Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maturana and Varela on Cognitive Systems

A cognitive system is a system whose organization defines a domain of interactions in which it can act with relevance to the maintenance of itself, and the process of cognition is the actual (inductive) acting or behaving in this domain.  Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition.  This statement is valid for all organisms, with and without a nervous system. 
(Maturana & Varela, 1980, p. 13).
I don't think M&V are speaking my language here.  Plants are cognitive systems?

(This also looks to be at odds with Chemero's account, which is apparently limited to animals and which invokes perception and action.  But, I've not read Chemero's account of perception and action in RECS.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oops. So, A&A did talk about a definition of the cognitive

Doing a word search over Bounds I found the following:
One way to think about our strategy for demarcating cognitive from non-cognitive processes is to begin with paradigms of cognitive processing, those involving normal humans.  We have been drawing on features of human cognition as a first step towards demarcating the cognitive from the non-cognitive.  But, surely the category of the cognitive encompasses more than this.  Surely a definition of the cognitive exclusively in terms of normal human cognition is too parochial. (Bounds, p. 70).
It would have been better to write "account" rather than "definition" in that last sentence.

So, against this.  There is no use of "definition" in Adams and Aizawa, (2001), and the following disclaimers in Bounds.
In Chapters 3 and 4, we develop and defend in more detail our positive approach to the mark of the cognitive, namely, that cognitive processes differ from non-cognitive processes in terms of the kinds of mechanisms that operate on non-derived representations.  We offer this as part of a theory of the cognitive, rather than as (part of) a definition of the term “cognitive.”  We do not mean to stipulate that this is just what we mean by “cognition.”   (Adams & Aizawa, 2008, pp. 12-13) 

Here we think it is perfectly reasonable for us to stand by the view that these Martian representational states are not cognitive states.  We have a theory of what cognition involves.  The Martians in Clark’s thought experiment do not satisfy the conditions of that theory.  So we must either reject the hypothesis that the Martians have cognitive processing or the hypothesis that cognition involves non-derived representations.  Why can we not rationally choose to stand by our theory?  Our theory is an empirical conjecture about the nature of cognition, not a definition of cognition.  Thus, future scientific developments could undermine our theory and force revisions.  Or, our theory could turn out to be so successful and well-confirmed that we determine that Martians are not cognizers. (Adams & Aizawa, 2008, p. 49)

In this chapter we have offered an empirical hypothesis concerning what all cognitive processes have in common, namely, that they all involve non-derived representations.  We do not take this to be part of a definition of the cognitive.  Nor do we mean to stipulate what we shall mean by the word “cognitive.”  (Adams & Aizawa, 2008, p. 55)

Evidently, the dispute must be joined by a substantive theory of the cognitive.  This is why we offer the conjecture that cognitive processes involve non-derived representations that are embedded within (largely unknown) cognitive mechanisms.  This is not a definition of the cognitive, let alone a stipulative definition of the cognitive.  It is a theory that we think is implicitly at work in a lot of cognitive psychological research.  (Adams & Aizawa, 2008, p. 84)
So, there is a little infelicity.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Hypothesis of Extended Active Maintenance Cognition

In Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, Chemero writes "I take it that cognition is the ongoing, active maintenance of a robust animal-environment system, achieved by closely co-ordinated perception and action." (fn #8, p. 212).

This, of course, allows us to frame what we might call the hypothesis of extended active maintenance cognition
(HEAMC):  Active maintenance cognition (sometimes?) extends beyond the boundaries of the brain into the body and physical world.

Now, we have something to talk about.  We can begin to explore, for example, what relation there might be between (HEFC), (HESC), and (HEAMC).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Hypothesis of Extended Folk Cognition

In Supersizing the Mind, (p. 88), Clark suggests that he thinks that it is a kind of "commonsense functionalism" that is supposed to extend.  So, we might draw a distinction between a view (HEFC) which maintains that folk cognition extends from the brain into the body and world and a view (HESC) which maintains that scientific cognition extends from the brain into the body and world.

Then, one might say that it’s fine if there is extended folk cognition.  That leaves cognitive psychology free to continue as before, studying intracranial cognition. Why should scientific cognitive psychology care any more about folk cognition than physicists care about folk physics?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Author Meets Critics on Rupert's "Extended Cognition and the Extended Mind"

102nd Meeting of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology
April 15-17, 2010
Westin Peachtree
Atlanta, GA

Saturday Afternoon                  International D
2:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.           

