In this book, Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin promote the cause of a radically enactive, embodied approach to cognition that holds that some kinds of minds -- basic minds -- are neither best explained by processes involving the manipulation of ...
An extended argument that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. -/- Evolving Enactivism argues that cognitive phenomena—perceiving, imagining, remembering—can be best explained in terms of an interface between contentless and content-involving forms of cognition. Building on their earlier book Radicalizing Enactivism, which proposes that there can be forms of cognition without content, Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin demonstrate the unique explanatory advantages of recognizing that only some forms (...) of cognition have content while others—the most elementary ones—do not. They offer an account of the mind in duplex terms, proposing a complex vision of mentality in which these basic contentless forms of cognition interact with content-involving ones. -/- Hutto and Myin argue that the most basic forms of cognition do not, contrary to a currently popular account of cognition, involve picking up and processing information that is then used, reused, stored, and represented in the brain. Rather, basic cognition is contentless—fundamentally interactive, dynamic, and relational. In advancing the case for a radically enactive account of cognition, Hutto and Myin propose crucial adjustments to our concept of cognition and offer theoretical support for their revolutionary rethinking, emphasizing its capacity to explain basic minds in naturalistic terms. They demonstrate the explanatory power of the duplex vision of cognition, showing how it offers powerful means for understanding quintessential cognitive phenomena without introducing scientifically intractable mysteries into the mix. (shrink)
Established wisdom in cognitive science holds that the everyday folk psychological abilities of humans -- our capacity to understand intentional actions performed for reasons -- are inherited from our evolutionary forebears. In _Folk Psychological Narratives_, Daniel Hutto challenges this view and argues for the sociocultural basis of this familiar ability. He makes a detailed case for the idea that the way we make sense of intentional actions essentially involves the construction of narratives about particular persons. Moreover he argues that children (...) acquire this practical skill only by being exposed to and engaging in a distinctive kind of narrative practice. Hutto calls this developmental proposal the narrative practice hypothesis. Its core claim is that direct encounters with stories about persons who act for reasons supply children with both the basic structure of folk psychology and the norm-governed possibilities for wielding it in practice. In making a strong case for the as yet underexamined idea that our understanding of reasons may be socioculturally grounded, Hutto not only advances and explicates the claims of the NPH, but he also challenges certain widely held assumptions. In this way, _Folk Psychological Narratives_ both clears conceptual space around the dominant approaches for an alternative and offers a groundbreaking proposal. (shrink)
We argue that theory-of-mind (ToM) approaches, such as “theory theory” and “simulation theory”, are both problematic and not needed. They account for neither our primary and pervasive way of engaging with others nor the true basis of our folk psychological understanding, even when narrowly construed. Developmental evidence shows that young infants are capable of grasping the purposeful intentions of others through the perception of bodily movements, gestures, facial expressions etc. Trevarthen’s notion of primary intersubjectivity can provide a theoretical framework for (...) understanding these capabilities and his notion of secondary intersubjectivity shows the importance of pragmatic contexts for infants starting around one year of age. The recent neuroscience of resonance systems (i.e., mirror neurons, shared representations) also supports this view. These ideas are worked out in the context of an embodied “Interaction Theory” of social cognition. Still, for more sophisticated intersubjective interactions in older children and adults, one might argue that some form of ToM is required. This thought is defused by appeal to narrative competency and the Narrative Practice Hypothesis (or NPH). We propose that repeated encounters with narratives of a distinctive kind is the normal route through which children acquire an understanding of the forms and norms that enable them to make sense of actions in terms of reasons. A potential objection to this hypothesis is that it presupposes ToM abilities. Interaction Theory is deployed once again to answer this by providing an alternative approach to understanding basic narrative competency and its development. (shrink)
Advancing a radically enactive account of cognition, we provide arguments in favour of the possibility that cultural factors permeate rather than penetrate cognition, such that cognition extensively and transactionally incorporates cultural factors rather than there being any question of cultural factors having to break into the restricted confines of cognition. The paper reviews the limitations of two classical cognitivist, modularist accounts of cognition and a revisionary, new order variant of cognitivism – a Predictive Processing account of Cognition, or PPC. It (...) argues that the cognitivist interpretation of PPC is conservatively and problematically attached to the idea of inner models and stored knowledge. In abandoning that way of understanding PPC, it offers a radically enactive alternative account of how cultural factors matter to cognition – one that abandons all vestiges of the idea that cultural factors might contentfully communicate with basic forms of cognition. In place of that idea, the possibility that culture permeates cognition is promoted. (shrink)
We review the current state of play in the game of naturalizing content and analyse reasons why each of the main proposals, when taken in isolation, is unsatisfactory. Our diagnosis is that if there is to be progress two fundamental changes are necessary. First, the point of the game needs to be reconceived in terms of explaining the natural origins of content. Second, the pivotal assumption that intentionality is always and everywhere contentful must be abandoned. Reviving and updating Haugeland’s baseball (...) analogy in the light of these changes, we propose ways of redirecting the efforts of players on each base of his intentionality All-Star team, enabling them to start functioning effectively as a team. Only then is it likely that they will finally get their innings and maybe, just maybe, even win the game. (shrink)
