This introduction to a special issue of Topoi introduces and summarises the relationship between three main varieties of 'enactivist' theorising about the mind: 'autopoietic', 'sensorimotor', and 'radical' enactivism. It includes a brief discussion of the philosophical and cognitive scientific precursors to enactivist theories, and the relationship of enactivism to other trends in embodied cognitive science and philosophy of mind.
We present a specific elaboration and partial defense of the claims that cognition is enactive, embodied, embedded, affective and (potentially) extended. According to the view we will defend, the enactivist claim that perception and cognition essentially depend upon the cognizer’s interactions with their environment is fundamental. If a particular instance of this kind of dependence obtains, we will argue, then it follows that cognition is essentially embodied and embedded, that the underpinnings of cognition are inextricable from those of affect, that (...) the phenomenon of cognition itself is essentially bound up with affect, and that the possibility of cognitive extension depends upon the instantiation of a specific mode of skillful interrelation between cognizer and environment. Thus, if cognition is enactive then it is also embodied, embedded, affective and potentially extended. (shrink)
According to a variety of recent ‘enactivist’ proposals, the material basis of conscious experience might extend beyond the boundaries of the brain and nervous system and into the environment. Clark (2009) surveys several such arguments and finds them wanting. Here I respond on behalf of the enactivist. Clarifying the commitments of enactivism at the personal and subpersonal levels and considering how those levels relate lets us see where Clark’s analysis of enactivism goes wrong. Clark understands the enactivists as attempting to (...) provide hypotheses about the subpersonal mechanisms underlying experience according to which those mechanisms contingently include portions of the environment. But understanding enactivism instead as involving a relational conception of experience at the personal level, with apparent implications for the location of the subpersonal mechanisms of experience, allows us to make better sense of the enactivist arguments, and make the case for conscious externalism. (shrink)
The autopoietic theory and the enactive approach are two theoretical streams that, in spite of their historical link and conceptual affinities, offer very different views on the nature of living beings. In this paper, we compare these views and evaluate, in an exploratory way, their respective degrees of internal coherence. Focusing the analyses on certain key notions such as autonomy and organizational closure, we argue that while the autopoietic theory manages to elaborate an internally consistent conception of living beings, the (...) enactive approach presents an internal tension regarding its characterization of living beings as intentional systems directed at the environment. (shrink)
Context: The majority of contemporary enactivist work is influenced by the philosophical biology of Hans Jonas. Jonas credits all living organisms with experience that involves particular “existential” structures: nascent forms of concern for self-preservation and desire for objects and outcomes that promote well-being. We argue that Jonas’s attitude towards living systems involves a problematic anthropomorphism that threatens to place enactivism at odds with cognitive science, and undermine its legitimate aims to become a new paradigm for scientific investigation and understanding of (...) the mind. Problem: Enactivism needs to address the tension between its Jonasian influences and its aspirations to become a new paradigm for cognitive science. By relying on Jonasian phenomenology, contemporary enactivism obscures alternative ways in which phenomenology can be more smoothly integrated with cognitive science. Method: We outline the historical relationship between enactivism and phenomenology, and explain why anthropomorphism is problematic for a research program that aspires to become a new paradigm for cognitive science. We examine the roots of Jonas’s existential interpretation of biological facts, and describe how and why Jonas himself understood his project as founded on an anthropomorphic assumption that is incompatible with a crucial methodological assumption of scientific enquiry: the prohibition of unexplained natural purposes. We describe the way in which phenomenology can be integrated into Maturana’s autopoietic theory, and use this as an example of how an alternative, non-anthropomorphic science of the biological roots of cognition might proceed. Results: Our analysis reveals a crucial tension between Jonas’s influence on enactivism and enactivism’s paradigmatic aspirations. This suggests the possibility of, and need to investigate, other ways of integrating phenomenology with cognitive science that do not succumb to this tension. Implications: In light of this, enactivists should either eliminate the Jonasian inference from properties of our human experience to properties of the experience of all living organisms, or articulate an alternative conception of scientific enquiry that can tolerate the anthropomorphism this inference entails. The Maturanian view we present in the article’s final section constitutes a possible framework within which enactivist tools and concepts can be used to understand cognition and phenomenology, and that does not involve a problematic anthropomorphism. Constructivist content: Any constructivist approach that aims for integration with current scientific practice must either avoid the type of anthropomorphic inference on which Jonas bases his work, or specify a new conception of scientific enquiry that renders anthropomorphism unproblematic. (shrink)
