This paper considers questions about continuity and discontinuity between life and mind. It begins by examining such questions from the perspective of the free energy principle (FEP). The FEP is becoming increasingly influential in neuroscience and cognitive science. It says that organisms act to maintain themselves in their expected biological and cognitive states, and that they can do so only by minimizing their free energy given that the long-term average of free energy is entropy. The paper then argues that there (...) is no singular interpretation of the FEP for thinking about the relation between life and mind. Some FEP formulations express what we call an independence view of life and mind. One independence view is a cognitivist view of the FEP. It turns on information processing with semantic content, thus restricting the range of systems capable of exhibiting mentality. Other independence views exemplify what we call an overly generous non-cognitivist view of the FEP, and these appear to go in the opposite direction. That is, they imply that mentality is nearly everywhere. The paper proceeds to argue that non-cognitivist FEP, and its implications for thinking about the relation between life and mind, can be usefully constrained by key ideas in recent enactive approaches to cognitive science. We conclude that the most compelling account of the relationship between life and mind treats them as strongly continuous, and that this continuity is based on particular concepts of life (autopoiesis and adaptivity) and mind (basic and non-semantic). (shrink)
There is a growing realization in cognitive science that a theory of embodied intersubjectivity is needed to better account for social cognition. We highlight some challenges that must be addressed by attempts to interpret ‘simulation theory’ in terms of embodiment, and argue for an alternative approach that integrates phenomenology and dynamical systems theory in a mutually informing manner. Instead of ‘simulation’ we put forward the concept of the ‘extended body’, an enactive and phenomenological notion that emphasizes the socially mediated nature (...) of embodiment. To illustrate the explanatory potential of this approach, we replicate an agent-based model of embodied social interaction. An analysis of the model demonstrates that the extended body can be explained in terms of mutual dynamical entanglement: inter-bodily resonance between individuals can give rise to self-sustaining interaction patterns that go beyond the behavioral capacities of isolated individuals by modulating their intra-bodily conditions of behavior generation. (shrink)
Is an individual agent constitutive of or constituted by its social interactions? This question is typically not asked in the cognitive sciences, so strong is the consensus that only individual agents have constitutive efficacy. In this article we challenge this methodological solipsism and argue that interindividual relations and social context do not simply arise from the behavior of individual agents, but themselves enable and shape the individual agents on which they depend. For this, we define the notion of autonomy as (...) both a characteristic of individual agents and of social interaction processes. We then propose a number of ways in which interactional autonomy can influence individuals. Then we discuss recent work in modeling on the one hand and psychological investigations on the other that support and illustrate this claim. Finally, we discuss some implications for research on social and individual agency. (shrink)
We argue that progress in our scientific understanding of the `social mind' is hampered by a number of unfounded assumptions. We single out the widely shared assumption that social behavior depends solely on the capacities of an individual agent. In contrast, both developmental and phenomenological studies suggest that the personal-level capacity for detached `social cognition' (conceived as a process of theorizing about and/or simulating another mind) is a secondary achievement that is dependent on more immediate processes of embodied social interaction. (...) We draw on the enactive approach to cognitive science to further clarify this strong notion of `social interaction' in theoretical terms. In addition, we indicate how this interaction theory (IT) could eventually be formalized with the help of a dynamical systems perspective on the interaction process, especially by making use of evolutionary robotics modeling. We conclude that bringing together the methods and insights of developmental, phenomenological, enactive and dynamical approaches to social interaction can provide a promising framework for future research. Keywords: theory of mind; cognitive science; phenomenology; embodied cognition; dynamical systems theory; enactive approach; social cognition; interaction theory; evolutionary robotics. (shrink)