It is almost universally agreed that the main business of commonsense psychology is that of providing generally reliable predictions and explanations of the actions of others. In line with this, it is also generally assumed that we are normally at theoretical remove from others such that we are always ascribing causally efficacious mental states to them for the purpose of prediction, explanation and control. Building on the work of those who regard our primary intersubjective interactions as a form of 'embodied (...) practice', I defend a secondpersonal approach in this paper. (shrink)
The mainstream view in cognitive science is that computation lies at the basis of and explains cognition. Our analysis reveals that there is no compelling evidence or argument for thinking that brains compute. It makes the case for inverting the explanatory order proposed by the computational basis of cognition thesis. We give reasons to reverse the polarity of standard thinking on this topic, and ask how it is possible that computation, natural and artificial, might be based on cognition and not (...) the other way around. (shrink)
This chapter proposes a radically enactive account of remembering that casts it as creative, dynamic, and wide-reaching. It paints a picture of remembering that no longer conceives of it as involving passive recollections – always occurring wholly and solely inside heads. Integrating empirical findings from various sources, the chapter puts pressure on familiar cognitivist visions of remembering. Pivotally, it is argued, that we achieve a stronger and more elegant account of remembering by abandoning the widely held assumption that it is (...) rooted in the retrieval of stored information or content in order to represent past events. We demonstrate how a radically enactive account of the roots of remembering can successfully handle classic cases discussed in the extended memory literature while, at same time, accommodating experientially rich forms of episodic memory. (shrink)
There is a paradox about how our social understanding develops if we take seriously both theory theory and the cognitivist dictum that all skilful interaction has robust conceptual underpinnings. On the one hand, it is clear that young infants demonstrate a capacity to reliably detect and respond to other’s intentions. For example, recent experimental evidence confirms that they have the capacity to appropriately parse what would otherwise be an undifferentiated behaviour stream at its mentalistic joints. If we follow the cognitivist (...) trend in thinking that having the appropriate concepts is an antecedent requirement for such recognitional capacities then it follows that we should ascribe to these infants the concept of intention (or, at least, a concept of intention). But if we also hold that mentalistic concepts are constituted by their links with other mentalistic concepts, such as belief and desire, as assumed by proponents of theory theory, then we ought to conclude that infants lack certain concepts, such as intention, because at their tender age they lack other concepts, such as belief, which are required to constitute their contents. I will consider two possible atomistic ways of squaring this circle, in the process ultimately rejecting cognitivism in favor of the idea that various nonconceptual capacities best account for our initial abilities for recognizing and responding to intentional agency. I hold that it is what these responses are directed at that remains common throughout the developments of our mentalistic concepts, enabling us to make sense of talk of conceptual change. Not only does this resolve the paradox with which theory theorists must content, it shows how we can start our folk psychological careers without a theory or even any concepts. (shrink)
Similarity-based cognition is commonplace. It occurs whenever an agent or system exploits the similarities that hold between two or more items—e.g., events, processes, objects, and so on—in order to perform some cognitive task. This kind of cognition is of special interest to cognitive neuroscientists. This paper explicates how similarity-based cognition can be understood through the lens of radical enactivism and why doing so has advantages over its representationalist rival, which posits the existence of structural representations or S-representations. Specifically, it is (...) argued that there are problems both with accounting for the content of S-representations and with understanding how neurally-based structural similarities can work as representations in guiding intelligent behavior. Finally, with these clarifications in place, it is revealed how radical enactivism can commit to an account of similarity-based cognition in its understanding of neurodynamics. (shrink)
The binary divide between traditional cognitivist and enactivist paradigms is tied to their respective commitments to understanding cognition as based on knowing that as opposed to knowing how. Using O’Regan’s and No¨e’s landmark sensorimotor contingency theory of perceptual experience as a foil, I demonstrate how easy it is to fall into conservative thinking. Although their account is advertised as decidedly ‘skill-based’, on close inspection it shows itself to be riddled with suppositions threatening to reduce it to a rules-and-representations approach. To (...) remain properly enactivist it must be purged of such commitments and indeed all commitment to mediating knowledge: it must embrace a more radical enactivism. (shrink)
Psychologically normal adult humans make sense of intentional actions by trying to decide for which reason they were performed. This is a datum that requires our understanding. Although there have been interesting recent debates about how we should understand ‘reasons’, I will follow a long tradition and assume that, at a bare minimum, to act for a reason involves having appropriately interrelated beliefs and desires. He left the party because he believed the host had insulted him. She will head for (...) the cabin in the woods because she wants peace and quiet. These are typical examples of reason explanations, one backward looking and the other future facing. Both imply more than they say. To leave a party because of a suspected insult suggests that one desires not to be insulted, or at least it implies that the desire to avoid insult is stronger than that for some other good on offer. Similarly, to seek tranquillity in an isolated cabin implies that one believes that it can be found there, or at least more so than elsewhere. Despite the fact that the situations and characters involved in these dramas are woefully under-described, we are able to ‘make sense’ of these actions in a basic manner using the belief/desire schema. This involves designating a particular pairing of a belief and a desire, each with its own specified propositional content, in a way that rests on a quiet understanding of the way propositional attitudes inter-relate. To understand which beliefs and desires were responsible for a person’s action is normally only to understand why they acted in a quite skeletal way. Maximally, to understand why someone acted requires a more or less detailed description of his or her circumstances, other propositional attitudes (hopes, fears), more basic perceptions and emotions and perhaps even his or her character, current situation and history. In short, to fully grasp why someone took action on a particular occasion requires relating that.. (shrink)
