While philosophers of mind have been arguing over the status of mental representations in cognitive science, cognitive scientists have been quietly engaged in studying perception, action, and cognition without explaining them in terms of mental representation. In this book, Anthony Chemero describes this nonrepresentational approach, puts it in historical and conceptual context, and applies it to traditional problems in the philosophy of mind. Radical embodied cognitive science is a direct descendant of the American naturalist psychology of William James and John (...) Dewey, and follows them in viewing perception and cognition to be understandable only in terms of action in the environment. Chemero argues that cognition should be described in terms of agent-environment dynamics rather than in terms of computation and representation. After outlining this orientation to cognition, Chemero proposes a methodology: dynamical systems theory, which would explain things dynamically and without reference to representation. He also advances a background theory: Gibsonian ecological psychology, "shored up" and clarified. Chemero then looks at some traditional philosophical problems through the lens of radical embodied cognitive science and concludes that the comparative ease with which it resolves these problems, combined with its empirical promise, makes this approach to cognitive science a rewarding one. "Jerry Fodor is my favorite philosopher," Chemero writes in his preface, adding, "I think that Jerry Fodor is wrong about nearly everything." With this book, Chemero explains nonrepresentational, dynamical, ecological cognitive science as clearly and as rigorously as Jerry Fodor explained computational cognitive science in his classic work The Language of Thought. (shrink)
In this paper, we address the question of how an agent can guide its behavior with respect to aspects of the sociomaterial environment that are not sensorily present. A simple example is how an animal can relate to a food source while only sensing a pheromone, or how an agent can relate to beer, while only the refrigerator is directly sensorily present. Certain cases in which something is absent have been characterized by others as requiring ‘higher’ cognition. An example of (...) this is how during the design process architects can let themselves be guided by the future behavior of visitors to an exhibit they are planning. The main question is what the sociomaterial environment and the skilled agent are like, such that they can relate to each other in these ways. We argue that this requires an account of the regularities in the environment. Introducing the notion of general ecological information, we will give an account of these regularities in terms of constraints, information and the form of life or ecological niche. In the first part of the paper, we will introduce the skilled intentionality framework as conceptualizing a special case of an animal’s informational coupling with the environment namely skilled action. We will show how skilled agents can pick up on the regularities in the environment and let their behavior be guided by the practices in the form of life. This conceptual framework is important for radical embodied and enactive cognitive science, because it allows these increasingly influential paradigms to extend their reach to forms of ‘higher’ cognition such as long-term planning and imagination. (shrink)
The primary difference between direct and inferential theories of perception concerns the location of perceptual content, the meaning of our perceptions. In inferential theories of perception, these meanings arise inside animals, based upon their interactions with the physical environment. Light, for example, bumps into receptors causing a sensation. The animal (or its brain) performs inferences on the sensation, yielding a meaningful perception. In direct theories of perception, on the other hand, meaning is in the environment, and perception does not depend (...) upon meaning- conferring inferences. Instead the animal simply gathers information from a meaning- laden environment. But if the environment contains meanings, then it cannot be merely physical. This places a heavy theoretical burden on direct theories of perception, a burden so severe that it may outweigh all the advantages to conceiving perception as. (shrink)
Cognitive science has always included multiple methodologies and theoretical commitments. The philosophy of cognitive science should embrace, or at least acknowledge, this diversity. Bechtel’s (2009a) proposed philosophy of cognitive science, however, applies only to representationalist and mechanist cognitive science, ignoring the substantial minority of dynamically oriented cognitive scientists. As an example of nonrepresentational, dynamical cognitive science, we describe strong anticipation as a model for circadian systems (Stepp & Turvey, 2009). We then propose a philosophy of science appropriate to nonrepresentational, dynamical (...) cognitive science. (shrink)
This comprehensive new book introduces the core history of phenomenology and assesses its relevance to contemporary psychology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science. From critiques of artificial intelligence research programs to ongoing work on embodiment and enactivism, the authors trace how phenomenology has produced a valuable framework for analyzing cognition and perception, whose impact on contemporary psychological and scientific research, and philosophical debates continues to grow. The first part of _An Introduction to Phenomenology_ is an extended overview of the history (...) and development of phenomenology, looking at its key thinkers, focusing particularly on Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, as well as its cultural and intellectual precursors. In the second half Chemero and Käufer turn their attention to the contemporary interpretations and uses of phenomenology in cognitive science, showing that phenomenology is a living source of inspiration in contemporary interdisciplinary studies of the mind. Käufer and Chemero have written a clear, jargon-free account of phenomenology, providing abundant examples and anecdotes to illustrate and to entertain. This book is an ideal introduction to phenomenology and cognitive science for the uninitiated, as well as for philosophy and psychology students keen to deepen their knowledge. (shrink)
