Monday, May 31, 2010


Ok.  Maybe there is more to this Hegelian arguments idea than I had first expected.
Chomsky's argument can be outlined as follows.
1. Children uniformly and rapidly learn language, without specific reinforcement.
2. Children are presented with evidence insufficient to infer the characteristics of the grammar they attain in learning language.
3. Learning language is the attainment of a grammar, an internal deductive mechanism that allows the recognition and production of appropriate sentences.
4. Therefore, the grammar must be largely innate.
5. Therefore, any theory that does not posit such an innate grammar cannot account for language learning.
Before criticizing this argument, I should point out its reasonableness. Humans acquire a mechanism that is apparently unlearn able given the opportunities for learning, so it must be innate. This is rather plausible, and many people-nearly all linguists-are convinced by it. There is, however, a problem with this argument, and it is with the evidence for the premises. The problem with the evidence for the premises is that none is provided, and no empirical studies of language learning are cited. Chomsky relies entirely on casual observations in the case of the semiempirical premises (1 and 2). The theoretical premise (3) is derived by inference to the best explanation of the semi empirical premises. This, then, is the particular character of Chomsky's argument that I would like to focus on: it is an argument that a class of scientific approaches is doomed to fail, based on theoretical posits and little or no empirical evidence.  (Chemero, 2009, p. 7, italics added).
So, here is Timo Järvilehto making a case for the inseparability of the organism and environment, a fundamental principle of ecological psychology.
 Is it possible to establish the border between the systems? Is it possible, however, to define separately the elements of the organism and environment systems and the border between the two systems? Let us try to define the border between the two systems when looking at such behavior as drinking coffee from a cup, for example. This is certainly behavior which has physical, physiological, and mental aspects. Is it possible to separate these aspects in the description of the behavior and to determine to which system each of them belongs?  
The events in this piece of behavior may be described according to the modem psychological conception. Let us start with the cup on the table. The cup of coffee is a physical part of the environment and clearly outside the organism system. It may be thus defined as an element of the environment or as a stimulus. The human being is sitting at the table and has the need to drink coffee. This could be described as a physiological process within the organism, but there is also its mental aspect, which could correspond to some state of the brain, for example. The environmental stimulus (reflection of light from the cup) sets off a process in the organism eventually leading to the movement of the hand, one element of the organism, towards the cup. This is clearly overt behavior because there is a change in the relation of the two elements, one belonging to the environment and the other to the organism. So far, so good.
Now our subject grasps the cup; the hand holds it. Thus the hand is immobile in relation to the cup, but both the hand and cup (which contains coffee) move in relation to the environment (and mouth). Is the cup now part of the organism system or environment?   Probably we should include it in the organism system because the critical functional relation exists between the cup and coffee; it is just the environmental coffee that the subject is bringing to the mouth when "drinking coffee."  
However, the cup was earlier on the table and it was then clearly part of the environment. Now it has changed into a part of the organism. This would mean that elements of the environment could change to become elements of the organism system and vice versa. Thus, we could not unequivocally decide whether an element belongs to one of these systems simply by looking at the properties of these elements.  
But can we somehow define at any instant a clear border between the two systems? The coffee in the cup is clearly part of the environment, and when the subject is drinking it it becomes a part of the organism system---or does it? Is it possible to say when the coffee is in the organism? When it is in the mouth? Or in the intestines? Or when the chemical parts of the coffee are in the blood? In fact, it is impossible to define any exact border which should be exceeded so that we could on this basis unequivocally determine whether the coffee has moved from the environment into the organism. The same is true in general of metabolism and, especially, of breathing. When is the breathed air outside and when inside?  
Or what about spectacles? On the table they are certainly part of the environment; on I my nose they are part of the organism just in the same sense as is the lens of the eye. At . what point in the air is the "border" between the two systems exceeded when I move them '. from the table to my nose?
It is just as difficult to define the movement of one part of the environment to a part of the organism as it is to carry out the task in the reverse direction. For example, from the point of view of the visual system, certain parts of the body are "outside" just in the same sense as the coffee cup on the table. My hand is, of course, part of me, but it is not within me or inside me; from the point of view of the eye it is certainly outside. If from the point of view of perceptual activity it is outside, where is the border between the inside and the outside?
But even if we cannot define any exact border between the organism and the environment, we should be able to define unequivocally the organism itself, shouldn't we? The body consists of cells and tissues; aren't these clearly separable from the environment?  
Unfortunately not. Take, for example, tissue. It is a structure consisting of cells and interstitial spaces, the environment of the cells. But where is the end of this inner environment, and where does the outer environment start? Does sweating, for example, occur inside or outside? If we consider it to be outside, then we simultaneously extend the inner environment to outside the body. In this connection we may also ask what it actually means to have an "inner" environment. Whom or what is this environment environing? Or what about the sense organs? Are the receptors inside or outside? For a visual receptor, for example, part of its environment consists of electromagnetic radiation from outside and part of the connective tissues and fluids of the body. Is there any possibility of defining the border between these two?  
In conclusion, these considerations show that any attempt to develop an explanation of human behavior on the basis of an assumption of two systems meets considerable difficulties right at the beginning. In contrast to our common-sense impression, critical scrutiny shows that we cannot define unequivocally any of our basic concepts on this basis. We cannot simply define whether any object which we study is part of the organism or part of the environment. This follows from the fact that we are not able to show any absolute border between the organism and the environment. Consequently, we cannot define behavior as a change of the relation between the organism and environment systems and, therefore, we do not know what we are looking at when we want to explain behavior.  
How can we then maintain that, for example, information is moving from one system to the other or that it is processed within the organism? Or, how can we say that some of the events which we have described before, like mental activity, representations, maps, or models are in the organism and not in the environment? Or maybe somewhere between these two? (Järvilehto, 1998, pp. 327-9)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dretske and Thompson Redux 1

