly attempting to match incoming sensory inputs with top-down expectations or predictions. This is achieved using a hierarchical generative model that aims to minimize prediction error within a bidirectional cascade of cortical processing. Such accounts offer a unifying model of perception and action, illuminate the functional role of attention, and may neatly capture the special contribution of cortical processing to (...) adaptive success. This target article critically examines this approach, concluding that it offers the best clue yet to the shape of a unified science of mind and action. Sections 1 and 2 lay out the key elements and implications of the approach. Section 3 explores a variety of pitfalls and challenges, spanning the evidential, the methodological, and the more properly conceptual. The paper ends (sections 4 and 5) by asking how such approaches might impact our more general vision of mind, experience, and agency. (shrink)
Ranging across both standard philosophical territory and the landscape of cutting-edge cognitive science, Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Second Edition, is a vivid and engaging introduction to key issues, research, and opportunities in the field.Starting with the vision of mindware as software and debates between realists, instrumentalists, and eliminativists, Andy Clark takes students on a no-holds-barred journey through connectionism, dynamical systems, and real-world robotics before moving on to the frontiers of cognitive technologies, enactivism, predictive coding, and (...) the extended mind. Throughout, he highlights challenging issues in an effort to engage students in active debate. Each chapter opens with a brief sketch of a major research tradition or perspective, followed by concise critical discussions dealing with key topics and problems. (shrink)
A great deal of philosophy of mind in the modern era has been driven by an intense aversion to Cartesian dualism. In the 1950s, materialists claimed to have succeeded once and for all in exorcising the Cartesian ghost by identifying the mind with the brain. In subsequent decades, cognitive science put scientific meat on this metaphysical skeleton by explicating mental processes as digital computation implemented in the brain's hardware.
1. The Situation in Cognition 2. Situated Cognition: A Potted Recent History 3. Extensions in Biology, Computation, and Cognition 4. Articulating the Idea of Cognitive Extension 5. Are Some Resources Intrinsically Non-Cognitive? 6. Is Cognition Extended or Only Embedded? 7. Letting Nature Take Its Course.
Mindware: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Cognitive Science invites readers to join in up-to-the-minute conceptual discussions of the fundamental issues, problems, and opportunities in cognitive science. Written by one of the most renowned scholars in the field, this vivid and engaging introductory text relates the story of the search for a cognitive scientific understanding of mind. This search is presented as a no-holds-barred journey from early work in artificial intelligence, through connectionist (artificial neural network) counter-visions, and on to neuroscience, (...) artificial life, dynamics, and robotics. The journey ends with some wide-ranging and provocative speculation about the complex coadaptive dance between mind, culture, and technology. Each chapter opens with a brief sketch of a major research tradition or perspective, followed by short yet substantial critical discussions dealing with key topics and problems. Ranging across both standard philosophical territory and the landscape of cutting-edge cognitive science, Clark highlights challenging issues in an effort to engage readers in active debate. Topics covered include mental causation; machine intelligence; the nature and status of folk psychology; the hardware/software distinction; emergence; relations between life and mind; the nature of perception, cognition, and action; and the continuity (or otherwise) of high-level human intelligence with other forms of adaptive response. Numerous illustrations, text boxes, and extensive suggestions for further reading enhance the text's utility. Helpful appendices provide background information on dualism, behaviorism, identity theory, consciousness, and more. An exceptional text for introductory and more advanced courses in cognitive science and the philosophy of mind, Mindware is also essential reading for anyone interested in these fascinating and ever-changing fields. (shrink)
Hohwy (Hohwy 2016, Hohwy 2017) argues there is a tension between the free energy principle and leading depictions of mind as embodied, enactive, and extended (so-called ‘EEE1 cognition’). The tension is traced to the importance, in free energy formulations, of a conception of mind and agency that depends upon the presence of a ‘Markov blanket’ demarcating the agent from the surrounding world. In what follows I show that the Markov blanket considerations do not, in fact, lead to the kinds of (...) tension that Hohwy depicts. On the contrary, they actively favour the EEE story. This is because the Markov property, as exemplified in biological agents, picks out neither a unique nor a stationary boundary. It is this multiplicity and mutability– rather than the absence of agent-environment boundaries as such - that EEE cognition celebrates. (shrink)
In the movie, Memento, the hero, Leonard, suffers from a form of anterograde amnesia that results in an inability to lay down new memories. Nonetheless, he sets out on a quest to find his wife’s killer, aided by the use of notes, annotated polaroids, and (for the most important pieces of information obtained) body tattoos. Using these resources he attempts to build up a stock of new beliefs and to thus piece together the puzzle of his wife’s death. At one (...) point in the movie, a character exasperated by Leonard’s lack of biological recall, shouts. (shrink)