To accept that cognition is embodied is to question many of the beliefs traditionally held by cognitive scientists. One key question regards the localization of cognitive faculties. Here we argue that for cognition to be embodied and sometimes embedded, means that the cognitive faculty cannot be localized in a brain area alone. We review recent research on neural reuse, the 1/f structure of human activity, tool use, group cognition, and social coordination dynamics that we believe demonstrates how the boundary between (...) the different areas of the brain, the brain and body, and the body and environment is not only blurred but indeterminate. In turn, we propose that cognition is supported by a nested structure of task-specific synergies, which are softly assembled from a variety of neural, bodily, and environmental components (including other individuals), and exhibit interaction dominant dynamics. (shrink)
Several articles have recently appeared arguing that there really are no viable alternatives to mechanistic explanation in the biological sciences (Kaplan and Bechtel; Kaplan and Craver). We argue that mechanistic explanation is defined by localization and decomposition. We argue further that systems neuroscience contains explanations that violate both localization and decomposition. We conclude that the mechanistic model of explanation needs to either stretch to now include explanations wherein localization or decomposition fail or acknowledge that there are counterexamples to mechanistic explanation (...) in the biological sciences. (shrink)
The complex systems approach to cognitive science invites a new understanding of extended cognitive systems. According to this understanding, extended cognitive systems are heterogenous, composed of brain, body, and niche, non-linearly coupled to one another. This view of cognitive systems, as non-linearly coupled brain–body–niche systems, promises conceptual and methodological advances. In this article we focus on two of these. First, the fundamental interdependence among brain, body, and niche makes it possible to explain extended cognition without invoking representations or computation. Second, (...) cognition and conscious experience can be understood as a single phenomenon, eliminating fruitless philosophical discussion of qualia and the so-called hard problem of consciousness. What we call “extended phenomenological-cognitive systems” are relational and dynamical entities, with interactions among heterogeneous parts at multiple spatial and temporal scales. (shrink)
This brief commentary has three goals. The first is to argue that ‘‘framework debate’’ in cognitive science is unresolvable. The idea that one theory or framework can singly account for the vast complexity and variety of cognitive processes seems unlikely if not impossible. The second goal is a consequence of this: We should consider how the various theories on offer work together in diverse contexts of investigation. A final goal is to supply a brief review for readers who are compelled (...) by these points to explore existing literature on the topic. Despite this literature, pluralism has garnered very little attention from broader cognitive science. We end by briefly considering what it might mean for theoretical cognitive science. (shrink)
The role of knowledge has long been seen as problematic in the sensorimotor approach to experience. I offer an amended version of the sensorimotor approach, which replaces knowledge with what I call 'sensorimotor empathy'. Sensorimotor empathy is implicit, sometimes unintentional, skilful perceptual and motor coordination with objects and other people. I argue that sensorimotor empathy is the foundation of social coordination, and the key to understanding our conscious experience. I also explain how sensorimotor empathy can be operationalized and studied in (...) the lab, in terms of interpersonal synergies. (shrink)
Musical collaboration emerges from the complex interaction of environmental and informational constraints, including those of the instruments and the performance context. Music improvisation in particular is more like everyday interaction in that dynamics emerge spontaneously without a rehearsed score or script. We examined how the structure of the musical context affords and shapes interactions between improvising musicians. Six pairs of professional piano players improvised with two different backing tracks while we recorded both the music produced and the movements of their (...) heads, left arms, and right arms. The backing tracks varied in rhythmic and harmonic information, from a chord progression to a continuous drone. Differences in movement coordination and playing behavior were evaluated using the mathematical tools of complex dynamical systems, with the aim of uncovering the multiscale dynamics that characterize musical collaboration. Collectively, the findings indicated that each backing track afforded the emergence of different patterns of coordination with respect to how the musicians played together, how they moved together, as well as their experience collaborating with each other. Additionally, listeners’ experiences of the music when rating audio recordings of the improvised performances were related to the way the musicians coordinated both their playing behavior and their bodily movements. Accordingly, the study revealed how complex dynamical systems methods can capture the turn-taking dynamics that characterized both the social exchange of the music improvisation and the sounds of collaboration more generally. The study also demonstrated how musical improvisation provides a way of understanding how social interaction emerges from the structure of the behavioral task context. (shrink)