Book Symposium on Rob Rupert’s Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind

Chair: Kristofer Rhodes, University of California, Irvine

2:30    Colin Klein, University of Illinois, Chicago
Integration, Invariance, and Rupert's System-Based Approach to Demarcation
    Commentator: Rob Rupert, University of Colorado

3:30    Ken Aizawa, Centenary College of Louisiana
    Rupert’s Extended Cognition
    Commentator: Rob Rupert, University of Colorado

Friday, March 26, 2010

Does Cognitivism Beg the EC Question? II

It is, of course, true that many advocates of extended cognition reject cognitivism.  See, for example, Haugeland (1999), Thompson (2007), Wallace (2007), and Gomila and Calvo (2008).  Yet, the fact that there is this disagreement does not mean that an appeal to cognitivism in making a case against extended cognition begs the question against extended cognition.  One begs the question when one assumes, without argument, what one is trying to prove.  But, cognitivism isn’t assumed without argument in Bounds.  The case for cognitivism lies in its success in explaining various features of cognition.   Were the mere existence of different views of P sufficient to guarantee that one side or the other is begging the question, then every debate would have to involve begging the question.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is Rupert Doing Conceptual Analysis?

In his recent NDPR review of Rupert's Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind, Wilson rejects the search for a "mark of the cognitive" roughly on the grounds that it is a bit of conceptual analysis, hence that the search a dubious enterprise.  (Wilson's text below the fold.)

But, when Rupert cites such things as the "generation effect" in order to argue that Otto's notebook does not constitute memory, it does not look like Rupert is doing conceptual analysis.  That normal human memory displays a generation effect is an empirical discovery.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

There is no "mark of the cognitive"

So says Chemero.  Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, fn#8, p. 212.  But, what, more precisely, does this rejection amount to?

Does it mean that there is no difference between cognitive processes and non-cognitive processes?

Or does it merely mean that the difference cannot be defined?
Or does it merely mean that the difference cannot be spelled out in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions?
Or does it mean that there is no theory of the difference at all?
Or does it mean that we have no theory of the difference at this time?
Or what?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Is giving a "Mark of the Cognitive" supposed to be defining "cognition"

In fn #8, p. 212, of Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, Chemero writes,
"Adams and Aizawa (2008) argue that defenders of the sort of view of cognition that I am defending here need to give a definition of 'cognition'".

I don't think A&A ever mention a need to define "cognition" and at one point we were pretty explicit about not defining "cognition" ourselves.  (See below the fold.)  For A&A, giving a "mark of the cognitive" is not meant to be defining "cognition".

In fact, if one reads through the remainder of Chemero's footnote, one finds Chemero using something like the meta-theory A&A use to specify how they distinguish cognitive processes from non-cognitive processes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Extended Cognition and Anderson's Embodied Cognition

Anderson (2005) claims that his embodied cognition approach foregrounds six ideas about cognition and evolution. To paraphrase, these ideas are that cognition has an evolutionary history, that cognition is an adaptation to specific environments in conjunction with specific organismal and environmental features, and that it builds on preexisting behaviors, instincts, needs, and purposes. Any debate over this version of embodied cognition seems to be orthogonal to the debates over the bounds of cognition.  So, for example, why not think that for most of history cognitive processing has taken place only in the central nervous system, but that that cognitive processing has an evolutionary history, that it is an adaptation, and that it builds on the pre-existing?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Does Cognitivism Beg the EC Question? I

Adams and I maintain that cognitive processes are a species of symbol manipulation in which the symbols bear non-derived content.  Does this beg the question against extended cognition?  No. To beg the question is to assume what you are trying to prove.  But, nothing in this version of cognitivism assumes that cognitive processes are brain-bound.  In principle, non-brain things might bear non-derived content.  In principle, a computer could manipulate symbols in the way that the brain does

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Review of Rupert's Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind

Joel Parthemore's review is here.