Connectionism and classicism, it generally appears, have at least this much in common: both place some notion of internal representation at the heart of a scientific study of mind. In recent years, however, a much more radical view has gained increasing popularity. This view calls into question the commitment to internal representation itself. More strikingly still, this new wave of anti-representationalism is rooted not in armchair theorizing but in practical attempts to model and understand intelligent, adaptive behavior. In this paper (...) we first present, and then critically assess, a variety of recent anti-representationalist treatments. We suggest that so far, at least, the sceptical rhetoric outpaces both evidence and argument. Some probable causes of this premature scepticism are isolated. Nonetheless, the anti-representationalist challenge is shown to be both important and progressive insofar as it forces us to see beyond the bare representational/non-representational dichotomy and to recognize instead a rich continuum of degrees and types of representationality. (shrink)
Can what we know change what we see? Does language affect cognition and perception? The last few years have seen increased attention to these seemingly disparate questions, but with little theoretical advance. We argue that substantial clarity can be gained by considering these questions through the lens of predictive processing, a framework in which mental representations—from the perceptual to the cognitive—reflect an interplay between downward-flowing predictions and upward-flowing sensory signals. This framework provides a parsimonious account of how what we know (...) ought to change what we see and helps us understand how a putatively high-level trait such as language can impact putatively low-level processes such as perception. Within this framework, language begins to take on a surprisingly central role in cognition by providing a uniquely focused and flexible means of constructing predictions against which sensory signals can be evaluated. Predictive processing thus provides a plausible mechanism for many of the reported effects of language on perception, thought, and action, and new insights on how and when speakers of different languages construct the same “reality” in alternate ways. (shrink)
The last ten years have seen an increasing interest, within cognitive science, in issues concerning the physical body, the local environment, and the complex interplay between neural systems and the wider world in which they function. --œPhysically embodied, environmentally embedded--� approaches thus loom large on the contemporary cognitive scientific scene. Yet many unanswered questions remain, and the shape of a genuinely embodied, embedded science of the mind is still unclear. I begin by sketching a few examples of the approach, and (...) then raise a variety of critical questions concerning its nature and scope. A distinction is drawn between two kinds of appeal to embodiment: 'simple' cases, in which bodily and environmental properties merely constrain accounts that retain the focus on inner organization and processing, and more radical appeals, in which attention to bodily and environmental features is meant to transform both the subject matter and the theoretical framework of cognitive science. (shrink)
Embodied agents use bodily actions and environmental interventions to make the world a better place to think in. Where does language fit into this emerging picture of the embodied, ecologically efficient agent? One useful way to approach this question is to consider language itself as a cognition-enhancing animal-built structure. To take this perspective is to view language as a kind of self-constructed cognitive niche: a persisting though never stationary material scaffolding whose critical role in promoting thought and reason remains surprisingly (...) ill-understood. It is the very materiality of this linguistic scaffolding, I suggest, that is responsible for some key benefits. By materializing thought in words, we create structures that are themselves proper objects of perception, manipulation, and thought. (shrink)
Is consciousness all in the head, or might the minimal physical substrate for some forms of conscious experience include the goings on in the (rest of the) body and the world? Such a view might be dubbed (by analogy with Clark and Chalmers’s ( 1998 ) claims concerning ‘the extended mind’) ‘the extended conscious mind’. In this article, I review a variety of arguments for the extended conscious mind, and find them flawed. Arguments for extended cognition, I conclude, do not (...) generalize to arguments for an extended conscious mind. (shrink)
Biological brains are increasingly cast as ‘prediction machines’: evolved organs whose core operating principle is to learn about the world by trying to predict their own patterns of sensory stimulation. This, some argue, should lead us to embrace a brain-bound ‘neurocentric’ vision of the mind. The mind, such views suggest, consists entirely in the skull-bound activity of the predictive brain. In this paper I reject the inference from predictive brains to skull-bound minds. Predictive brains, I hope to show, can be (...) apt participants in larger cognitive circuits. The path is thus cleared for a new synthesis in which predictive brains act as entry-points for ‘extended minds’, and embodiment and action contribute constitutively to knowing contact with the world. (shrink)
