Radical embodied cognitive science is split into two camps: the ecological approach and the enactive approach. We propose that these two approaches can be brought together into a productive synthesis. The key is to recognize that the two approaches are pursuing different but complementary types of explanation. Both approaches seek to explain behavior in terms of the animal–environment relation, but they start at opposite ends. Ecological psychologists pursue an ontological strategy. They begin by describing the habitat of the species, and (...) use this to explain how action possibilities are constrained for individual actors. Enactivists, meanwhile, pursue an epistemic strategy: start by characterizing the exploratory, self-regulating behavior of the individual organism, and use this to understand how that organism brings forth its animal-specific umwelt. Both types of explanation are necessary: the ontological strategy explains how structure in the environment constrains how the world can appear to an individual, while the epistemic strategy explains how the world can appear differently to different members of the same species, relative to their skills, abilities, and histories. Making the distinction between species habitat and animal-specific umwelt allows us to understand the environment in realist terms while acknowledging that individual living organisms are phenomenal beings. (shrink)
Upshot: The authors offer a theory of agency that is general enough to apply to whole organisms and single cells, and meaningful enough to highlight problems that embodied cognition theory has overlooked. The authors insist that the interesting thing about minds is what goes on in between activities; this leaves unclear what a specifically enactivist empirical program could look like. But the book can be read as a contribution to a broader project of instituting a full-blown post-cognitivist science of the (...) mind. (shrink)
We agree with Heyes that an explanation of human uniqueness must appeal to cultural evolution, and not just genes. Her account, though, focuses narrowly on internal cognitive mechanisms. This causes her to mischaracterize human behavior and to overlook the role of material culture. A more powerful account would view cognitive gadgets as spanning organisms and their (shared) environments.
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.
While we applaud Bruineberg et al.'s analysis of the differences between Markov blankets and Friston blankets, we think it is not carried out to its ultimate consequences. There are reasons to think that, once Friston blankets are accepted as a theoretical construct, they do not do the work proponents of free energy principle (FEP) attribute to them. The emperor is indeed naked.
Yarkoni correctly recognizes that one reason for psychology's generalizability crisis is the failure to account for variance within experiments. We argue that this problem, and the generalizability crisis broadly, is a necessary consequence of the stimulus-response paradigm widely used in psychology research. We point to another methodology, perturbation experiments, as a remedy that is not vulnerable to the same problems.