The notion of an enactive system requires thinking about the brain in a way that is different from the standard computational-representational models. In evolutionary terms, the brain does what it does and is the way that it is, across some scale of variations, because it is part of a living body with hands that can reach and grasp in certain limited ways, eyes structured to focus, an autonomic system, an upright posture, etc. coping with specific kinds of environments, and with (...) other people. Changes to any of the bodily, environmental, or intersubjective conditions elicit responses from the system as a whole. On this view, rather than representing or computing information, the brain is better conceived as participating in the action. (shrink)
The core claim of this paper is that mind minding of the sort required for the simplest and most pervasive forms of joint attentional activity is best understood and explained in non-representational, enactivist terms. In what follows I will attempt to convince the reader of its truth in three steps. The first step, section two, clarifies the target explanandum. The second step, section three, is wholly descriptive. It highlights the core features of a Radically Enactivist proposal about elementary mind minding, (...) revealing it to be at least a possible explanans. The final step is to consider the comparative virtues of the contending proposals; section four. The exercise is to decide which of the possible explanations is best. Various evidential appeals and theoretical considerations that might aid us in this choice are reviewed. The conclusion is that the scales would be tipped in favour of the Radical Enactivist option, decisively, if it should turn out that there is (1) no reason to believe that basic forms of mentality are representational (in a semantically contentful way) and (2) if no good theory is likely to explain how they could be so. It is concluded that all that we need for understanding basic forms of intentional (with a ‘t’) mentality and what it takes to attend to basic cases of mind minding. (shrink)
This paper motivates taking seriously the possibility that brains are basically protean: that they make use of neural structures in inventive, on-the-fly improvisations to suit circumstance and context. Accordingly, we should not always expect cognition to divide into functionally stable neural parts and pieces. We begin by reviewing recent work in cognitive ontology that highlights the inadequacy of traditional neuroscientific approaches when it comes to divining the function and structure of cognition. Cathy J. Price and Karl J. Friston, and Colin (...) Klein identify the limitations of relying on forward and reverse inferences to cast light on the relation between cognitive functions and neural structures. There is reason to prefer Klein’s approach to that of Price and Friston’s. But Klein’s approach is neurocentric - it assumes that we ought to look solely at neural contexts to fix cognitive ontology. Using recent work on mindreading as a case study, we motivate adopting a radically different approach to cognitive ontology. Promoting the Protean Brain Hypothesis, we posit the possibility that we may need to look beyond the brain when deciding which functions are being performed in acts of cognition and in understanding how the brain contributes to such acts by adapting to circumstance. (shrink)
This paper promotes the view that our childhood engagement with narratives of a certain kind is the basis of sophisticated folk psychological abilities —i.e. it is through such socially scaffolded means that folk psychological skills are normally acquired and fostered. Undeniably, we often use our folk psychological apparatus in speculating about why another may have acted on a particular occasion, but this is at best a peripheral and parasitic use. Our primary understanding and skill in folk psychology derives from and (...) has its primary application in special kinds of second-personal engagements. (shrink)
Radical enactive and embodied approaches to cognitive science oppose the received view in the sciences of the mind in denying that cognition fundamentally involves contentful mental representation. This paper argues that the fate of representationalism in cognitive science matters significantly to how best to understand the extent of cognition. It seeks to establish that any move away from representationalism toward pure, empirical functionalism fails to provide a substantive “mark of the cognitive” and is bereft of other adequate means for individuating (...) cognitive activity. It also argues that giving proper attention to the way the folk use their psychological concepts requires questioning the legitimacy of commonsense functionalism. In place of extended functionalism—empirical or commonsensical—we promote the fortunes of extensive enactivism, clarifying in which ways it is distinct from notions of extended mind and distributed cognition. (shrink)
Much of the difficulty in assessing theories of consciousness stems from their advocates not supplying adequate or convincing characterisations of the phenomenon they hope to explain. Yet, to make any reasonable assessment this is precisely what is required, for it is not as if our ‘pre-theoretical’ intuitions are philosophically innocent. I attempt to reveal, using a recent debate between Chalmers and Dennett as a foil, why, in approaching this topic, we cannot characterise the data purely first-personally or third-personally nor, concomitantly, (...) can we start such investigations using either first-personal or third-personal methods. (shrink)