Over the last 30 years, representationalist and dynamicist positions in the philosophy of cognitive science have argued over whether neurocognitive processes should be viewed as representational or not. Major scientific and technological developments over the years have furnished both parties with ever more sophisticated conceptual weaponry. In recent years, an enactive generalization of predictive processing – known as active inference – has been proposed as a unifying theory of brain functions. Since then, active inference has fueled both representationalist and dynamicist (...) campaigns. However, we believe that when diving into the formal details of active inference, one should be able to find a solution to the war; if not a peace treaty, surely an armistice of a sort. Based on an analysis of these formal details, this paper shows how both representationalist and dynamicist sensibilities can peacefully coexist within the new territory of active inference. (shrink)
What is the relation between the material, conventional symbol structures that we encounter in the spoken and written word, and human thought? A common assumption, that structures a wide variety of otherwise competing views, is that the way in which these material, conventional symbol-structures do their work is by being translated into some kind of content-matching inner code. One alternative to this view is the tempting but thoroughly elusive idea that we somehow think in some natural language (such as English). (...) In the present treatment I explore a third option, which I shall call the "complementarity" view of language. According to this third view the actual symbol structures of a given language add cognitive value by complementing (without being replicated by) the more basic modes of operation and representation endemic to the biological brain. The "cognitive bonus" that language brings is, on this model, not to be cashed out either via the ultimately mysterious notion of "thinking in a given natural language" or via some process of exhaustive translation into another inner code. Instead, we should try to think in terms of a kind of coordination dynamics in which the forms and structures of a language qua material symbol system play a key and irreducible role. Understanding language as a complementary cognitive resource is, I argue, an important part of the much larger project (sometimes glossed in terms of the "extended mind") of understanding human cognition as essentially and multiply hybrid: as involving a complex interplay between internal biological resources and external non-biological resources. (shrink)
A suitable project for the new Millenium is to radically reconfigure our image of human rationality. Such a project is already underway, within the Cognitive Sciences, under the umbrellas of work in Situated Cognition, Distributed and De-centralized Cogition, Real-world Robotics and Artificial Life1. Such approaches, however, are often criticized for giving certain aspects of rationality too wide a berth. They focus their attention on on such superficially poor cousins as.
Mind, it is increasingly fashionable to assert, is an intrinsically embodied and environmentally embedded phenomenon. But there is a potential tension between two strands of thought prominent in this recent literature. One of those strands depicts the body as special, and the fine details of a creature’s embodiment as a major constraint on the nature of its mind: a kind of new-wave body-centrism. The other depicts the body as just one element in a kind of equal-partners dance between brain, body (...) and world, with the nature of the mind fixed by the overall balance thus achieved: a kind of extended functionalism (now with an even broader canvas for multiple realizability than ever before). The present paper displays the tension, scouts the space of possible responses, and ends by attempting to specify what the body actually needs to be, given its complex role in these recent debates. (shrink)
The emerging neurocomputational vision of humans as embodied, ecologically embedded, social agents—who shape and are shaped by their environment—offers a golden opportunity to revisit and revise ideas about the physical and information-theoretic underpinnings of life, mind, and consciousness itself. In particular, the active inference framework makes it possible to bridge connections from computational neuroscience and robotics/AI to ecological psychology and phenomenology, revealing common underpinnings and overcoming key limitations. AIF opposes the mechanistic to the reductive, while staying fully grounded in a (...) naturalistic and information-theoretic foundation, using the principle of free energy minimization. The latter provides a theoretical basis for a unified treatment of particles, organisms, and interactive machines, spanning from the inorganic to organic, non-life to life, and natural to artificial agents. We provide a brief introduction to AIF, then explore its implications for evolutionary theory, ecological psychology, embodied phenomenology, and robotics/AI research. We conclude the paper by considering implications for machine consciousness. (shrink)
The target article sketched and explored a mechanism (action-oriented predictive processing) most plausibly associated with core forms of cortical processing. In assessing the attractions and pitfalls of the proposal we should keep that element distinct from larger, though interlocking, issues concerning the nature of adaptive organization in general.