Arguments in favor of anti-representationalism in cognitive science often suffer from a lack of attention to detail. The purpose of this paper is to fill in the gaps in these arguments, and in so doing show that at least one form of anti- representationalism is potentially viable. After giving a teleological definition of representation and applying it to a few models that have inspired anti- representationalist claims, I argue that anti-representationalism must be divided into two distinct theses, one ontological, one (...) epistemological. Given the assumptions that define the debate, I give reason to think that the ontological thesis is false. I then argue that the epistemological thesis might, in the end, turn out to be true, despite a potentially serious difficulty. Along the way, there will be a brief detour to discuss a controversy from early twentieth century physics. (shrink)
Embodied cognition is a well-established and increasingly influential branch of the cognitive, neural, and psychological sciences. Unlike embodied cognition, extended cognition is not as well-established or influential. Our goal is to defend the idea that if cognition is truly embodied, then it is embodied in systems, and if it is embodied in systems, then it extends beyond animal boundaries. In order to demonstrate this, we situate the idea of extended cognitive systems in a historical context. Then, we present a theoretical (...) and methodological framework for investigating extended cognitive systems. Finally, we discuss some potential experimental work that could adjudicate the existence of extended cognitive systems. (shrink)
This article is about a sidebar in James Gibson's last book, The ecological approach to visual perception. In this sidebar, Gibson, the founder of the ecological perspective of perception and action, argued that to perceive an affordance is not to classify an object. Although this sidebar has received scant attention, it is of great significance both historically and for recent discussions about specificity, direct perception, and the functions of the dorsal and ventral streams. It is argued that Gibson's acknowledgment of (...) Wittgenstein's ideas of classification suggests a limited scope of his theory of direct perception?it cannot account for the classification of objects. The implications for both the specification debate and theorizing about the brain's dorsal and ventral pathways are explored. Based on a recent ecological conception of information and direct perception, we ultimately argue that both affordance perception and classification are direct. (shrink)
Jakob von Uexküll’s account of Umwelt has been proposed as a mediating concept to bridge the gap between ecological psychology’s realism about environmental information and enactivism’s emphasis on the organism’s active role in constructing the meaningful world it inhabits. If successful, this move would constitute a significant step towards establishing a single ecological-enactive framework for cognitive science. However, Uexküll’s thought itself contains different perspectives that are in tension with each other, and the concept of Umwelt is developed in representationalist terms (...) that conflict with the commitments of both enactivism and ecological psychology. One central issue shared by all these approaches is the problem of how a living being experiences its environment. In this paper, we will look at Uexküll’s reception in French philosophy and highlight the different ways in which the concept of Umwelt functions in the work of Georges Canguilhem, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Gilles Deleuze. This analysis helps clarify different aspects of Uexküll’s thought and the deeper philosophical implications of importing his concepts into embodied cognitive science. This paper is part of a recent trend in which enactivism engages with continental philosophy in a way that both deepens and transcends the traditional links to phenomenology, including most recently the thought of Georg W. F. Hegel and Gilbert Simondon. However, no more than a brief outline and introduction to the potentials and challenges of this complex conceptual intersection can be given here. Our hope is that it serves to make more explicit the philosophical issues that are at stake for cognitive science in the question of experienced environments, while charting a useful course for future research. (shrink)
Using hypersets as an analytic tool, we compare traditionally Gibsonian (Chemero 2003; Turvey 1992) and representationalist (Sahin et al. this issue) understandings of the notion ‘affordance’. We show that representationalist understandings are incompatible with direct perception and erect barriers between animal and environment. They are, therefore, scarcely recognizable as understandings of ‘affordance’. In contrast, Gibsonian understandings are shown to treat animal-environment systems as unified complex systems and to be compatible with direct perception. We discuss the fruitful connections between Gibsonian affordances (...) and dynamical systems explanation in the behavioral sciences and point to prior fruitful application of Gibsonian affordances in robotics. We conclude that it is unnecessary to re-imagine affordances as representations in order to make them useful for researchers in robotics. (shrink)
Do psychologists and computer/cognitive scientists mean the same thing by the term `information'? In this essay, I answer this question by comparing information as understood by Gibsonian, ecological psychologists with information as understood in Barwise and Perry's situation semantics. I argue that, with suitable massaging, these views of information can be brought into line. I end by discussing some issues in (the philosophy of) cognitive science and artificial intelligence.