So, it seems to me that both Dretske and Thompson agree that we should draw a distinction between things that are "mere meanings in the eye of the beholder" and things that are "meaningful for the subject".  (Supporting text below the fold.)  That's common ground, right?  Further, both D&T want to develop theories of original meaning.  Where they differ, however, is in the theories they offer of how one gets original meaning.  Dretske proposes what we might call a teleoinformational account, where Thompson proposes an auotpoeitic account.  Isn't this a neutral description of the state of play?

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I'm not much of a fan of Chemero's objecting to giving Hegelian arguments, since I don't think it happens that often, but then again I could be wrong.  This looks like an a priori argument to me:

This example is illustrated in Figure 9.3 and can be described as follows. Imagine an organism A, whose behavior R is the function of I, A and E. For instance, A shows behavior R when A detects that E = z and 1= y. Note, however, that because of the mutual and reciprocal union of A and E (denoted by the solid lined arrows), E is also influenced by I, such that E = z is only subsequent to I = w. Now imagine that there are two observers (scientists) of A, both attempting to understand the cause of behavior R. For the first observer, E is not observed or assumed to be of little consequence. Thus, to the confusion of Observer 1, A and I do not predict R directly. I is sometimes y and sometimes some other state (z, w, v, etc.). As a result, Observer 1 discerns (after a while) that R results when I passes successively through states wand y and hypothesizes that R = I + A + (A's memory of I). In other words, Observer 1 endows A with other causal structure. In contrast, Observer 2 does observe E in addition to A and I. Thus, Observer 2 discovers (after only a short period of time) that R occurs when E = z and I = y. As a result, Observer 2 concludes that R is a direct result of the total system, R = I + A + E. That is, Observer 2 makes no hypothesis about "other" cause, internal to A, as such cause is not required. This example, though somewhat obvious in its simplicity, is by no means trivial, nor is its facetious criticism of traditional theory unjustified. To be blunt, when organism is considered separate from environment, and the partial system (organism) deputizes for the whole system (organism and environment), there is a tendency to fashion explanation through variables that are beyond immediate observation. Gratuitous appeals to internal states as explanations of everyday behaviors exemplify this tendency.  (Richardson, Shockley, Fajen, Riley, & Turvey, 2008, pp. 165-6).
Now, I guess I don't care so much about the fact that the argument is a priori or that it is a thought experiment.  I do think this is a caricature of, say,  the cognitivist view, so it would be nice to have some references to cognitivists who have actually made this mistake.  They could be out there.  I haven't read everything.