Of course, words aren’t magic. Neither are sextants, compasses, maps, slide rules and all the other paraphenelia which have accreted around the basic biological brains of homo sapiens. In the case of these other tools and props, however, it is transparently clear that they function so as to either carry out or to facilitate computational operations important to various human projects. The slide rule transforms complex mathematical problems (ones that would baffle or tax the unaided subject) into simple tasks of (...) perceptual recognition. The map provides geographical information in a format well-suited to aid complex planning and strategic military operations. The compass gathers and displays a kind of information that (most) unaided human subjects do not seem to command. These various tools and props thus act to generate information, or to store it, or to transform it, or some combination of the three. In so doing, they impact our individual and collective problem- solving capacities in much the same dramatic ways as various software packages impact the performance of a simple pc. (shrink)
Finding the Mind Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9598-9 Authors Andy Clark, Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD Scotland, UK Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
Adams and Aizawa, in a series of recent and forthcoming papers,, ) seek to refute, or perhaps merely to terminally embarrass, the friends of the extended mind. One such paper begins with the following illustration: "Question: Why did the pencil think that 2+2=4? Clark's Answer: Because it was coupled to the mathematician" Adams and Aizawa ms p.1 "That" the authors continue "about sums up what is wrong with Clark's extended mind hypothesis". The example of the pencil, they suggest, is just (...) an especially egregious version of a fallacy said to pervade the literature on the extended mind. This fallacy, which they usefully dub the " coupling-constitution fallacy ", is attributed, in varying degrees and manners, to Van Gelder and Port, Clark and Chalmers, Haugeland, Dennett, Clark, Gibbs, and Wilson. The fallacy, of course, is to move from the causal coupling of some object or process to some cognitive agent, to the conclusion that the object or process is part of the cognitive agent, or part of the agent's cognitive processing ms p.2). Proponents of the extended mind and related theses, Adams and Aizawa repeatedly assert, are prone to this fallacy in part because they either ignore or fail to properly appreciate the importance of " the mark of the cognitive" viz the importance of an account of "what makes something a cognitive agent". The positive part of Adams and Aizawa's critique then emerges as a combination of the assertion that this "mark of the cognitive" involves the idea that "cognition is constituted by certain sorts of causal process that involve non-derived contents" and that these processes look to be characterized by psychological laws that turn out to apply to many internal goings-on but not currently to any processes that take place in non-biological tools and artifacts. In what follows, I shall try to show why these arguments display nothing so much as mutual failures of communication: crossed wires concealing a couple of real, important, but much more subterranean, disagreements. In particular, I try to show why the negative considerations advanced by Adams and Aizawa fail to successfully undermine the argument for the extended mind, and why their more radical positive story, unless supplemented by implausible additional claims, fails to cast doubt on the claim that minds like ours can extend into the world. (shrink)
Does the material basis of conscious experience extend beyond the boundaries of the brain and central nervous system? In Clark 2009 I reviewed a number of ‘enactivist’ arguments for such a view and found none of them compelling. Ward (2012) rejects my analysis on the grounds that the enactivist deploys an essentially world-involving concept of experience that transforms the argumentative landscape in a way that makes the enactivist conclusion inescapable. I present an alternative (prediction-and-generative-model-based) account that neatly accommodates all the (...) positive evidence that Ward cites on behalf of this enactivist conception, and that (I argue) makes richer and more satisfying contact with the full sweep of human experience. (shrink)
How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and (I shall argue) philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this idea (which I (...) shall call the Assumption of Experience-Based Control) is hostage to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale (1995) argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the on-line guidance of visuo-motor action, on the other. This ‘dual visual systems’ hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides (I shall argue) fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience. (shrink)
Recent work in cognitive and computational neuroscience depicts the brain as in some sense implementing probabilistic inference. This suggests a puzzle. If the processing that enables perceptual experience involves representing or approximating probability distributions, why does experience itself appear univocal and determinate, apparently bearing no traces of those probabilistic roots? In this paper, I canvass a range of responses, including the denial of univocality and determinacy itself. I argue that there is reason to think that it is our conception of (...) perception itself that is flawed. Once we see perception aright, as the slave of action, the puzzlement recedes. Perceptual determinacy reflects only the mundane fact that we are embodied, active, agents who must constantly engage the world they perceptually encounter. (shrink)