The Narrative Practice Hypothesis (NPH) is a recently conceived, late entrant into the contest of trying to understand the basis of our mature folk psychological abilities, those involving our capacity to explain ourselves and comprehend others in terms of reasons. This paper aims to clarify its content, importance and scientific plausibility by: distinguishing its conceptual features from those of its rivals, articulating its philosophical significance, and commenting on its empirical prospects. I begin by clarifying the NPH's target explanandum and the (...) challenge it presents to theory theory (TT), simulation theory (ST) and hybrid combinations of these theories. The NPH competes with them directly for the same explanatory space insofar as these theories purport to explain the core structural basis of our folk psychological (FP)-competence (those of the sort famously but not exclusively deployed in acts of third-personal mindreading). (shrink)
Human beings, even very young infants, and members of several other species, exhibit remarkable capacities for attending to and engaging with others. These basic capacities have been the subject of intense research in developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, comparative psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind over the last several decades. Appropriately characterizing the exact level and nature of these abilities and what lies at their basis continues to prove a tricky business. The contributions to this special issue investigate whether and to (...) what extent the exercise of such capacities count as, or are best explained by, a genuine understanding of minds, where such understanding depends on the creatures in question possessing capacities for attributing a range of mental states and their contents in systematic ways. The question that takes center stage is: Do the capacities for attending to and engaging with others in question involve mindreading or is this achieved by other means? In this editorial we will review the state of the debate between mindreading and alternative accounts of social cognition. The issue is organized as follows: the first two papers review the experimental literature on mindreading in primates (Bermúdez) and children (Low & Wang), and the kinds of arguments made for mindreading and alternative accounts of social cognition. The next set of papers (Hedger & Fabricius, Lurz & Krachun, Zawidzki, and de Bruin et al.) further critique the existing experimental data and defend various mindreading and non-mindreading accounts. The final set of papers address further issues raised by phenomenological (Jacob, Zahavi), enactive (Michael), and embodied (Spaulding) accounts of social cognition. (shrink)
Basic Emotion Theory, or BET, has dominated the affective sciences for decades (Ekman, 1972, 1992, 1999; Ekman and Davidson, 1994; Griffiths, 2013; Scarantino and Griffiths, 2011). It has been highly influential, driving a number of empirical lines of research (e.g., in the context of facial expression detection, neuroimaging studies and evolutionary psychology). Nevertheless, BET has been criticized by philosophers, leading to calls for it to be jettisoned entirely (Colombetti, 2014; Hufendiek, 2016). This paper defuses those criticisms. In addition, it shows (...) that we have good reason to retain BET. Finally, it reviews and puts to rest worries that BET’s commitment to affect programs renders it outmoded. We propose that, with minor adjustments, BET can avoid such criticisms when conceived under a radically enactive account of emotions. Thus, rather than leaving BET behind, we show how its basic ideas can be revised, refashioned and preserved. Hence, we conclude, our new BET is still a good bet. (shrink)
Concentrating on their treatment of folk psychology, this paper seeks to establish that, in the form advocated by its leading proponents, the Canberra project is presumptuous in certain key respects. Crucially, it presumes (1) that our everyday practices entail the existence of implicit folk theories; (2) that naturalists ought to be interested primarily in what such theories say; and (3) that the core content of such theories is adequately characterized by establishing what everyone finds intuitively obvious about the topics in (...) question. I argue these presumptions are a bad starting point for any naturalistic project and, more specifically, that in framing things in this way proponents of the Canberra plan have led us unnecessarily into philosophical quagmires. (shrink)
Any adequate account of emotion must accommodate the fact that emotions, even those of the most basic kind, exhibit intentionality as well as phenomenality. This article argues that a good place to start in providing such an account is by adjusting Prinz’s (2004) embodied appraisal theory (EAT) of emotions. EAT appeals to teleosemantics in order to account for the world-directed content of embodied appraisals. Although the central idea behind EAT is essentially along the right lines, as it stands Prinz’s proposal (...) needs tweaking in a number of ways. This article focuses on one—the need to free it from its dependence on teleosemantics. EAT, so modified, becomes compatible with a truly enactivist understanding of basic emotions. (shrink)
: It is almost universally agreed that the main business of commonsense psychology is that of providing generally reliable predictions and explanations of the actions of others. In line with this, it is also generally assumed that we are normally at theoretical remove from others such that we are always ascribing causally efficacious mental states to them for the purpose of prediction, explanation and control. Building on the work of those who regard our primary intersubjective interactions as a form of (...) ‘embodied practice’, I defend a second‐personal approach in this paper. (shrink)