Moreover, what is wrong with explanations through variables that are beyond immediate observation?  Doesn't science regularly appeal to  the unobservable to explain the observable?

And, won't everyone agree that gratuitous appeals to internal states as explanations of everyday behaviors are bad?  They are, after all, gratuitous appeals.  In fact, isn't the issue about internal states really about whether the appeals to them are gratuitous in the first place?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Formal Languages and the Extended Mind

Interesting ...

Catarina Dutilh Novaes (Philosophy  University of Amsterdam) will be giving a talk “Formal languages and the extended mind” at the "From Cognitive Science and Psychology to an Empirically-informed Philosophy of Logic" workshop in Amsterdam, December 7-8, 2010.  Workshop details here.

Organism-Environment Systems are the Proper Units of Analysis

This is Principle I of the Ecological Psychology of Richardson, et al. 2008.  I guess the main thing one might take exception to here is the idea that O-C systems are the proper units of analysis.  It's one them to propose them as proper units of analysis, but the (only?) proper units? 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deployed in the right sort of way ...

Mark Rowlands writes,
the idea is that when the sentence in the notebook is deployed by Otto in the right sort of way, then and only then can it count as among Otto's beliefs. (Rowlands, 2009b, p.631).
Now, I think I can agree with this.  Where Rowlands, Clark, and I appear to disagree is on what counts as "the right sort of way".  Clark, for his part, proposes that conditions of "trust and glue" constitute "the right sort of way".  Cognitivists, however, think that the conditions involve something like figuring in computations of such and such a configuration.  The distinction is hard to make out in any detail, since, well, we don't know that much about the mechanisms of the manipulation of symbols in an LOT.  But, the general point should be clear.  By contrast, it is not entirely clear to me just how restrictive an account of the processing condition Rowlands wants to place on sentence manipulation.  In his other paper,  "Extended Cognition and the Mark of the Cognitive," it seems to me that he did not want to place any conditions on character of symbol manipulations.  Essentially, you just have to have the manipulation of symbols with non-derived content.

(Incidentally, Wilson and Clark's paper in the Robbins-Aydede Handbook of Situated Cognition also alludes to coupling "in the right sort of way".

Why is the C-C Fallacy So Common? 3

In a recent post on Rowlands, 2009, I noted that it is common to find in the EC literature the view that when some thing is coupled "in the right way" to the mind, then the thing becomes a part of one's cognitive system.  This, however, sometimes leads to the C-C fallacy.  But, what encourages perseverance in the fallacy is, in part, how one understands "in the right way".  For the cognitivist, "in the right way", means something like in the right causal economy of a computation.  But, for Clark, for example, "in the right way" means something about "trust and glue".  So, one might conjecture that part of what enables Clark to commit the C-C fallacy is not appreciating the difference between the two ways of cashing out "in the right way".

Again, this is more speculation on the source of the C-C fallacy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why is the C-C Fallacy So Common? 2

Again, assuming the fallacy is common, why is it so common?

Think about the human auditory system (as described in, say, Wikipedia).  It looks like the auditory system is just the set of things that enable a person to hear, e.g., the pinnas of the ears, the auditory canal, the bones of the middle ear, the cochlea, the hair cells, the auditory nerve, etc.  If you take this picture seriously, then it is a small step to saying that one's hand cupped behind one's ear is part of one's auditory system.

If that is one's picture, then maybe the C-C fallacy isn't just a simple fallacy.  Maybe it is that, when pressed on further examples, your view of systems leads to incorrect conclusions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Andy Clark and Haute Couture

in the June 2010 Atlantic here.

Why is the C-C Fallacy So Common? 1

This question, of course, presupposes that the fallacy is in fact common, but some support for this is given in The Bounds of Cognition, Chapter 6, and in earlier posts here on the blog.  So, let's go with that.  But, if the fallacy so common, and as some have noted, obviously fallacious, then why do so many philosophers commit the fallacy?  I think there may be many reasons, but here is one.