Maybe Parthemore is right that Rupert's treatment of EM is more sober than the one in The Bounds of Cognition, but more effective?  No way!  Here's hoping there's no such thing as bad press.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Explicating the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition

The hypothesis of extended cognition is sometimes formulated as the view that, under certain conditions, cognitive processes extend from the brain into the body and world.  It seems to me that this hypothesis does not have that many places where explication is in order.  The leading candidates for attention are the “certain conditions” and what is meant by a “cognitive process”.  Yet, it seems to me that there is resistance to the need for this latter explication flying under the banner of resistance to such things as a resistance to necessary and sufficient conditions or to having a theory of cognition before one begins doing cognitive psychology.  But, these meta-theoretical concerns seem to be masking basic theoretical issues.

Why believe in, or advocate for, extended cognition without at least a tentative proposal about what cognitive processes are?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dotov, Nie, and Chemero on Extended Cognitive Systems

Tony Chemero sent me a link to his paper in PLoS.

Their theory of cognitive systems jumped out at me:
Hammers and other tools that are ready-to-hand are literally part of the cognitive system. When a tool malfunctions, however, and becomes unready-to-hand, it becomes the object of primary concern; it is no longer part of the extended cognitive system, rather it is the thing that that the cognitive system is concerned with.
This seems to raise some questions.

I. When I get a piece of dust in my eye and it becomes an object of primary concern, then my eye is no longer part of my cognitive system?  Or, I have a nervous system breakdown or brain tumor that draws attention to the nervous system, that makes my nervous system not a part of my cognitive system?

II. By this account, the general moral is that one cannot pay attention to one's own cognitive system. Is this a desired result?

III. This account seems to conflict with van Gelder's theory of what a dynamical systems cognitive system is:
In this vision, the cognitive system is not just the encapsulated brain; rather, since the nervous system, body, and environment are all constantly changing and simultaneously influencing each other, the true cognitive system is a single unified system embracing all three.  The cognitive system does not interact with the body and the external world by means of the occasional static symbolic inputs and outputs; rather, interaction between the inner and the outer is best thought of as a matter of coupling, such that both sets of processes continually influencing [sic] each other’s direction of change (van Gelder, 1995, p. 373).
I don't buy van Gelder's account, but the conflict would go something like this.  You might be constantly influencing your injured, malfunctioning eye and your injured, malfunctioning eye is constantly influencing you, so that by the van Gelder standard, your injured, malfunctioning eye is part of your cognitive system.  But, by the Heiddeggerian standard, since your injured, malfunctioning eye is a subject of your attention, it is not part of your cognitive system.  Is this a desired result?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wilson on Giving a Mark of the Cognitive

A few days ago, I noted that, in his Extended X manuscript, Mike Wheeler is on board with the idea that advocates of extended cognition should provide what is often loosely referred to as a "mark of the cognitive".  This is some account of what differentiates cognitive processes from non-cognitive processes.  Mark Rowlands (2009) also supports a role for a "mark of the cognitive" in making the case for extended cognition. 

In his recent NDPR review of Rupert's Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind, however, Rob Wilson apparently rejects this move:

Thus, we need a principle of demarcation that delineates mere causes from genuine constituents of cognition.
     There are two short but basic questions to pose here. First: why? Second, one that I have picked up at occasional postmodernist seances: who are “we”? Take them in reverse order.  Precisely who needs this kind of principle of demarcation? Surely not practicing cognitive scientists, in part because they seem to have gotten along perfectly well without one until now. Philosophers?  Well, not philosophers who take one of the chief lessons of the failure of logical positivism in the philosophy of science, the collapse of the analytic-synthetic distinction along Quinean lines in the same, and the limitations of conceptual analysis to be a deep suspicion of the search for such principles.

In The Bounds of Cognition, Adams and I tired to forestall these challenges to a mark of the cognitive at pp. 84, 86-87.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Bounds of Cognition now in paper.

FYI: The Bounds of Cognition is now available in paper at a good price of $26.95 at Amazon.

Mike Wheeler's Extended X

This past week or so I have been reading through Wheeler's draft of his manuscript on extended mind, etc. (It's online here.) Although he is going to end up on "The Dark Side", there is a lot I appreciate about what he has so far.

1. It is clearly written and well-organized.
2. It seems to me to give a very fair reading of the stuff by Adams and Aizawa.
3. It embraces a lot of the stuff by Adams and Aizawa! So, it doesn't merely "tow the party line" on extended cognition.
4. It indicates some of the fault lines in the extended cognition movement. I appreciate this, since when I point out fault lines, it merely comes across as criticism, rather than analysis.

I think that this will be a formidable work in the extended cognition literature when it comes out.