There is a definite challenge in the air regarding the pivotal notion of internal representation. This challenge is explicit in, e.g., van Gelder, 1995; Beer, 1995; Thelen & Smith, 1994; Wheeler, 1994; and elsewhere. We think it is a challenge that can be met and that (importantly) can be met by arguing from within a general framework that accepts many of the basic premises of the work (in new robotics and in dynamical systems theory) that motivates such scepticism in the (...) first place. Our strategy will be as follows. We begin (Section 1) by offering an account (an example and something close to a definition) of what we shall term Minimal Robust Representationalism (MRR). Sections 2 & 3 address some likely worries and questions about this notion. We end (Section 4) by making explicit the conditions under which, on our account, a science (e.g., robot- ics) may claim to be addressing cognitive phenomena. (shrink)
Arguments for the ‘extended mind’ seem to suggest the possibility of ‘extended knowers’—agents whose specifically epistemic virtues may depend on systems whose boundaries are not those of the brain or the biological organism. Recent discussions of this possibility invoke insights from virtue epistemology, according to which knowledge is the result of the application of some kind of cognitive skill or ability on the part of the agent. In this paper, I argue that there is a fundamental tension in these appeals (...) to cognitive virtue. The tension centers on the presence of a tool or technology as an object of awareness, hence something apt for epistemically virtuous engagement on the part of the agent. I highlight a dilemma: the better something looks as a non-biological element of the machinery of mind, the worse it looks as a potential object of any specifically epistemic skill or ability on the part of the agent. The tension is resolved, I argue, by thinking about sub-personal forms of epistemic hygiene. I examine one such form , and show how it sits neatly with the vision of the extended mind. I end by asking what we can still reasonably expect, given this more complex sub-personal story, by way of agent-level cognitive hygiene. (shrink)
Recent work in cognitive and computational neuroscience depicts the human cortex as a multi-level prediction engine. This ‘predictive processing’ framework shows great promise as a means of both understanding and integrating the core information processing strategies underlying perception, reasoning, and action. But how, if at all, do emotions and sub-cortical contributions fit into this emerging picture? The fit, we shall argue, is both profound and potentially transformative. In the picture we develop, online cognitive function cannot be assigned to either the (...) cortical or the sub-cortical component, but instead emerges from their tight co-ordination. This tight co-ordination involves processes of continuous reciprocal causation that weave together bodily information and ‘top-down’ predictions, generating a unified sense of what’s out there and why it matters. The upshot is a more truly ‘embodied’ vision of the predictive brain in action. (shrink)
Recent advances in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience open up new vistas for human enhancement. Central to much of this work is the idea of new human-machine interfaces (in general) and new brain-machine interfaces (in particular). But despite the increasing prominence of such ideas, the very idea of such an interface remains surprisingly under-explored. In particular, the notion of human enhancement suggests an image of the embodied and reasoning agent as literally extended or augmented, rather than the more conservative image (...) of a standard (non-enhanced) agent using a tool via some new interface. In this essay, I explore this difference, and attempt to lay out some of the conditions under which the more radical reading (positing brand new integrated agents or systemic wholes) becomes justified. I adduce some empirical evidence suggesting that the radical result is well within our scientific reach. The main reason why this is so has less to do with the advancement of our science (though that certainly helps) than with our native biological plasticity. We humans, I shall try to show, are biologically disposed towards literal (and repeated) episodes of sensory re-calibration, of bodily re-configuration and of mental extension. Such potential for literal and repeated re-configuration is the mark of what I shall call "profoundly embodied agency," contrasting it with a variety of weaker (less philosophically and scientifically interesting) understandings of the nature and importance of embodiment for minds and persons. The article ends by relating the image of profound embodiment to some questions (and fears) concerning converging technologies for improving human performance. (shrink)
Recent work in cognitive and computational neuroscience depicts human brains as devices that minimize prediction error signals: signals that encode the difference between actual and expected sensory stimulations. This raises a series of puzzles whose common theme concerns a potential misfit between this bedrock informationtheoretic vision and familiar facts about the attractions of the unexpected. We humans often seem to actively seek out surprising events, deliberately harvesting novel and exciting streams of sensory stimulation. Conversely, we often experience some wellexpected sensations (...) as unpleasant and to-be-avoided. In this paper, I explore several core and variant forms of this puzzle, using them to display multiple interacting elements that together deliver a satisfying solution. That solution requires us to go beyond the discussion of simple information-theoretic imperatives and to recognize the essential role of species-specific prestructuring, epistemic foraging, and cultural practices in shaping the restless, curious, novelty-seeking human mind. (shrink)