The ideas of continental philosopher Martin Heidegger have been influential in cognitive science and artificial intelligence, despite the fact that there has been no effort to analyze these ideas empirically. The experiments reported here are designed to lend empirical support to Heidegger’s phenomenology and more specifically his description of the transition between ready-to-hand and unready-to-hand modes in interactions with tools. In experiment 1, we found that a smoothly coping cognitive system exhibits 1/fβ type positively correlated noise and that its correlated (...) character is reduced when the system is perturbed. This indicates that the participant and tool constitute a self-assembled, extended device during smooth coping and this device is disrupted by the perturbation. In experiment 2, we examine the re-organization of awareness that occurs when a smoothly coping, self-assembled, extended cognitive system is perturbed. We found that the disruption is accompanied by a change in attention which interferes with participants’ performance on a simultaneous cognitive task. Together these experiments show that a smoothly coping participant-tool system can be temporarily disrupted and that this disruption causes a change in the participant’s awareness. Since these two events follow as predictions from Heidegger’s work, our study offers evidence for the hypothesized transition from readiness-to-hand to unreadiness-to-hand. (shrink)
Every few years Andy Clark writes a book designed to help philosophers of mind get up to speed with the most recent developments in cognitive science. In his first two such books, Microcognition (1989) and Associative Engines (1993), Clark introduced the then-cutting-edge field of connectionist networks. In his newest one, Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again (1997), he once again provides a concise, readable introduction to the state of the art. This time, though, Clark has moved beyond (...) (but not abandoned) connectionism for what he calls 'embodied, active cognition,' in which the primary focus of study is not the inner workings of the rational thinker, but rather the way the autonomous, embodied agent interacts with its environment. (shrink)
A persistent criticism of radical embodied cognitive science is that it will be impossible to explain “real cognition” without invoking mental representations. This paper provides an account of explicit, real-time thinking of the kind we engage in when we imagine counter-factual situations, remember the past, and plan for the future. We first present a very general non-representational account of explicit thinking, based on pragmatist philosophy of science. We then present a more detailed instantiation of this general account drawing on nonlinear (...) dynamics and ecological psychology. (shrink)
Thomas Stoffregen's "Affordances and Events" makes many points that are forgotten all too often--if they are realized at all--by adherents to the ecological perspective in psychology. He is to be applauded for this. But he compiles these points to make a very strong and very sweeping claim about the validity of a broad swath of research that is done by ecological psychologists. In particular, he argues for the following conclusion: "More generally, I have suggested that events may not be perceived; (...) it may be that only affordances are perceived. If so, this would raise serious questions.. (shrink)
In their historical overview of cognitive science, Bechtel, Abraham- son and Graham (1999) describe the ﬁeld as expanding in focus be- ginning in the mid-1980s. The ﬁeld had spent the previous 25 years on internalist, high-level GOFAI (“good old fashioned artiﬁcial intelli- gence” [Haugeland 1985]), and was ﬁnally moving “outwards into the environment and downards into the brain” (Bechtel et al, 1999, p.75). One important force behind the downward movement was Patricia Churchland’s Neurophilosophy (1986). This book began a movement bearing (...) its name, one that truly came of age in 1999 when Kath- leen Akins won a million-dollar fellowship to begin the McDonnell Project in Philosophy and the Neurosciences. The McDonnell Project put neurophilosophy at the forefront of philosophy of mind and cogni- tive science, yielding proliferating articles, conferences, special journal issues and books. In two major new books, neurophilosophers Patricia Churchland (2002) and John Bickle (2003) clearly feel this newfound prominence: Churchland mocks those who do not apply ﬁndings in neuroscience to philosophical problems as “no-brainers”; Bickle mocks anyone with traditional philosophical concerns, including “naturalistic philosophers of mind” and other neurophilosophers. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to use neuroscientific evidence to address the philosophical issue of intertheoretic reduction. In particular, we present a literature review and a new experiment to show that the reduction of cognitive psychology to neuroscience is implausible. To make this case, we look at research using object exploration, an important experimental paradigm in neuroscience, behavioral genetics and psychopharmacology. We show that a good deal of object exploration research is potentially confounded precisely because it assumes that psychological (...) generalizations can be reduced to neuroscientific ones. (shrink)