Compare the burden of proof involved in the simple coupling arguments, on the one hand, versus the burden of proof in cognitive equivalence arguments, on the other.  It is much easier to show that something in the body or environment causally influences what goes on in the mind than it is to show that some transcranial or transcorporeal process is the same as some intracranial cognitive process. There are very few instances in the extended cognition literature where one finds side-by-side comparisons of putative cognitive equivalence like those found in the three modes of Tetris play and in the Inga-Otto case.  Maybe these are the only such comparisons.  Moreover, these sorts of comparisons almost invariably invite observations of dissimilarities.   Such observations are standard among critics of extended cognition, but there appear to be no cases in which a critic denies that the claim that one or another thing in the body or environment causally influences the mind.  So, one can see that advocates of extended cognition will regularly be tempted to claim that causation is sufficient for extended cognition, since it is easy to find causal influences on cognition.  If causation were sufficient for extended cognition, the case for extended cognition could more easily be made

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Looks like the C-C Fallacy to Me

Noë seems to me to commit the coupling-constitution fallacy in the move from the second sentence to the third:
I agree with the philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers that there is no principled reason not to think of the wristwatch, the landmarks, the pen and paper, the linguistic community, as belonging to my mind.  The causal processes that enable us to talk and think and find our ways around are not confined to what is going on in our skulls.  But that is just a way of saying that the machinery of the mind itself is not confined to the skull. (Noe, 2009, p. 82)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Walter and Kyselo Review of Clark's Supersizing

Supersizing the Mind
Miriam Kyselo ;Sven Walter
Philosophical Psychology, 1465-394X, Volume 22, Issue 6, 2009, Pages 803 – 807.

MSc in Cognitive Computing at Goldsmith's University of London

I've never heard of Goldsmith's, University of London (which is just a comment, not a criticism), but this is kind of interesting.

Embodiment; Enactivism and Phenomenology: new approaches to Cognition and Artificial Intelligence

Goldsmiths, University of London

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
The Department of Computing is a vibrant, innovative and challenging research-led department - one of Europe's leading specialists in interdisciplinary research. Our research covers artificial intelligence, intelligent agents, music information retrieval, virtual reality, psychology, cognitive science, intelligent agents and a whole range of work in music and the arts often working closely with the creative industries in London. The MSc in Cognitive Computing has been specifically developed to take graduates from a wide range of backgrounds and critically introduce them to classical computational models of cognition and artificial intelligence. It does this in the context of a broad exploration of radical new theoretical approaches, characterised by their emphasis on Embodiment, Enactivism and European Phenomenology. If you have an interest in computers and the mind, we can offer you an exciting, challenging and rewarding experience at Goldsmiths.
Contact us now to start in September 2010.

Further information

What C-C Fallacy 8

The external features in a coupled system play an ineliminable role—if we retain internal structure but change the external features, behavior may change completely.  The external features here are just as causally relevant as typical internal features of the brain.  (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, p. 9)
Again, the emphasis is on causal connections.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What C-C Fallacy? 7

In the cases we describe, by contrast, the relevant external features are active, playing a crucial role in the here-and-now.  Because they are coupled with the human organism, they have a direct impact on the organism and on its behavior.  In these cases, the relevant parts of the world are in the loop, not dangling at the other end of a long causal chain.  Concentrating on this sort of coupling leads us to an active externalism (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, p. 9)
Again, it looks like the existence of a coupling relation is what Clark and Chalmers think justifies extended cognition.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What C-C Fallacy? 6

Then a bit later in "The Extended Mind," Clark and Chalmers write,
In these cases [of different modes of Tetris play, use of pencil and paper, etc.], the human organism is linked with an external entity in a two-way interaction, creating a coupled system that can be seen as a cognitive system in its own right.  All the components in the system play an active causal role, and they jointly govern behavior in the same sort of way that cognition usually does.  (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, p. 8)
The first sentence indicates that a two-way (causal?) interaction between a person’s mind and certain environmental items, such as a video screen, pencil, and paper and so forth creates a coupled system.  Clark and Chalmers, however, apparently take the existence of extended cognitive systems to be sufficient to establish that cognitive processes extend.   The second sentence backs off of this a bit, noting both that all the components in the system play an active causal role and that there is some kind of cognitive equivalence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What C-C Fallacy? 5