The invention of the computer has revolutionized science. With respect to finding the essential structures of life, for example, it has enabled scientists not only to investigate empirical examples, but also to create and study novel hypothetical variations by means of simulation: ‘life as it could be’. We argue that this kind of research in the field of artificial life, namely the specification, implementation and evaluation of artificial systems, is akin to Husserl’s method of free imaginative variation as applied to (...) the specific regional ontology of biology. Thus, at a time when the clarification of the essence of our biological embodiment is of growing interest for phenomenology, we suggest that artificial life should be seen as a method of externalizing some of the insurmountable complexity of imaginatively varying the phenomenon of life. (shrink)
The life–mind continuity thesis holds that mind is prefigured in life and that mind belongs to life. The biggest challenge faced by proponents of this thesis is to show how an explanatory framework that accounts for basic biological processes can be systematically extended to incorporate the highest reaches of human cognition. We suggest that this apparent ‘cognitive gap’ between minimal and human forms of life appears insurmountable largely because of the methodological individualism that is prevalent in cognitive science. Accordingly, a (...) twofold strategy is used to show how a consideration of sociality can address both sides of the cognitive gap: (1) it is argued from a systemic perspective that inter-agent interactions can extend the behavioral domain of even the simplest agents and (2) it is argued from a phenomenological perspective that the cognitive attitude characteristic of adult human beings is essentially intersubjectively constituted, in particular with respect to the possibility of perceiving objects as detached from our own immediate concerns. These two complementary considerations of the constitutive role of inter-agent interactions for mind and cognition indicate that sociality is an indispensable element of the life–mind continuity thesis and of cognitive science more generally. (shrink)
Whether collective agency is a coherent concept depends on the theory of agency that we choose to adopt. We argue that the enactive theory of agency developed by Barandiaran, Di Paolo and Rohde (2009) provides a principled way of grounding agency in biological organisms. However the importance of biological embodiment for the enactive approach might lead one to be skeptical as to whether artificial systems or collectives of individuals could instantiate genuine agency. To explore this issue we contrast the concept (...) of collective agency with multi-agent systems and multi-system agents, and argue that genuinely collective agents instantiate agency at both the collective level and at the level of the component parts. Developing the enactive model, we propose understanding agency – both at the level of the individual and of the collective – as spectra that are constituted by dimensions that vary across time. Finally, we consider whether collectives that are not merely metaphorically ‘agents’ but rather are genuinely agentive also instantiate subjectivity at the collective level. We propose that investigations using the perceptual crossing paradigm suggest that a shared lived perspective can indeed emerge but this should not be conflated with a collective first-person perspective, for which material integration in a living body may be required. (shrink)
Synthetic approaches to social interaction support the development of a second-person neuroscience. Agent-based models and psychological experiments can be related in a mutually informing manner. Models have the advantage of making the nonlinear brainenvironmentbrain system as a whole accessible to analysis by dynamical systems theory. We highlight some general principles of how social interaction can partially constitute an individual's behavior.
In important ways, Clark's (HPM) approach parallels the research agenda we have been pursuing. Nevertheless, we remain unconvinced that the HPM offers the best clue yet to the shape of a unified science of mind and action. The apparent convergence of research interests is offset by a profound divergence of theoretical starting points and ideal goals.