How do questions concerning consciousness and phenomenal experience relate to, or interface with, questions concerning plans, knowledge and intentions? At least in the case of visual experience the relation, we shall argue, is tight. Visual perceptual experience, we shall argue, is fixed by an agent’s direct unmediated knowledge concerning her poise (or apparent poise) over a currently enabled action space. An action space, in this specific sense, is to be understood not as a fine-grained matrix of possibilities for bodily movement, (...) but as a matrix of possibilities for pursuing and accomplishing one’s intentional actions, goals and projects. If this is correct, the links between planning, intention and perceptual experience are tight, while (contrary to some recent accounts invoking the notion of ‘sensorimotor expectations’) the links between embodied activity and perceptual experience, though real, are indirect. What matters is not bodily activity itself, but our practical knowledge (which need not be verbalized or in any way explicit) of our own possibilities for action. Such knowledge, selected, shaped and filtered by the grid of plans, goals, and intentions, plays, we argue, a constitutive role in explaining the content and character of visual perceptual experience. (shrink)
Several strands of contemporary cognitive science and its philosophy have emerged in recent decades that emphasize the role of action in cognition, resting their explanations on the embodiment of cognitive agents, and their embedding in richly structured environments. Despite their growing influence, many foundational questions remain unresolved or underexplored for this cluster of proposals, especially questions of how they can be extended beyond straightforwardly visuomotor cognitive capacities, and what constraints the commitment of embodiment places on the ontology of explanations. This (...) special issue aims to contribute to these foundational debates by drawing on important precursors to embodied cognition in mid-twentieth century gestalt psychology, its immediate successor ecological psychology, and their dialectical counterpart, phenomenology. Gestalt psychologists and phenomenologists wrestled with many of the same foundational questions that still haunt us today, in a manner that seems refreshing in hindsight, and poised to contribute constructively to contemporary debate. Looking back on this history reveals deep commonalities across competing embodied approaches, exposing fundamental tensions that remain unresolved, but also paving the way to a more ecumenical and conciliatory embodied cognitive science. (shrink)
Placebos are commonly defined as ineffective treatments. They are treatments that lack a known mechanism linking their properties to the properties of the condition on which treatment aims to intervene. Given this, the fact that placebos can have substantial therapeutic effects looks puzzling. The puzzle, we argue, arises from the relationship placebos present between culturally meaningful entities, our intentional relationship to the environment and bodily effects. How can a mere attitude toward a treatment result in appropriate bodily changes? We argue (...) that an ‘enactive’ conception of cognition accommodates and renders intelligible the phenomenon of placebo effects. Enactivism depicts an organism’s adaptive bodily processes, its intentional directedness, and the meaningful properties of its environment as co-emergent aspects of a single dynamic system. In doing so it provides an account of the interrelations between mind, body and world that demystifies placebo effects. (shrink)
Skepticism about the limits of online learning is as old as online learning itself. As with other technologically-driven innovations in pedagogy, there are deep-seated worries that important educational goods might be effaced or obscured by the ways of teaching and learning that online methods allow. One family of such worries is inspired by reflections on the bodily basis of an important kind of understanding, and skepticism over whether this bodily basis can be inculcated in the absence of actual, flesh-and-blood, classroom (...) interactions. This paper focuses on the ways in which such worries arise in the influential work of Hubert Dreyfus. The negative conclusion for which I argue is that endorsing Dreyfus's Merleau-Pontian picture of the relationship between bodily skill and understanding does not commit us to his general pessimism concerning online learning—bodily, emotional, and interactive dimensions might be essential to learning, but we lack reasons to think that online learning necessarily lacks these dimensions. The negative argument motivates a positive claim: rather than giving up on online learning we should focus on designing courses and pedagogies that scaffold the bodily, affective and interactive dynamics constitutive of understanding in a particular domain. (shrink)