Many psychopathological disorders – clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) – are commonly classified as disorders of the self. In an intuitive sense this sort of classification is unproblematic. There can be no doubt that such disorders make a difference to one’s ability to form and maintain a coherent sense of oneself in various ways. However, any theoretically rigourous attempt to show that they relate to underlying problems with say, such things as minimal selves or, (...) even, so-called narrative selves – where these latter constructs are invoked to do genuine explanatory work – would require, inter alia, philosophical clarification of what it is that one is precisely committed to in talking of such things (if things they be). It would also require justification for believing in selves of these various kinds. I have elsewhere put on record some of my worries about proposed justifications for believing in minimal selves (Hutto 2008b). But – lest I be accused of favouritism – it should be noted that I also have concerns about the very idea of narrative selves. Several authors have made strong claims about the role of narratives in self constitution (e.g. Dennett 1991, Flanagan 1996, Schechtman 1996). Under standard interpretations these proposals are ambiguous, underdeveloped in key respects, embed obvious tensions or generate puzzles. For these reasons I think we should be cautious of lax talk of selves that are woven from narrative cloth. This is not to say that I agree with Strawson (2004) that adopting a narrative perspective might not be essential for being a self (or at least being a self of a certain sort – even an ethically interesting sort).1 It is rather that I think that before we get around to assessing such claims we need a better understanding of just what we are committed to in talking of selves in general. This is a major philosophical programme, and not one with which I will attempt to engage in this paper – not even in passing.. (shrink)
Deciding what role perspicuous representations play in Wittgenstein’s philosophy matters, not only for determining what one thinks of the contributions of this great figure of twentieth century philosophy but also for recognising the ‘live options’ for conducting philosophical enquiries full stop. It is not surprising, given this importance, that perspicuous representations is the topic of the opening chapter of Gordon Baker’s posthumous collection of essays on philosophical method. In that contribution he offers grounds for thinking that the relevant passage in (...) which the notion is explicitly mentioned (cited above) should be read as promoting a strongly therapeutic approach to philosophy: he exposes ‘this possibility’ in the modest hope of persuading receptive readers to explore it further for themselves (see Baker 2004, 46). I endorse some of Baker’s central insights about understanding and use of perspicuous representations but I firmly reject his conclusions about the end of philosophy. Specifically, I agree with him that Wittgenstein set his face against the very idea of philosophical ‘theorising’, but I deny that this led him (or ought to lead anyone) to promote a purely therapeutic philosophy. In the first three sections, I supply reasons for preferring an account of Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy that emphasises its clarificatory ambitions. In doing so, I say something about: (i) what I take perspicuous representations to be and how they function; (ii) what motivates Baker’s reading and its implications; and (iii) how perspicuous and other forms of representations have been misused in attempts at so-called philosophical theorising. I conclude by proposing that in steering clear of both theory and extreme therapy, it is possible to prosecute a positive philosophy – one that employs perspicuous representations to bring ‘relevant connections’ to light for the purposes of enabling us to understand and reflect on aspects of various domains of human being. (shrink)
Enactivists seek to revolutionize the new sciences of the mind. In doing so, they promote adopting a thoroughly anti-intellectualist starting point, one that sees mentality as rooted in engaged, embodied activity as opposed to detached forms of thought. In advocating the so-called embodied turn, enactivists touch on recurrent themes of central importance in Wittgenstein's later philosophy. More than this, today's enactivists characterize the nature of minds and how they fundamentally relate to the world in ways that not only echo but (...) fully agree with many of the later Wittgenstein's trademark philosophical remarks on the same topics. (shrink)
Colombo (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2012) argues that we have compelling reasons to posit neural representations because doing so yields unique explanatory purchase in central cases of social norm compliance. We aim to show that there is no positive substance to Colombo’s plea—nothing that ought to move us to endorse representationalism in this domain, on any level. We point out that exposing the vices of the phenomenological arguments against representationalism does not, on its own, advance the case for representationalism (...) one inch—beyond establishing its mere possibility. We criticize the continual confounding of constitutive and explanatory claims and the lack of recognition of a Hard Problem of having to provide a naturalistic account of content, coupled with an inability to face up to it. We point at the inadequacy of various deflationary moves that end up driving representationalists towards the idea of neural representations with non-standard contents or without content altogether, both of which either render neural representationalism unfit for purpose or vacuous. Referring to possibilities for neural manipulation and control, or to established scientific practice does not help representationalism either. (shrink)
This paper shows how a radical approach to enactivism provides a way of clarifying and unifying different varieties of enactivism and enactivist-friendly approaches so as to provide a genuine alternative to classical cognitivism. Section 1 reminds readers of the broad church character of the enactivism framework. Section 2 explicates how radical enactivism is best understood not as a kind of enactivism per se but as a programme for radicalizing and consolidating the many different enactivist offerings. The main work of radical (...) enactivism is to RECtify, existing varieties of enactivism and other cognate approaches so as to strengthen and unify them into a single collective that can rival classical ways of thinking about mind and cognition. Section 3 shows how even seemingly non-enactivist explanatory offerings—such as predictive processing accounts of cognition—might be RECtified and brought within the enactivist explanatory fold. Section 4 reveals why, once RECtified, enactivist offerings, broadly conceived, qualify as genuine and revolutionary alternatives to classical ways of understanding cognition. (shrink)
What is the true worth of Wittgenstein's contribution to philosophy? Answers to this question are strongly divided. However, most assessments rest on certain popular misreadings of his purpose. This book challenges both "theoretical" and "therapeutic" interpretations. In their place, it seeks to establish that, from beginning to end, Wittgenstein regarded clarification as the true end of philosophy. It argues that, properly understood, his approach exemplifies rather than betrays critical philosophy and provides a viable alternative to other contemporary offerings.