An important part of David Hume’s work is his attempt to put the natural sciences on a firmer foundation by introducing the scientific method into the study of human nature. This investigation resulted in a novel understanding of the mind, which in turn informed Hume’s critical evaluation of the scope and limits of the scientific method as such. However, while these latter reflections continue to influence today’s philosophy of science, his theory of mind is nowadays mainly of interest in terms (...) of philosophical scholarship. This paper aims to show that, even though Hume’s recognition in the cognitive sciences has so far been limited, there is an opportunity to reevaluate his work in the context of more recent scientific developments. In particular, it is argued that we can gain a better understanding of his overall philosophy by tracing the ongoing establishment of the enactive approach. In return, this novel interpretation of Hume’s ‘science of man’ is used as the basis for a consideration of the current and future status of the cognitive sciences. (shrink)
There exists a venerable tradition of interdisciplinary research into the origins and development of Paleolithic cave painting. In recent years this research has begun to be inflected by rapid advances in measurement techniques that are delivering chronological data with unprecedented accuracy. Patterns are emerging from the accumulating evidence whose precise interpretation demands corresponding advances in theory. It seems that cave painting went through several transitions, beginning with the creation of simple lines, dots and disks, followed by hand stencils, then by (...) outlined figures, and finally by naturalistic figures. So far the most systematic evidence comes from Europe, although there are also indications that this sequence could be a universal pattern. The shamanic hypothesis provides a useful theoretical starting point because of its emphasis on the role of performance and phenomenology in the creative process. However, it still tends to reduce this sequence to mere stylistic and thematic changes that were external products of an already fully formed modern mind. Here I show how key insights from semiotics and material engagement theory can advance this explanatory framework to the extent that we become able to postdict the major transitions in the chronology of Paleolithic cave painting. An intriguing implication is that this is at the same time a chronology of cognitive changes, namely from a performative-phenomenological to a reflective-representational mind. (shrink)
In sociology, there has been a controversy about whether there is any essential difference between a human being and a tool, or if the tool–user relationship can be defined by co-actor symmetry. This issue becomes more complex when we consider examples of AI and robots, and even more so following progress in the development of various bio-machine hybrid technologies, such as robots that include organic parts, human brain implants, and adaptive prosthetics. It is argued that a concept of autonomous agency (...) based on organismic embodiment helps to clarify the situation. On this view, agency consists of an asymmetrical relationship between an organism and its environment, because the continuous metabolic and regulatory activity of the organism gives rise to its own existence, and hence its specific behavioral domain. Accordingly, most of current technologies are excluded from the class of autonomous agents. Instead, they are better conceptualized as interfaces that mediate our interactions with the world. This has important implications for design: Rather than trying to help humans to achieve their goals by duplicating their agency in artificial systems, it would be better to empower humans directly by enhancing their existing agency and lived experience with technological interfaces that can be incorporated into their embodiment. This incorporation might be especially facilitated by bio-machine hybrid technology that is designed according the principles of biological autonomy and multi-agent coordination dynamics. (shrink)
[Przekład] W artykule tym opowiadam się za zunifikowaną kognitywistyką, przyjmując dla swej argumentacji niecodzienny punkt wyjścia: stanowisko określane czasem jako „teza o kontinuum życia-umysłu”. Zamiast więc traktować jako pewnik powszechnie akceptowane założenia początkowe, a następnie proponować odpowiedzi na pewne dobrze określone pytania, muszę najpierw dowieść, że koncepcja kontinuum życia-umysłu może w ogóle stanowić właściwy punkt startowy. Zacznę zatem od oceny pojęciowych narzędzi, odpowiednich do budowania teorii umysłu na tej podstawie. Czerpiąc spostrzeżenia z wielu różnych dziedzin – szczególnie z połączenia egzystencjalistycznej (...) fenomenologii ze skoncentrowaną na organizmie biologią – dowodzę, że można pojmować umysł jako zakorzeniony w życiu, ale tylko wtedy, gdy równocześnie zgodzimy się, że interakcja społeczna gra konstytutywną rolę w naszych zdolnościach poznawczych. (shrink)
The ever-increasing precision of brain measurement brings with it a demand for more reliable and fine-grained measures of conscious experience. However, introspection has long been assumed to be too limited and fallible. This skepticism is primarily based on a series of classic psychological experiments, which suggested that more is seen than can be retrospectively reported , and that we can be easily fooled into retrospectively describing intentional choices that we have never made . However, the work by Petitmengin, Remillieux, Cahour, (...) and Carter-Thomas could resolve this dilemma. They showed that subjects can be interactively guided to become better aware of their past experience, thereby overturning the “choice blindness” results of Johansson et al. . Although some more fine-tuning of the experimental protocol is needed, interactively guided introspection may well become the most reliable and exhaustive measure of consciousness. (shrink)