Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Speaking helps thinking: Embodied or Extended Cognition?

A 12/28/09 Scientific American 60 Second Science story here.

The comment that interests me the most comes near the end (at about 1:00), when Hopkin notes that "how these sketches and monologues help remains a statement waiting for a proof".  What I take this to mean, however, is that we don't know how the sketches and monologues help improve performance.  That, however, suggests to me that even if we say, "Ah, this is extended cognition," we still do not know how the sketches and monologues help improve performance.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Thinking is Not Like Dancing

You cannot dance when you are paralyzed by neuromuscular blockade, but you still can think:
Complete neuromuscular block caused no observable impairment of consciousness, sensation, memory, or the ability to think and make decisions. Objective evidence supported this assertion, as subjects responded promptly to questions. When the experimenter misunderstood their answers, subjects recognized this and made a correction. Subjects successfully used a questionnaire with many branching points to communicate their needs. Subjects also accurately recalled specific events that occurred in the room while they were paralyzed. This unimpaired mental function is consistent with the reports of previous investigators. (Topulos, Lansing, & Banzett, 1993, p. 373)

Future Posts 6/28/10

I recently received my copy of The Cognitive Life of Things, edited by Malafouris and Renfrew, so I plan to post some "reading notes" on some of the papers in the coming days.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Women's Travel Award 2010 - Berlin School of Mind and Bra

Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin
Berlin School of Mind and Brain


The Berlin School of Mind and Brain is an international research school, which was founded in 2006 as part of Germany's Excellence Initiative. The School offers a unique three-year interdisciplinary doctoral program in English in the mind and brain sciences.

As part of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain's commitment to supporting women in science and the humanities, the School is delighted to announce a limited number of travel awards for female students who are interested in exploring the possibility of doctoral studies at the School.

Candidates will be invited to visit the School during the week of the 1-6 November 2010, and will have ample opportunities to meet with faculty and students relevant to their research interests, as well as have a chance to view the School's facilities, and to get a better sense of city itself. In addition, they will be encouraged to participate in Berlin Brain Days (1-3 November 2010), an annual event that brings together more than 200 doctoral students from across the neurosciences to discuss and present their work with senior international faculty. Successful applicants will receive partial reimbursement for travel expenses to help defray the costs of their visit.

In order to be eligible for this award you need to meet the basic eligibility criteria for applying to the School's doctoral program in January 2011 (in particular you need to have completed or be in the process of completing a Master's or equivalent degree in an area of study relevant to the School). Further details about eligibility criteria for study at the School can be found at: Applications (and questions) should be made to; please include a short 1-2 page letter of application (detailing your background and research interests), your academic CV, as well as a maximum of two letters of recommendation.

The deadline for applications is 1 September 2010.

Further details about the School and its program can be found below. We look forward to hearing from you soon!


Research within the School focuses on the interface between the humanities and the neurosciences. Of particular interest are research areas that fall on the borders between the mind sciences (e.g., philosophy, linguistics, behavioral and cognitive science, economics), and the brain sciences (e.g., neurophysiology, computational neuroscience, neurology, and neurobiology). Major topics of research within the program include: 'conscious and unconscious perception', 'decision-making', 'language', 'brain plasticity and lifespan ontogeny', 'mental disorders and brain dysfunction', and the 'philosophy of mind'. However, research is not limited to these areas, and students are strongly encouraged to develop and work at their own initiative on any projects that are relevant to interdisciplinary questions relating to mind and brain.

The School accepts eight-to-twelve doctoral candidates into its program each year. Here are some excellent reasons why students might wish to be considered for one of these highly sought after positions at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain:

* The School has a faculty comprised of 60 distinguished researchers, including four Max Planck directors, which cover the gamut of research within the mind and brain sciences.

* Research within the School is strongly embedded in the basic and clinical research conducted within the region allowing for strong synergistic research initiatives and opportunities. Hosted by the Humboldt University, the School's research program includes scientists from the Free University, the Technical University, the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Berlin), the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Leipzig), and the nearby universities of Potsdam and Magdeburg.

* Students acquire a strong foundation for interdisciplinary work by attending eight one-week classes during the first half of their doctoral program, which cover all fields relevant for mind/brain-related research, and allow students to explore research methods and topics that they have not been previously exposed to. Each doctoral candidate is assigned two professorial advisors - one from the brain sciences, one from the mind sciences - in order to maximize the interdisciplinary impact of their work.

* Students meet with leading international researchers via the School's Distinguished Lecture Series, interactions with its senior visiting faculty, as well as by attending international workshops and meetings. As part of the School's commitment to maximizing students' research opportunities, the School also encourages and provides assistance for students to spend time studying and conducting research abroad during the course of their doctoral candidacy.