Context: Neurophenomenology, as formulated by Varela, offers an approach to the science of consciousness that seeks to get beyond the hard problem of consciousness. There is much to admire in the practical approach to the science of consciousness that neurophenomenology advocates. Problem: Even so, this article argues, the metaphysical commitments of the enterprise require a firmer foundation. The root problem is that neurophenomenology, as classically formulated by Varela, endorses a form of non-reductionism that, despite its ambitions, assumes rather than dissolves (...) the hard problem of consciousness. We expose that neurophenomenology is not a natural solution to that problem. We defend the view that whatever else neurophenomenology might achieve, it cannot close the gap between the phenomenal and the physical if there is no such gap to close. Method: Building on radical enactive and embodied approaches to cognitive science that deny that the phenomenal and the physical are metaphysically distinct, this article shows that the only way to deal properly with the hard problem is by denying the metaphysical distinction between the physical and the phenomenal that gives the hard problem life. Results: This article concludes by discussing how neurophenomenology might be reformulated under the auspices of a radically enactive and embodied account of cognition. That is, only by denying that there are two distinct phenomena - the physical and the phenomenal - can the neurophenomenological project get on with addressing its pragmatic problems of showing how neuroscientists may be guided by first-person data in their analysis of third-person experimental data, and vice versa. Implications: The topic addressed in this article is of direct value to consciousness studies in general and specifically for the project of neurophenomenology. If the neurophenomenological project is to deal with the hard problem, it must denude itself of its non-reductionist background assumption and embrace a strict identity thesis. Constructivist content: Radical enactive and embodied approaches to mind and consciousness adopt a view of consciousness as a dynamic activity - something an organism enacts in ongoing engagement with its environment. These approaches therefore share with constructivist approaches an action-based view of mind. (shrink)
New and radically reformative thinking about the enactive and embodied basis of cognition holds out the promise of moving forward age-old debates about whether we learn and how we learn. The radical enactive, embodied view of cognition (REC) poses a direct, and unmitigated, challenge to the trademark assumptions of traditional cognitivist theories of mind—those that characterize cognition as always and everywhere grounded in the manipulation of contentful representations of some kind. REC has had some success in understanding how sports skills (...) and expertise are acquired. But, REC approaches appear to encounter a natural obstacle when it comes to understanding skill acquisition in knowledge-rich, conceptually based domains like the hard sciences and mathematics. This paper offers a proof of concept that REC’s reach can be usefully extended into the domain of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning, especially when it comes to understanding the deep roots of such learning. In making this case, this paper has five main parts. The section “Ancient Intellectualism and the REC Challenge” briefly introduces REC and situates it with respect to rival views about the cognitive basis of learning. The “Learning REConceived: from Sports to STEM?” section outlines the substantive contribution REC makes to understanding skill acquisition in the domain of sports and identifies reasons for doubting that it will be possible to apply the same approach to knowledge-rich STEM domains. The “Mathematics as Embodied Practice” section gives the general layout for how to understand mathematics as an embodied practice. The section “The Importance of Attentional Anchors” introduces the concept “attentional anchor” and establishes why attentional anchors are important to educational design in STEM domains like mathematics. Finally, drawing on some exciting new empirical studies, the section “Seeing Attentional Anchors” demonstrates how REC can contribute to understanding the roots of STEM learning and inform its learning design, focusing on the case of mathematics. (shrink)
This commentary raises a question about the target article's proposed explanation of what goes on when we think through other minds. It highlights a tension between non-mindreading characterizations of everyday social cognition and the individualist, cognitivist assumptions that target article's explanatory proposal inherits from the predictive processing framework it favours.
Leemon McHenry has recently written an article which aims "to evaluate the plausibility of Bradley's conception of metaphysics" (McHenry, 1996, p. 159). In the process of this evaluation he draws an important distinction between two kinds of metaphysical project, which he labels "'pure' and 'naturalized' metaphysics" (McHenry, 1996, p. 159). In McHenry's terms, the pure metaphysician approaches his task by appeal to 'pure thinking' alone. Although he defines the method of pure metaphysicians as being a priori in character he is (...) content to put Bradley among their ranks despite this, on the grounds that the latter is concerned to produce a metaphysical account that is "uncontaminated by the results of the empirical sciences" (McHenry, 1996, p. 160). This is contrasted directly with the aim of the naturalised metaphysician who employs the theories of modern science as a general guide to a metaphysics (McHenry, 1996. p. 161) (1). (shrink)
This chapter argues that the conceptual problem of other minds cannot be properly addressed as long as we subscribe to an individualistic model of how we stand in relation to our own experiences and the behaviour of others. For it is commitment to this picture that sponsors the strong first/third person divide that lies at the heart of the two false accounts of experiential concept learning sketched above. This is the true source of the problem. To deal successfully with it (...) we must reconsider our assumptions about the way in which we learn our concepts of experience, self and other, and the order in which we do so. Specifically, we must recognize the intersubjective character of the learning process and we must abandon the idea that we gain a secure grasp of the self/other dichotomy prior to learning our concepts of experience. Focusing on these issues allows us to understand the asymmetrical nature of such concepts. In order to bring these points into sharp relief, the next section is devoted to reviewing the major features of Brewer’s approach to the very same problem in his contribution to this volume, ‘Emotion and Other Minds’. Although his proposal makes some moves in the right direction, I argue that he does not go far enough. In particular, in focusing exclusively on demonstrative reference, he fails to challenge crucial aspects of the individualistic model that are responsible for generating the problem. Still, using his work as a springboard, it becomes clear exactly which fundamental assumptions need to be revised if we are to understand the context in which we learn our psychological concepts. (shrink)
This paper explores the idea that when dealing with certain kinds of narratives, ‘like it or not’, consumers of fiction will bring the same sorts of skills (or at least a subset of them) to bear that they use when dealing with actual minds. Let us call this the ‘Same Resources Thesis’. I believe the ‘Same Resources Thesis’ is true. But this is because I defend the view that engaging in narrative practices is the normal developmental route through which children (...) acquire the capacity to make sense of what it is to act for a reason. If so, narratives are what provide crucial resources for dealing with actual minds – at least those of a certain sophisticated sort. I argue however that to the extent that we mindread at all, it is likely that we – i.e. those with the appropriate linguistically scaffolded abilities to make mental attributions – rely on our basic mind minding capacities to do so. So theory only comes into play when we mind guess, but theory of mind doesn’t come into it at all, neither when we deal with actual or fictional minds. (shrink)
In the action-space account of color, an emphasis is laid on implicit knowledge when it comes to experience, and explanatory ambitions are expressed. If the knowledge claims are interpreted in a strong way, the action-space account becomes a form of conservative enactivism, which is a kind of cognitivism. Only if the knowledge claims are weakly interpreted, the action space-account can be seen as a distinctive form of enactivism, but then all reductive explanatory ambitions must be abandoned.