The transparency of perceptual experience has been invoked in support of many views about perception. I argue that it supports a form of enactivism—the view that capacities for perceptual experience and for intentional agency are essentially interdependent. I clarify the perceptual phenomenon at issue, and argue that enactivists should expect to find a parallel instance of transparency in our agentive experience, and that the two forms of transparency are constitutively interdependent. I then argue that i) we do indeed find such (...) parallels: the way in which an action is directed towards its goal through our bodily movements parallels the way in which an experience is directed towards its object through our perceptual sensation, and ii) reflecting on sensorimotor skills shows why the two instances of transparency are constitutively interdependent. Section 4 gives reasons for generalizing beyond the cases considered so far by applying the enactive view to Kohler's landmark studies of perceptual adaptation. The final section clarifies the form of enactivism to which the previous sections point. The view that emerges is one whereby our perceptual and practical skills are interrelated aspects of a single capacity to have one's mind intentionally directed upon the world. The transparency of experience, on this view, is achieved in virtue of our capacities as agents as much as it is given in virtue of our capacities as perceivers. (shrink)
Susan Hurley (1998a, 2003a, 2008) argues that our capacities for perception, agency and thought are essentially interdependent and co-emerge from a tangle of sensorimotor processes that are both cause and effect of the web of interactive and communicative practices they weave us into. In this paper, I reconstruct this view and its main motivations, with a particular focus on three important aspects. First, Hurley argues that an essential aspect of conscious perception – its perspectival unity – constitutively depends on agency. (...) That is, agency is a transcendental condition on the possibility of perception (§3). Second, understanding why this dependence obtains involves understanding why perception and agency emerge together, and how they do so on the basis of a web of interrelated capacities for sensorimotor control (§2, §4). Third, understanding these first two aspects of Hurley’s view is the key to understanding the sophisticated interplay between i) her arguments for the causal interdependence of sensory input and motor output, and ii) her arguments for the essential interdependence of perception and agency. (shrink)
Upshot: In our target article we claimed that, at least since Weber and Varela, enactivism has incorporated a theoretical commitment to one important aspect of Jonas’s philosophical biology, namely its anthropomorphism, which is at odds with the methodological commitments of modern science. In this general reply we want to clarify what we mean by anthropomorphism, and explain why we think it is incompatible with science. We do this by spelling out what we call the “Jonasian inference,” i.e., the idea that (...) we are entitled, based on our first-person experience of teleology, to take the appearance of teleology in other living beings at face value. (shrink)
Synaesthetes persistently perceive certain stimuli as systematically accompanied by illusory colours, even though they know those colours to be illusory. This appears to contrast with cases where a subject’s colour vision adapts to systematic distortions caused by wearing coloured goggles. Given that each case involves longstanding systematic distortion of colour perception that the subjects recognize as such, how can a theory of colour perception explain the fact that perceptual adaptation occurs in one case but not the other? I argue that (...) these cases and the relationship between them can be made sense of in light of an existing view of colour perception. Understanding colours as ways in which objects and surfaces modify light, perceived through grasping patterns and variations in colour appearances, provides a framework from which the cases and their apparent disanalogy can be predicted and explained. This theory’s ability to accommodate these cases constitutes further empirical evidence in its favour. (shrink)
I consider whether there is a plausible conception of personal identity that can accommodate the ‘Multiplicity Thesis’ (MT), the thesis that some ways of creating and deploying multiple distinct online personae can bring about the existence of multiple persons where before there was only one. I argue that an influential Kantian line of thought, according to which a person is a unified locus of rational agency, is well placed to accommodate the thesis. I set out such a line of thought (...) as developed by Carol Rovane, and consider the conditions that would have to be in place for the possibility identified by MT to be realised. Finally I briefly consider the prospects for MT according to neo-Lockean and animalist views of personhood. (shrink)
This study investigated the proficiency of CPAs in recognizing and evaluating ethical and unethical situations. In addition, CPAs provided attitudes on ethics education. Respondents were asked to evaluate the ethical acceptability of CPA behavior as presented in six vignettes involving a variety of ethical dilemmas from questions of conflict of interest to questions of personal honor. The results tend to signify that CPAs can, to a degree, distinguish ethical and unethical behaviors. It appears that ethical behaviors and very specific unethical (...) behaviors were more easily identified by practitioners. This may reveal uncertainty and apprehension as to exactly what constitutes unethical behavior since, in many circumstances, this resolution is made on a case-specific basis rather that via a universal rule. In addition, it is interesting to note that CPAs tend to picture themselves as more ethically-oriented than their peers.With respect to ethics education, the CPAs indicated that instruction in ethical concepts and literacy was important and should definitely be embodied in the accounting curriculum as well as at all educational levels. However, the CPAs were remarkably uncertain and ambivalent as to the qualifications of university faculty to provide this instruction and guidance. (shrink)