In running through their three sorts of Tetris play, Clark and Chalmers invoke considerations of something like cognitive equivalence, but they begin the paragraph after that by turning to causal influences:
The kind of case just described is by no means as exotic as it may at first appear.  It is not just the presence of advanced external computing resources which raises the issue, but rather the general tendency of human reasoners to lean heavily on environmental supports. (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, p. 8)
In trying to show that the Tetris case is not exotic, they appeal to humans “leaning” on environmental supports.  This, however, looks like a metaphor for the causal contribution of environmental factors.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thanks to Richard Brown of "Philosophy Sucks!"

for including one of my posts in the 108th Philosophers' Carnival.

I had a post in the Carnival once before, years ago I think, over at Brains.

What C-C Fallacy? 4

Bounds (pp. 89-91) has a number of quotes which at least suggest that there is a relatively short path from observations of causal environmental influences on cognitive processes to extended cognition processes, but how about reviewing a longer bit of text by Clark and Chalmers?  In the early sections of their paper their appear to be two lines of reasoning meant to support EC.  One is based on causal contribution; the other is based on some sort of "cognitive equivalence" between intracranial processes and transcranial processes.

So, the last sentence of section 1 is "We advocate a very different sort of externalism: an active externalism, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes" (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, p. 7).  One plausible interpretation here is that there is a coupling-constitution argument being given here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What C-C Fallacy? 3

Sven Walter and Myriam Kyselo also express skepticism in their critical notice of Bounds:
Although [Adams and Aizawa] present a lot of textual evidence showing that some kind of coupling/constitution reasoning is involved, they overemphasize its role. Although both are crucial features in arguments for EMH, there is no direct inference from coupling to constitution.  (Walter & Kyselo, 2009, p. 280).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What C-C Fallacy? 2

Justin Fisher, in his review of Bounds, also expresses some degree of skepticism:
Adams and Aizawa are right that this move is fallacious, regardless of how many or few authors make it. However, one suspects that most of the authors Adams and Aizawa consider are clever enough not to commit a simple fallacy like this, and hence that Adams and Aizawa might be so busy fighting straw men that they will overlook the stronger arguments that these theorists can and do make. (Fisher, 2009, p. 353)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Forthcoming posts

After spending a few days documentation C-C skepticism, I will try to work through the first section of Clark and Chalmers, "The Extended Mind", to point out how it seems to me to commit the C-C fallacy.

Then I'll try to get back to enactivism.

What C-C Fallacy? 1

Many readers of The Bounds of Cognition, and papers by Adams and Aizawa, are skeptical that anyone commits the C-C fallacy or that it is at all prevalent.  So, for example, in Supersizing the Mind, Clark writes,
Now, it is certainly true (and this, I think, is one important fact to which Adams and Aizawa’s argument quite properly draws the reader’s attention) that not just any old kind of coupling will achieve this result.  But as far as I am aware, nobody in the literature has ever claimed otherwise.  It is not the mere presence of a coupling that matters but the effect of the coupling—the way it poises (or fails to poise) information for a certain kind of use within a specific kind of problem-solving routine.  (Clark, 2008, p. 87)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Enactivist Naturalized Semantics

I think it would be great if some enactivist could write up a nice little paper explaining how this enactivist naturalized semantics would go.  (Or, maybe there is something out there already I don't know about.)  Just a set of sufficiency conditions to set alongside the Fodor, Dretske, and Millikan theories.  I would bet Mind & Language would publish such a paper.  I would bet it could easily be written up in a few weeks.  When I read Thompson, for example, I just see little hints, but I don't really get a clean picture of what the account is.