We argue that the idea of embodiment and the strategies for carrying out embodied approaches are some of the most prevalent and interdisciplinary legacies of early modern science. The idea of embodiment is simple: to explain the behavior of bodies, we must understand them as unified wholes in their environments. Embodied approaches eschew explanations in terms of qualitative descriptions of the intrinsic properties of bodies and promote explanation in terms of the interaction between bodies. This idea can be found in (...) Kepler's optics, Descartes' physics, and Newton's physico-mathematics. The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems (Gibson, 1966) is the culmination of this centuries-long embodiment movement which can be traced back to the 17th century. (shrink)
In a target article that appeared in this journal, Thomas Stoffregen 2000 questions the possibility of ecological event perception research. This paper describes an experiments performed to examine the perception of the disappearance of gap-crossing affordances, a variety of event as defined by Chemero 2000. We found that subjects reliably perceive both gap-crossing affordances and the disappearance of gap-crossing affordances. Our findings provide empirical evidence in favor of understanding events as changes in the layout of affordances, shoring up event perception (...) research in ecological psychology. (shrink)
In this essay we respond to some criticisms of the guidance theory of representation offered by Tom Roberts. We argue that although Roberts’ criticisms miss their mark, he raises the important issue of the relationship between affordances and the action-oriented representations proposed by the guidance theory. Affordances play a prominent role in the anti-representationalist accounts offered by theorists of embodied cognition and ecological psychology, and the guidance theory is motivated in part by a desire to respond to the critiques of (...) representationalism offered in such accounts, without giving up entirely on the idea that representations are an important part of the cognitive economy of many animals. Thus, explorations of whether and how such accounts can in fact be related and reconciled potentially offer to shed some light on this ongoing controversy. Although the current essay hardly settles the larger debate, it does suggest that there may be more possibility for agreement than is often supposed. (shrink)
In a way that is rarely even attempted, and even more rarely actually pulled off, Susan Hurley, in her book Consciousness in Action, brings scientific ideas into contact with mainstream philosophy. It is not at all unusual for empirical results from cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience to be raised in discussion of issues in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind--Dennett and the Churchlands, for example, have been doing so for years. But Hurley attempts to draw empirical results even closer (...) to the center of philosophy, using them to make points about metaphysics and epistemology more broadly, especially PutnamÂ’s Twin Earth cases. We are very fond of Hurley's book, and we agree with nearly all of her conclusions. We do think, though, that there are two important cases where Hurley has misunderstood scientific work. First, we think she misunderstand dynamical systems theory; second, we think her criticism of ecological psychology is misplaced. In neither case do these misunderstandings derail HurleyÂ’s overall project--indeed, the former of them makes her conclusions all the more plausible. We consider them in order. (shrink)
The question whether cognition ever extends beyond the head is widely considered to be an empirical issue. And yet, all the evidence amassed in recent years has not sufficed to settle the debate. In this paper we suggest that this is because the debate is not really an empirical one, but rather a matter of definition. Traditional cognitive science can be identified as wedded to the ideals of “smallism” and “localism”. We criticize these ideals and articulate a case in favor (...) of extended cognition by highlighting the historical pedigree and conceptual adequacy of related empirical and theoretical work. (shrink)
The ecological approach to perception-action is unlike the standard approach in several respects. It takes the animal-in-its-environment as the proper scale for the theory and analysis of perception-action, it eschews symbol based accounts of perception-action, it promotes self-organization as the theory-constitutive metaphor for perception-action, and it employs self-referring, non-predicative definitions in explaining perception-action. The present article details the complexity issues confronted by the ecological approach in terms suggested by Rosen and introduces non-well-founded set theory as a potentially useful tool for (...) expressing them. The issues and the tool are brought to focus in the concept of affordance that is the basis for explanation of prospective control of action in the ecological approach. (shrink)
This paper has two main purposes. First, it will provide an introductory discussion of hyperset theory, and show that it is useful for modeling complex systems. Second, it will use hyperset theory to analyze Robert Rosen’s metabolismrepair systems and his claim that living things are closed to efficient cause. It will also briefly compare closure to efficient cause to two other understandings of autonomy, operational closure and catalytic closure.