Philosophy for Everyone begins by explaining what philosophy is before exploring the questions and issues at the foundation of this important subject. Key topics and their areas of focus include: Epistemology - what our knowledge of the world and ourselves consists in, and how we come to have it; Philosophy of Science - foundational conceptual issues in scientific research and practice; Philosophy of Mind - what it means for something to have a mind, and how minds should be understood and (...) explained; Moral Philosophy - the nature of our moral judgements and reactions, whether they aim at some objective moral truth, or are mere personal or cultural preferences, and; Metaphysics - fundamental conceptual questions about the nature of reality. Designed to be used on the corresponding Introduction to Philosophy online course offered by The University of Edinburgh, this book is also highly recommended for anyone looking for a short overview of this fascinating discipline. (shrink)
How should we understand the relationship between conscious perception and action? Does an appeal to action have any place in an account of colour experience? This essay aims to shed light on the first question by giving a positive response to the second. I consider two types of enactive approach to perceptual consciousness, and two types of account of colour perception. Each approach to colour perception faces serious objections. However, the two views can be combined in a way that resists (...) the criticisms to each. Furthermore, the hybrid view we arrive at lets us see which enactive account of perceptual consciousness we should prefer in the case of colour. (shrink)
The study of anarchism as a philosophical, political, and social movement has burgeoned both in the academy and in the global activist community in recent years. Taking advantage of this boom in anarchist scholarship, Nathan J. Jun and Shane Wahl have compiled twenty-six cutting-edge essays on this timely topic in New Perspectives on Anarchism.
Philosophy for Everyone begins by explaining what philosophy is before exploring the questions and issues at the foundation of this important subject. Key topics in this new edition and their areas of focus include: Moral philosophy – the nature of our moral judgments and reactions, whether they aim at some objective moral truth, or are mere personal or cultural preferences; and the possibility of moral responsibility given the sorts of things that cause behavior; Political philosophy – fundamental questions about the (...) nature of states and their relationship to the citizens within those states Epistemology – what our knowledge of the world and ourselves consists in, and how we come to have it; and whether we should form beliefs by trusting what other people tell us; Philosophy of mind – what it means for something to have a mind, and how minds should be understood and explained; Philosophy of science – foundational conceptual issues in scientific research and practice, such as whether scientific theories are true; and Metaphysics - fundamental questions about the nature of reality, such as whether we have free will, or whether time travel is possible. This book is designed to be used in conjunction with the free ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ MOOC created by the University of Edinburgh’s _Eidyn_ research centre, and hosted by the Coursera platform.This book is also highly recommended for anyone looking for a short overview of this fascinating discipline. (shrink)
This paper presents methods to visualize the structure of trees that occur in genetic programming. These methods allow for the inspection of structure of entire trees even though several thousands of nodes may be involved. The methods also scale to allow for the inspection of structure for entire populations and for complete trials even though millions of nodes may be involved. Examples are given that demonstrate how this new way of “seeing” can afford a potentially rich way of understanding dynamics (...) that underpin genetic programming. The examples indicate further studies that might be enabled by visualizing structure at these scales. (shrink)
I assume that we find it hard to understand, for example, how a person could harm another person in cold blood. I then set out Kant's reason's for thinking that, strictly speaking, evil behavior is impossible: people may act on wicked desires but deliberate wrong-doing is not a genuine phenomenon. However, Kant's view is at odds with our common sense intuitions about morally evil behavior, namely, that such behavior is possible, albeit difficult to understand. I then suggest how Kant's analysis (...) of the problem of evil behavior can help us to understand under what conditions evil behavior would be possible. Next, I introduce Peck's theory of how evil behavior can manifest itselfwhen a person suffers from malignant narcissism—a complaint that involves acting on principles which are not consciously acknowledged. I conclude that Kant's views on evil can be understood with reference to Peck's theory (and vice versa). (shrink)
The authors argue that an understanding of human agency based on Spinoza's views can resolve the apparent conflict between the demands of happiness and the dictates of morality without damaging the unique values associated with the moral form of life espoused by Kant.
