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?

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