There are many different kinds of model and scientists do all kind of things with them. This diversity of model type and model use is a good thing for science. Indeed, it is crucial especially for the biological and cognitive sciences, which have to solve many different problems at many different scales, ranging from the most concrete of the structural details of a DNA molecule to the most abstract and generic principles of self-organization in networks. Getting a grip (or more (...) likely many separate grips) on this range of topics calls for a teeming forest of techniques, including many different modeling techniques. Barbara Webb’s target article strikes us as a proposal for clear-cutting the forest. We think clear-cutting here would be as good for science as it is for non-metaphorical forests. Our argument for this is primarily a recitation of a few of the ways that diversity has been useful. Recently, looking at the actual practice of artificial life modelers, one of us distinguished four uses of simulation models classified in terms of the position the models take up between theory and data (see Figure 1). The classification is not exhaustive, and the barriers between kinds are not absolute. Rather, the purpose of the taxonomy is to open up the view for an epistemic ecology of modeling practices. First, and closest to the empirical domain, there are mechanistic models, in which there is an almost one-to-one correspondence between variables in the model and observables in the target system and its environment. Webb’s.. (shrink)
A recent set of experiments of ours supported the notion of a transition in experience from readiness-to-hand to unreadiness-tohand proposed by phenomenological philosopher Martin Heidegger. They were also an experimental demonstration of an extended cognitive system. We generated and then temporarily disrupted an interaction- dominant system that spans a human participant, a computer mouse, and a task performed on the computer screen. Our claim that this system was interaction dominant was based on the detection of 1/f noise at the hand-tool (...) interface. The inference from the presence of 1/f noise to the presence of an interaction-dominant system is occasionally disputed. Increasing evidence suggests that inference from multifractality to interaction dominance is more certain than 1/f- like scaling alone. In this paper, we reanalyze the data using the wavelet transform modulus maxima method, showing that the human-mouse system displays multifractality. This reinforces our claims that the system is interaction dominant. (shrink)
We applaud the ambition of Veissière et al.'s account of cultural learning, and the attempt to ground higher order thinking in embodied theory. However, the account is limited by loose terminology, and by its commitment to a view of the child learner as inference-maker. Vygotsky offers a more powerful view of cultural learning, one that is fully compatible with embodiment.
What would it take for an artificial agent to be treated as having moral value? As a first step toward answering this question, we ask what it would take for an artificial agent to be capable of the sort of autonomous, adaptive social behavior that is characteristic of the animals that humans interact with. We propose that this sort of capacity is best measured by what we call the Embodied Turing Test. The Embodied Turing test is a test in which (...) intelligence is operationally defined in terms of autonomous, adaptive interaction with the environment and with other animals. Three versions of the Embodied Turing test were performed with a SONY AIBO robot. Human participants were asked to differentiate between AIBO in a human-controlled mode and AIBO in a software-controlled mode. Our results indicate that the human participants were guessing at how AIBO was controlled. Our data reveals that people do not have enough experience with robots to accurately evaluate its behavior. This indicates that today’s humans do not have enough experience with artificial agents to treat them as morally valuable. (shrink)
This paper has two primary aims. The first is to provide an introductory discussion of hyperset theory and its usefulness for modeling complex systems. The second aim is to provide a hyperset analysis of Robert Rosen’s metabolism-repair systems and his claim that living things are closed to efficient cause. Consequences of the hyperset models for Rosen’s claims concerning computability and life are discussed.
Direct realism in one form or another is gaining traction as an approach to perception. With the hope of bolstering such positions, we offer a framework upon which to base an argument for direct realism in matters of perception. Better yet, we offer an empirically supported framework. The framework on offer is that of ecological psychology. With the framework in place, we then discuss how it can address visual illusions, one of the major challenges facing proponents of direct realism.
Ecological psychology (see Gibson, 1979) is generally thought of as comprising two main claims. The first is that perception is direct insofar as it is not the result of information added to sensory representations. The second is that perception is comprised of affordances (at least most of the time) or opportunities for action that exist in the environment. Barrett explores the possibility of giving an objective account of perceiving religious meaning and value by means of ecological psychology. The attempt to (...) utilize ecological psychology to account for values is not without precedent, however. Jayawickreme and Chemero (2008), for instance, used the ecological concept of ‘‘affordance’’ to sketch an account of both virtues and morally relevant situations. Surprisingly, Barrett never mentions this central ecological concept, choosing instead to focus solely on the directness of perception. We believe that this constricts his ecological account of religious value. While we agree with Barrett that the cognitive science of religion treats presence as an insider’s experience, such that religious experience is a ‘‘black box’’ phenomenon, intractable, and mysterious, and that ecological theory might provide an account of values, we are not convinced by his particular attempt at an ecological account of religious meaning. (shrink)