The "EC = Science, Anti-EC = a priori speculation" meme 4

In Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, Chemero presents the meme in the guise of what he calls "Hegelian Arguments":
In what follows, I will call arguments like this Hegelian Arguments.  Specifically, Hegelian arguments are arguments, based on little or no empirical evidence, to the conclusion that some scientific approach ... will fail. (p. 7).
You can see how this will play out.  Criticism of Gibsonian psychology and radical embodied cognitive science consists of Hegelian arguments.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So, why does common sense say the mind is in the head?

As I've tried to document, the EC literature has the meme that in-the-head cognition is a mere a priori prejudice.  But, that seems to me pretty unlikely.  Here is a speculation.  I would bet that humans came to this view pretty early in the history of the species.  When they fought in hand to hand combat, many were injured.  They probably noticed that serious leg wounds might keep you from walking, but still allow you to think.  They probably also noticed that serious head wounds made thinking a lot more difficult.  So, they came to the view that legs are walking thingies; brains are thinking thingies.  This is surely defeasible reasoning and one might even think it is defeated reasoning.  Still, it is not a priori reasoning.  It is dispels the claim of the mind being in the head as mere prejudice.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The "EC = Science, Anti-EC = a priori speculation" meme 3

Here are Chemero and Michael Silberstein on this meme:
the extended cognition thesis might really be true. The holism question is an open and empirical one—the reason to attempt full-blooded extended cognitive science is that the world might really be that way and such methods may capture that. Such questions cannot be settled a priori by any kind of essentialist arguments about what is and what is not a cognitive system. (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, p. 132.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The "EC = Science, Anti-EC = a priori speculation" meme 2

In an as-yet unpublished paper, "Varieties of Externalism", Susan Hurley writes,
The issues between internalism and externalism should be resolved bottom up by such scientific practice, not by advance metaphysics:  by seeing whether any good psychological explanations are externalist, not by deciding on a criterion of the mental and using it to sort explanations as constitutive or not.  In this context, I’m aware of no appropriate criterion independent of good explanations; to the extent good explanations reveal constitution, a criterion of the constitutive cannot be used to select among good explanations.  As I understand it, externalism predicts that some good psychological explanations of the ‘what’ or ‘how’ kinds will be externalist. (p. 5)
One can agree with Hurley's methodology, but why suppose that current science does not already weigh in in favor of internalism (anti-EC)?

The advocates of EC have on the table some empirical explanations of certain phenomena, e.g. what is going on when one does long division or when people make gestures and solve problems.  So, now advocates and critics are in the process of evaluating those explanations, not a priori or by advance metaphysics, but by empirical methods.  Hurley seems to be misrepresenting the nature of (at least some portions of) the current debate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The "EC = Science, Anti-EC = a priori speculation" meme 1

A while ago, someone (Garzon or Keijzer I suppose) posted a link on this blog to a paper, "Cognition in Plants" by Paco Calvo Garzon and Fred Keijzer. 
In this chapter, we will discuss the question whether an extended reading of cognition, as developed within Embodied Cognition might apply to plants. Within Embodied Cognition, the notion of cognition – being based on perception and action – is used to make sense of a wide range of behaviors exhibited by ‘simple’ animals, like nematodes or flies. The message is clearly that we should set generalizing dismissive intuitions concerning such animals aside and go for a more empirically informed approach. We believe that this open attitude is also beneficial to the study of possible cognitive phenomena in plants. (p. 2).
Clearly, there is a widespread preference for empirically informed approaches, rather than mere intuition.  But, why suppose that the status quo is empirically uninformed?  In the case at hand, we might think that botanists and psychologists have made the empirical discovery that plants don't think.  Why think otherwise?

This is worth challenging, since Garzon and Keijzer are not the only ones who try to paint anti-EC views as methodologically backward.  In fact, as I will try to document in coming days, it is a fairly common meme in the EC literature.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bold enough to be exciting; tame enough to be plausible 1

That's what advocates of EC want.  So, it seems to me to lead to some fancy philosophical footwork.

So, for example, in the preface to Mind in Life, Thompson writes, "Where there is life there is mind" (p. ix).  Bold indeed.  Plants and slime molds have minds.  But, then he immediately walks this back.  "Life and mind share a core set of formal or organizational properties, and the formal or organizational properties distinctive of mind are an enriched version of those fundamental to life".  Tame.