This work presents a new, alternative approach to studying the formation of political ideologies and attitudes, addressing a concern in political science that research in this area is at a crossroads. The authors provide an epistemologically grounded critique on the literature of belief systems, explaining why traditional approaches have reached the limits of usefulness. Following the lead of such continental theorists such as Jurgen Habermas and Anthony Giddens, who stress the importance of Jean Piaget to the development of a strong (...) theoretical perspective in political psychology, the authors develop a different epistemology, theory,and research strategy based on Piaget, then apply it in two emperical studies of belief systems, and finally present a third theoretical study of political culture and political development. (shrink)
Why do public philosophy in prisons? When we think about the value and aims of public philosophy there is a well-entrenched tendency to think in transactional terms. The academy has something of value that it aims to pass on or transmit to its clients. Usually, this transaction takes place within the confines of the university, in the form of transmission of valuable skills or knowledge passed from faculty to students. Public philosophy, construed within this transactional mindset, then consists in passing (...) on something valuable from inside the academy to the outside. In this paper, we reflect on our experiences of taking philosophy into prisons and argue that making the case for public philosophy in general, and philosophy in prisons in particular in these transactional terms risks obscuring what we take to be a distinctive and valuable outcome of public philosophy. Importantly, it risks obscuring what those who participate in a particular kind of public philosophy – including the professional philosophers – experience as valuable about the activity: its transformational potential. (shrink)
My intention in this paper is to present a schema for understanding ï¿½sthetic transactions. (By 'ï¿½sthetic transactions' I mean to refer to the artist's creation of a work of art and the audience's appreciation of it). For Kant a schema was a rule or principle that enables the under- standing to apply its categories. I am using this term in a narrower sense but in the same spirit : The schema to be considered is to serve as a principle which (...) will allow us to grasp in a definitive fashion the special character of ï¿½sthetic transactions. (shrink)
I argue that conscious visual experience consists in a direct and noninferential grasp of the way one’s current perceptual contact with the environment poises one to pursue various intentional plans, goals and projects. I show that such a view of visual consciousness is supported by current work in cognitive neuroscience, affords a compelling account of colour perception, and suggests a way to bridge the ‘explanatory gap’ between consciousness and the language of the natural sciences. In chapter 1, I examine the (...) reasoning that leads to the appearance of an explanatory gap between the phenomenal and the physical in more detail, and set out the constraints on a solution that our discussion of the problem has imposed. I then sketch the two rival takes on the relationship between perception and action mentioned above – adjudicating between these two theories is the task of the next two chapters, and is a recurring theme throughout. Chapter 2 moves on to discuss some recent work in the neuropsychology of vision and what it might suggest about the functional role of conscious vision, and the first half of chapter 3 considers two puzzle cases concerning colour perception. Each of these discussions turns out to constitute a source of support for the actionspace view that visual perception consists in a grasp of the practical consequences of sensation, and the second half of chapter 3 sets out this view and responds to an initial range of questions and objections it might face. Chapter 4 illustrates our view via a discussion of colour perception, and chapter 5 discusses the type of grasp of practical consequences that is necessary for perceptual sensitivity to issue in conscious experience. By chapter 6, we are in a position to see how the action-space approach can help close the explanatory gap for phenomenal consciousness, and our final chapter sets out how I think this should be done. I conclude with a brief discussion of further questions and prospects for the action-space approach. (shrink)
Is there a way to tell whether what you remember was something you dreamt or something that really happened without making reference to coherence criteria? I suggest contra Descartes that there is a certain sign ‘by means of which one can distinguish clearly between being awake and being asleep’. This certain sign is the intensive magnitude associated with every sensation.
When Kant is explaining how aesthetic judgments are made, he contrasts them with cognitive judgments in which the imagination is, as he puts it, "in the service" of the understanding. In effect, he thinks of cognitive judgments as tasks in which the imagination is attempting to see whether some given item falls under a concept or rule provided by the understanding. If the rule is reasonably specific-separate the cubes from the spheres-there is not much room for the imagination to determine (...) whether a particular shape falls under the rule: it either does or it doesn't and we simply have to work at the task which is, therefore, not much fun. (shrink)