* Extensive practical services to international doctoral candidates are available, including assistance with visa applications, matriculation, health insurance, local authorities, scientific soft skill courses, and language classes.

Finally, there are good financial reasons for studying at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain:

* There are no tuition fees associated with the program.

* Administrative fees are very low. Administrative fees for attending the Humboldt University come to only approximately 250 Euros per semester.

* The School offers generous scholarships to the best applicants. Students who were not successful in winning one of the school's own scholarships will receive support in obtaining alternative sources of funding (e.g. a research post within a university department or with one of the School's research groups, or help in finding alternative funding sources for a scholarship).

Recent progress in the neurosciences has opened up new and exciting avenues for research that raise challenging conceptual and ethical questions calling for an interdisciplinary approach. The Berlin School of Mind and Brain offers a unique research and training environment for doctoral candidates to work at this exciting interface between the sciences and the humanities.

Patrick Wilken, PhD

Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin
Berlin School of Mind and Brain
Luisenstraße 56
D-10099 Berlin

Call for papers for Revista Internacional de Filosofía: The Extended Mind.

Deadline for submissions: October 1st, 2010

Notification of intent to submit including subject matter will be greatly appreciated as it will assist with the coordination and planning of the special issue of Revista Internacional de Filosofía

The Extended Mind

In the decade or so since the publication of Clark and Chalmers' seminal paper, the extended mind thesis has had a highly significant influence on the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. This comes from the fact that it promotes a view of mind and cognition that breaks away from other such views popular in the late 20th century. Thus, the extended mind thesis promotes: one, functionalism, without the restrictions imposed by biological implementational structure; two, externalism, not only regarding mental contents, but also regarding the vehicles of content; and three, postcognitivism, where cognition is not simply a matter of internal symbol manipulation. The result is, thus, a view that could be labelled "situated and embodied functionalism".

Critics have reacted in different ways. Some have objected, on behalf of intracranialism, that the extended mind thesis is too radical, in that it flouts the distinction between intrinsic and derived intentionality in the characterization of the mental; or in that it mistakes extracranial aids to cognition for the real vehicles of cognition. Other critics, though, have argued that the development of Clark and Chalmers' insights has sometimes been too conservative, insofar as it supports a representationalist, rather than an antirepresentationalist, version of postcognitivism; or insofar as it continues to give pride of place to processes in the brain/CNS, precluding the extension of the idea of cognition to other less complicated life forms.

Teorema invites submissions on these and related topics for a special issue to be published in 2011. Papers must be written in English or in Spanish, and should not exceed 6000 words. For the presentation of their manuscripts, authors are requested to adhere to the details that can be found at Electronic submissions, both in .doc and .pdf formats and prepared for blind refereeing, must be sent to the Editor by October 1st, 2010. Notification of intent to submit including title (tentative) and subject matter (a brief abstract) will be greatly appreciated as it will assist with the coordination and planning of the special issue.

Contact details for queries and submissions: Teorema

Prof. Luis M. Valdés Villanueva
Director de teorema
Departamento de Filosofía
Universidad de Oviedo
E-33071 Oviedo (España)

More on Nonlinearity and Mechanistic Explanation

The point is that the more localizability and decomposition fail, the harder mechanistic explanation will be, and a high degree of nonlinearity is bad news for both of these (C&S, 2008, p. 16).
Ok.  So, how is nonlinearity make localizability and decomposition harder?  I guess that if you can't decompose a system into parts, then maybe by the MDC and Bechtel definitions you can't have mechanistic explanation, so why does nonlinearity make composition harder?

(And really, decomposition could be harder with nonlinearity, but if it is still possible wouldn't that be enough to remove the block on mechanistic explanation?)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nonlinearity and Mechanistic Explanation

So, nonlinearity is supposed to block mechanistic explanation:
A linear system can be decomposed into subsystems. Such decomposition fails however in the case of nonlinear systems. When the behaviors of the constituents of a system are highly coherent and correlated, the system cannot be treated even approximately as a collection of uncoupled individual parts. Instead, some particular global or nonlocal description is required, taking into account that individual constituents cannot be fully characterized without reference to larger scale structures of the system such as order parameters. (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, p. 16).
But, why does decomposition fail in the case of nonlinear systems?  Think of a double pendulum.  Why can that not be decomposed into two pendulums?