In truth, it appears that the second clause of this second sentence contradicts the claim that where there is life there is mind.  More specifically, we can have life without mind in those cases where one does not have the enriched version of the properties fundamental to life.

I'm sure there are ways out of this.  So, the first might be taken to be a true empirical generalization, where the latter a claim about (logical, nomological, metaphysical, conceptual) possibilities that are not, in empirical fact, actualized.  Fancy philosophical footwork.  It's really hard to pin philosophers down enough to convict them of inconsistency.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Chemero vs Thompson & Stapleton

Thompson and Stapleton write,
Without autonomy (operational closure) there is no original meaning; there is only the derivative meaning attributed to certain processes by an outside observer.  (Thompson and Stapleton, 2010, p. 28).
So, T&S believe in non-derived content and Chemero has written that he is pursuing an enactivist theory of cognition of the sort developed by Thompson, Varela, and others.  Yet, one of Chemero's core ideas is anti-representationalism.  I'm not sure how that all works out, but it looks to me as though one should read Chemero as developing his own views, rather than pushing those of others.  (In fact, I have this vague sense from having read an earlier draft of his book manuscript that Chemero's "Gibsonianism" doesn't look 100% like Gibson's views.  But, that was a long time ago and I'm getting a little long in the tooth.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Information Processing Models Don't Explain Autonomy?

Thompson and Stapleton write,
The enactive approach regards these information-processing models as limited.  From the enactive perspective, their problem is fundamental: they do not explain autonomy hence cannot explain cognition. 
     Information-processing models of the mind leave unexplained the autonomous organization proper to cognitive beings because they treat cognitive systems as heteronomous systems.  ... These models characterize cognitive systems in terms of informational inputs and outputs instead of the operational closure of their constituent processes.  As a result, they do not explain how certain processes actively generate and sustain an identity that also constitutes an intrinsically normative way of being in the world. (Thompson and Stapleton, 2010, p. 28).
This is one I just don't get.  I don't see the argument here.  So, let us grant T&S the idea that cognitive processes are personal level processes and that autonomy is an organismal level property.  Now, of course, one does not have to explain the whole of the organism by appeal only to one of its components, namely, the brain.  But, I-P approaches can appeal to other components of a person beside the brain, e.g. the parts of the body. Indeed, there are many areas where the properties and processes of a system are explained in terms of the properties and processes of its components.  Haugeland (who appears to be sympathetic to enactivist ideas) describes this kind of approach in his "Mind Embodied and Embedded", but it is also familiar from Rob Cummins' account of functional analysis and Machamer, Darden, and Craver's theory of mechanistic explanation.  And, there is also Craver's Explaining the Brain.  It seems as though T&S suppose that the only way I-P theories can explain autonomy is by limiting their attention to the brain.  But, that is not right.  In fact, it is hard to believe that this is what they can be assuming.  So, what is going on here?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Maiese Review of Clark's Supersizing

Not sure how long this has been out, but the review in Mind is here.

Who Supports Revolutionary EC? 7

Thompson and Stapleton:
What goes on strictly inside the head never as such counts as a cognitive process.  It counts only as a participant in a cognitive process that exists as a relation between the system and its environment.  (Thompson and Stapleton, 2010, p. 26).
Given that Thompson and Stapleton are, or at least appear to be, revolutionaries regarding any kind of intracranial cognition.  We should expect an argument that there is none such.  Tune in tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farina Review of Clark's Supersizing

Available here.

How do these fit?