In his contribution to this volume, Avrum Stroll makes the assertion that there is ‘a feature of [Wittgenstein's] later philosophy that occurs only in On Certainty. This is a unique form of foundationalism that is neither doxastic nor non-doxastic' (Stroll, this volume, p. 2). He also holds that Wittgenstein’s increased attention to metaphorical language in explicating this foundationalism is yet another feature that sets it apart from the rest of his corpus. I raise doubts about appealing to either of these (...) aspects as a rationale for identifying a third Wittgenstein. I argue that Wittgenstein's commitment to foundationalism – to the extent we should recognise it at all – and his concern with the non-literal are not unprecedented; they are present in his earliest writings. (shrink)
Folk psychology is under threat - that is to say - our everyday conception that human beings are agents who experience the world in terms of sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings and who deliberate, make plans, and generally execute actions on the basis of their beliefs, needs and wants - is under threat. This threat is evidenced in intellectual circles by the growing attitude amongst some cognitive scientists that our common sense categories are in competition with connectionist theories and (...) modern neuroscience. It is often thought that either folk psychology or modern cognitive science must go. It is in these terms that the battle lines of today’s philosophy of mind are drawn. (shrink)
This commentary will seek to clarify certain core features of Thompson’s proposal about the enactive nature of basic mentality, as best it can, and to bring his ideas into direct conversation with accounts of basic cognition of the sort favoured by analytical philosophers of mind and more traditional cognitive scientists – i.e. those who tend to be either suspicious or critical of enactive/embodied approaches (to the extent that they confess to understanding them at all). My proposed way of opening up (...) this sort of dialogue is to concentrate on the close similarities between Thompson’s biologically-based proposal about non-representational forms of basic cognition and what I take to be a reasonable modification to the ambitions of teleosemantic theories of content. Insofar as today’s theories of mental representation are less concerned to understand content in properly semantic terms they are moving ever closer to the sorts of account proposed by enactivists of the Thompsonian stripe – close enough to have meaningful debates about the nature of basic mentality. It is against this backdrop that I put a spotlight on the true promise and value of enactivism, providing some compelling reasons for wanting to go Thompson’s way. (shrink)
In his paper "Wittgenstein and Idealism" Professor Williams proposed a 'model' for reading Wittgenstein's later philosophy which he claimed exposed its transcendental idealist character. By this he roughly meant that Wittgenstein's later position was idealistic to the extent that it disallowed the possibility of there being any independent reality that was not contaminated by our view things. And he thought it was transcendental in the sense that 'our view of things' is not something that we can explain or can locate (...) in the world. I argue that even if we accept Williams' interpretation of Wittgenstein it does not follow that the latter sponsored any form of transcendental idealism. I make this case in several stages and on two different platforms. Firstly, I give a brief description of the underlying basis of Williams' interpretation. Secondly, I defend the general thrust of it against a critique which issued from Malcolm. Finally, I argue that the views ascribed to Wittgenstein by Williams do not make him into a transcendental idealist. On the one hand, this case is made by showing that there is a non-trivial resemblance between Williams' Wittgenstein and Donald Davidson who is a self-styled realist. On the other hand, I set out exegetical reasons for thinking that if the continuity that Williams sees between the Tractatus and the later writings actually exists then it provides reason in itself not to regard Wittgenstein as an idealist. (shrink)
The emergence of cognitive science as a multi-disciplinary investigation into the nature of mind has historically revolved around the core assumption that the central ‘cognitive’ aspects of mind are computational in character. Although there is some disagreement and philosophical speculation concerning the precise formulation of this ‘core assumption’ it is generally agreed that computationalism in some form lies at the heart of cognitive science as it is currently conceived. Von Eckardt’s recent work on this topic is useful in enabling us (...) to get a sense of the scope of the computational assumption. She makes clear that there are two rather different ways in which we could understand cognitive science’s commitment to computationalism and hence two ways to understand the claim that the ‘mind is a computer’, by appeal to either (1) A mathematical theory of computability or (2) A theory of data-processing or informationprocessing. Importantly, she also argues that although there are many aspects of claim that the ‘mind is a computer’ that can be nicely captured by Boyd’s account of the way scientific metaphors are employed, not to direct attention to the hitherto unnoticed, but to encourage investigation of the unknown. Nonetheless, cognitive scientists are not making the claim that the ‘mind is a computer’ in a metaphorical sense. If Von Eckhardt is correct, when cognitive scientists assume the ‘mind is a computer’ and give a sense to the notion of the computer in the sense of (2) above, they are making a literal claim about the nature of mind (Von Eckardt, 1993, p. 116). And as she points out that if one reads (2) in a theoretically committed way then there is no a priori reason to exclude the organic brain from the list of entities that might fall under the description of being a ‘computer’. Important, we can truly describe it as a data-processing (or information-processing) device. What is useful about Von Eckardt’s general analysis of computationalism’s core assumption is that it provides a clear angle from which to view the flaws of computationalism. This paper defends the claim that if there is an account of information adequate to capture those aspects of mind that we regard as essential to mentality it is one that requires us to surrender the idea that the mind is a computer.. (shrink)
The human world is replete with narratives – narratives of our making that are uniquely appreciated by us. Some thinkers have afforded special importance to our capacity to generate such narratives, seeing it as variously enabling us to: exercise our imaginations in unique ways; engender an understanding of actions performed for reasons; and provide a basis for the kind of reflection and evaluation that matters vitally to moral and self development. Perhaps most radically, some hold that narratives are essential for (...) the constitution of human selves. This volume brings together nine original contributions in which the individual authors advance, develop and challenge proposals of these kinds. They critically examine the place and importance of narratives in human lives and consider the underlying capacities that permit us to produce and utilise these special artifacts. All of the papers are written in a non-technical and accessible style. (shrink)
We address some frequently encountered criticisms of Radical Embodied/Enactive Cognition. Contrary to the claims that the position is too radical, or not sufficiently so, we claim REC is just radical enough.