It is not a part of mechanistic explanation that one treat systems as "a collection of uncoupled individual parts" if in fact they are a collection nonlinearly coupled parts. Rather, I would think that mechanistic explanations of systems of nonlinearly coupled components should involve treating them as systems of nonlinearly coupled components.  I know that it is common to think that nonlinearity causes explanatory problems, but it can't be that nonlinearity forces us to treat such systems as collections of uncoupled individual parts.

Moreover, in either the linear or the nonlinear cases, the MDC approach (and I think the Bechtel approach) to mechanistic explanation invokes higher level descriptions (global descriptions) which would be the things to be explained by the lower level mechanisms.  So, there is no "instead" about particular global or nonlocal descriptions.

Nor, need the mechanist "fully characterize" the individual constituents without reference to larger structure of the system.  Isn't that what "fully characterize" means one does?  Refer to the larger structure?

To repeat, however, I think there could be something problematic about nonlinear systems, but I don't see that C&S have put their finger on it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Memoriam: John Haugeland (1945-2010)

I have long thought that Haugeland's "Mind Embodied and Embedded" is one of the underappreciated papers in the extended cognition literature.


So, Why Isn't the Methodology of Co-ordination Dynamics an Instance of Mechanistic Explanation?

The methodology of coordination dynamics is as follows. First, for the system as a whole, discover the key coordination variables and the dynamical equations of motion that best describes how coordination patterns change over time. Second, identify the individual coordinated elements (such as neurons, organs, clapping hands, pendulums, cars, birds, bees, fish, etc.) and discern their dynamics. As Kelso and Ensgtrom say, this is nontrivial because the individual coordinated elements are often themselves quite complex, and are often dependent upon the larger coordinated system of which they are components (2006, 109). They put the point even more strongly, “in the complex systems of coordination dynamics, there are no purely context-independent parts from which to derive a context-independent coordinative whole” (2006, 202). Third, derive the systemic dynamics from the description of the nonlinear coupling among the elements. It is this nonlinear coupling between elements that allows one to determine connections across different levels of description. It is important to note that, as in all dynamical explanation, discovering both the systemic dynamics and that of their component parts requires specifying boundary conditions that “establish the context for particular behaviors to arise” (Kelso and Engstrom 2006, 109). The behavior of the whole system ‘emerges’ from the nonlinear interactions among the elements of the system in a particular context where the elements and the contextual features are coupled and mutually codependent. The individual coordinating elements form a collective whole in the sense that microscopic degrees of freedom are reduced to a much smaller set of context dependent coordination variables or order parameters that greatly constrain the behavior of the elements. (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, pp. 12-13).
So, if we understand C&S's "elements" as entities and their "dynamics" as the interactions among the entities, it looks like we are pretty far along the path to, say, the Machamer, Darden, Craver theory of mechanistic explanation in terms of entities and their activities.  So, why isn't the methodology of co-ordination dynamics an instance of mechanistic explanation?  I figure there could be an answer, but the contrast between mechanistic explanation and whatever rival C&S are offering does not seem to be all that stark.  And, what exactly is it?

Bechtel might not like this (cf., C&S, 2008, p. 16), but what reason is there?  For further comment on this, tune in tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Irreducible Brain Components Leads to Cognitive Extension?

C&S write,
If it turns out that there are irreducible mechanisms (nonlocalizable or nondecomposable) at the highest levels within the brain then, because it is at roughly the same scale and there are many interactions at that shared level, it may be necessary to bring in the external environment as part of the cognitive mechanisms in question or at least as essential background for their function. (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, p. 8).
I'm not getting the thinking here.  So, suppose there are some irreducible (cognitive?) mechanisms at the highest levels in the brain.  Why would this make it necessary to bring in the external environment as part of the cognitive mechanisms in question?  I'm not getting it.  C&S do hedge and throw in "it may be necessary", but still why may this be necessary?

There are other considerations given later, such as that mechanisms often function only in certain contexts, but this is a separate matter from the irreducibility consideration cited above.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Those Successful Skinnerians and Gibsonians

C&S write,
Both Skinnerians and Gibsonians have been very successful as psychologists, and both groups have achieved results that are undeniable psychological milestones. So these views are neither nonstarters, nor obviously crazy.  (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, pp. 4-5).
This seems to me a bit simplistic.

For one thing, recall that the Ptolemaic astronomers were very successful as astronomers and had results that are undeniable astronomical milestones, but much of their theory was wrong.  So, one can still achieve results with a flawed theory.

For another, I think that one has to recognize that theories have different parts (to speak generically).  Some parts might be true and others false.  So, maybe it is true that the world contains affordances, but false that these are directly perceived.  Indeed, one philosophical sort of project might be to draw distinctions among the components of theories to see how evidence supports one or another of them. 