Thompson and Stapleton write,
Of course, what goes on inside the system is crucial for enabling the system's cognitive or sense-making relation to its environment, but to call internal process as such cognitive is to confuse levels of discourse or to make a category mistake (neurons do not think and feel; people and animals do).  (Thompson and Stapleton, 2010, p. 26).
Personally, I don't put that much stake in worries about category mistakes for the reasons I think are well-fleshed out by Searle and Dennett in Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind, and Language. (And, the rhetoric is somewhat misleading, since one might say that, while neurons probably do not think and feel, perhaps the whole brain does.) But, how is this category mistake idea to be reconciled with this:
Attention to the inseparability of emotion and cognition is an emerging trend in cognitive science.  For example, Marc Lewis (2005) argues that appraisal and emotion processes are thoroughly interdependent at both psychological and neural levels.  ... (ibid, p. 26).
and this:
In a recent review, Pessoa (2008) provides extensive evidence from neuroscience that supports this view of the neural underpinnings of emotion and cognition (p. 27).
It's pretty hard to catch a philosopher in an outright contradiction, but the tension is obvious.  How can one assert that there is evidence that neural cognitive processes and neural emotive processes are integrated, when it is a category mistake (i.e. nonsense) to talk about neural cognitive processes?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is sense-making cognition?

Thompson and Stapleton write,
Whether we choose to call the sense-making of bacteria cognitive or proto-cognitive is not something we need to dispute here.  ... The important point is that a living organism is a system capable of relating cognitively to the world ... because it is a sense-making system (Thompson and Stapleton, 2010, p. 24).
This seems to me to just talk around the issue.  Now, one should have some sympathy for not wanting to get into a terminological dispute.  Fine.  But, then why insist on saying that cognition is sense-making?  Thompson and Stapleton don't do that exactly, but it is not clear why anyone who resists the idea that sense-making is cognition would be willing to accept the claim that a living organism is a system capable of relatively cognitively to the world because it is a sense-making system.  This move seems to me merely to change the way in which the issue is framed, but not its substance.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Forthcoming posts

I'm thinking that for a blog to be successful, it has to be more interactive than this one has been.  So, I am hoping that my forthcoming posts on Thompson and Stapleton's paper, "Making sense of Sense-Making" will encourage my Toronto readers to chime in.  There are things in this paper I just don't get.

A Prediction of Chemero's Theory of Cognition?

In RECS, 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.  Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, p. 212.
So, is it a prediction of this theory that a normal human being who is subsequently completely immobilized by neuromuscular blockade (hence cannot act) and who has all cranial nerves severed (or whatever) (hence cannot perceive) not a cognitive agent?  That seems to be an implausible thing to predict.

It seems just like predicting that a computer with all of its peripherals (keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, etc.) removed is no longer a computer.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chemero's reply to the C-C Fallacy

Chemero, 2009, pp. 31-32, claims that the C-C fallacy is only a fallacy when the coupling between agent and environment is linear.  "When the agent and environment are nonlinearly coupling, they, together, constitute a non-decomposable system, and when this is the case, the coupling-constitution fallacy is not a fallacy."

By "non-decomposable" Chemero means
"Nondecomposable, nonlinear systems can only be characterized using global collective variables and/or order parameters, variables or parameters of the system that summarize the behavior of the system's components".

Now, as mentioned in an earlier post, we need to distinguish an extended cognitive systems hypothesis from an extended cognitive processes hypothesis.

I know that it is common to say that "non-linear coupled dynamical systems are non-decomposable", but I'm not sure what that really means or why that matters for the c-c fallacy.  For example, take a double pendulum (somewhat different than was discussed in Bounds, p. 108f.)   You get elaborate equations of motion for this system.  So why is this non-decomposable and why does this mean that you cannot distinguish the two coupled things?  Why can we not distinguish the swinging process in the one pendulum from the swinging process in the other?

Chemero promises a more detailed discussion in other works, so maybe there is an answer there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chemero's statement of the coupling-constitution fallacy

Adams and Aizawa call this the coupling-constitution fallacy: they argue that the fact that a wide computational system is coupled to the environment does not imply that the environment is partly constitutive of the system (Chemero, 2009, p. 31)
 Close, but not exactly.  We run the argument on processes (and sometimes objects), but we concede the coupling-constitution arguments for systems. See Adams and Aizawa, (2008), chapters 6 and 7.  This has to do with our drawing a distinction between what we might call an extended cognitive systems hypothesis and an extended cognitive processes hypothesis.  The former (roughly) states that cognitive systems extend beyond the boundary of the brain, where the latter states that cognitive processes extend beyond the boundary of the brain.

But, also the objection is not framed exclusively in terms of computational systems, wide or otherwise.