This is a reply to Hutchinson, P. and Read, R. “An Elucidatory Interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: Critique of Daniel D. Hutto’s and Marie McGinn’s Reading of Tractatus 6.54″. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 14(1) 2006: 1-29. A further reply from Hutchinson, P.”Unsinnig: A Reply to Hutto” is also forthcoming.
De Jaegher’s (2009) paper argues that Gallagher, who aims to replace traditional theory-of-mind accounts of social understanding with accounts based on direct perception (hereafter DP), has missed an important opportunity. Despite a desire to break faith with tradition, there is a danger that proponents of DP accounts will remain (at least tacitly) committed to an unchallenged, and perhaps unnoticed, sort of individualism inherent in traditional theories (i.e. those that regard our engagement with others as a ‘problem’ to be solved: a (...) problem of other minds). Taking a more root and branch approach, De Jaegher recommends a complete shift of focus. She proposes that a more thoroughgoing and fruitful response to traditional approaches must attend to, and seek to understand, interactional phenomena proper—for it is the nature of interactions themselves that importantly influence individuals. Hence, it is the processes of interacting which ‘span individuals’ and their specific, dynamic evolution over time that should take pride of place in research into social cognition. De Jaegher wants to put interactional processes – those that can ‘take on life of their own’ and ‘influence interactors’ – at the heart of enquiries into intersubjectivity. Citing other recent work she has done with Di Paolo, she bills this as ‘‘the central task of any account of intersubjectivity” (De Jaegher, 2009, p. 2; De Jaegher & Di Paolo, 2007). The trouble is that this way of putting matters can make it look as if there is just one task facing researchers in this area; that we are faced with an either/or choice. But it is clear that any fully illuminated understanding of interactional phenomena will require accounts of what individuals and their sub-personal processes/mechanisms are doing in this larger process and, presumably, how their mechanisms/tendencies of response constrain and shape local bouts of interacting, even if we assume it is the dynamics of such encounters that importantly influence and shape what comes next.. (shrink)
This paper builds on the insights of Jerome Bruner by underlining the central importance of narratives explaining actions in terms of reasons, arguing that by giving due attention to the central roles that they play in our everyday understanding of others provides a better way of explicating the nature and source of that activity than does simulation theory, theory-theory or some union of the two. However, although I promote Bruner's basic claims about the roles narratives play in this everyday enterprise, (...) I take issue with his characterization of the nature of narrative itself. In so doing, important questions are brought to the fore about what makes our understanding of narratives possible. In line with the idea that we ought to tell a developmental story that looks to the social arena for the source of narratives about reasons, I promote the idea that what is minimally required for becoming conversant in such everyday narratives need not be anything as sophisticated as a theory of mind or a capacity for simulation. The paper concludes using evidence concerning autism as a test case to help support this conclusion. (shrink)
This paper explicates how we might positively understand the distinctive, nonconceptual experience of our own actions and experiences by drawing on insights from a radically enactive take on phenomenal experience. We defend a late-developing relationalism about the emergence of explicit, conceptually based self-awareness, proposing that the latter develops in tandem with the mastery of self-reflective narrative practices. Focusing on the case of human newborns, Sect. 1 reviews and rejects claims that the capacities of actors to keep track of aspects of (...) themselves—e.g. their bodies, body parts, movements, activities, actions and experiences—when coordinating what they do equates to or is best explained by positing minimal, tacit awareness of their experiences as their own. Section 2 then considers and resists more familiar arguments, based on the so-called reflexivity thesis, that take such minimal self-awareness to be implied wherever there is any kind of phenomenal experience. In place of these ideas, we promote an alternative proposal of what is involved when agents keep track of aspects of themselves, drawing on a radically enactive conception of basic experience. Section 3 concludes by proposing that our first conceptual, explicit sense of self is something that only arrives on the scene once we become able to hold our own—through the support of others—in discursive, narrative practices that give us a conceptual grip on what it is to be a temporally extended self that persists over time. (shrink)