For a third, I wouldn't want to undertake the burden of proof to show that Skinnerian or Gibsonian psychology is a nonstarter or obviously crazy.  (Maybe just crazy?)  Maybe just wrong on certain important points.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Psychology without the brain?

Chemero and Silberstein report that:
Note that neither Gibson nor Skinnerians claim that the brain is not importantly involved in cognition; rather they claim that psychologists can do all their explanatory work without referring to the brain.  (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, p.4).
Ok. So, what is the story about why John Dalton was color blind?  He lacked a type of retinal cone, right?  So, do Gibson and Skinner dodge this objection by saying that the retina is not part of the brain?  Or by saying that color blindness is not a concern of psychology?

It seems to me not enough to say the retina is involved in color vision.  It looks like facts about the retina do some explanatory work.

This sort of line looks to have it both ways, that the brain is, of course, important, but not important.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A non-species-specific, non-bio-chauvinistic definition of cognition?

In recent developments, the enactive perspective has started to advance on the intimate connection between the concept of autonomy and sense-making, the normative engagement of a system with its world (Varela 1991, 1997; Weber and Varela 2002; Di Paolo 2005; De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007; Thompson 2007; Di Paolo et al. 2008). The latter is nothing less than a strong candidate for a widely applicable, non-species-specific, non-bio-chauvinist definition of cognition. (Di Paolo, 2009, pp. 11-12).
This last sentence raises a number of issues.

I. Why doesn't cognitivism fit the bill as a non-species-specific definition of cognition?  (Set aside worries about definitions, for the present.)  Cognitivists have regularly been interested the cognitive capacities of non-human animals, e.g. chimpanzee abilities with natural language, animal capacities for self-concepts, animal capacities for tool use. Cognitivism seems to offer a non-specifies-specific "definition" of cognition and, in fact, includes this as a part of its active research program.

II. Why doesn't cognitivism fit the bill as a non-bio-chauvinistic definition of cognition?  After all, many cognitivists think that it is possible to produce computers that think and presumably these could be computers that are not autonomous (i.e., not robots).

III. And, why isn't it that some forms of enactivism are bio-chauvinistic?  Consider the versions of enactivism that claim that "life = cognition".  (Cf. Di Paolo, 2009, p. 12).  Or what of versions for which being cognitive entails being alive.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another Instance of the C-C Fallacy?

Here Chemero and Silberstein seem to me to attribute the C-C fallacy to Clark:
Clark (2003) takes this further, arguing that external tools (including phones, computers, language, etc.) are so crucial to human cognition that we are literally cyborgs, partly constituted by technologies (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, p. 5).
The fallacy here is in thinking that something that contributes "crucially" to some sort of cognitive or behavioral success is thereby cognitive.  The crux of the difference between what Rupert calls HEC and HEMC is the difference between crucial causal contributors being cognitive crucial causal contributors and non-cognitive crucial causal contributors.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On Di Paolo's Enactivism, Is the Visual System not a Cognitive System?

If the visual system is not self-producing (as seems plausible), then it is not autopoeitic.  But, if it is not autopoeitic, then it is not a robust, adaptative autopoeitic system either, so then, by Di Paolo's account, it is not a cognitive system either.

I mention this "problem" for Di Paolo, but it seems to me a consequence of any version of an autopoetic account of cognition.

Now, I put problem in scare quotes, because this may simply be what the autopoeitic folks want to say about the visual system.  They do, after all, tend to have different target concepts for cognitive scientists than do, say, cognitivists.  No cognitivist, as far as I know, thinks that plants, slime molds, and bacteria are cognitive systems, but at least some in the autopoeitic camp do.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Future Posts 6/17/2010

I'm reading Chemero & Silberstein's "After the Philosophy of Mind: Replacing Scholasticism with Science", available here, and will be posting my typical "reading notes" in a few days.

Di Paolo on Cognition and Sense Making

Earlier, I noted that, according to Di Paolo,
Only of the subset of autopoietic systems that are not just robust but also adaptive can we say that they possess operational mechanisms to potentially distinguish the different virtual implications of otherwise equally viable paths of encounters with the environment. (Di Paolo, 2009, p. 14).
But, this is followed immediately by this:
Only of the subset of autopoietic systems that are not just robust but also adaptive can we say that they posses operational mechanisms to potentially distinguish the different virtual implications of otherwise equally viable paths of encounters with the environment. This differential operation is called sense-making (Weber and Varela 2002; Di Paolo 2005; Thompson 2007). If, as proposed, sense-making requires the acquisition of ‘‘a valence which is dual at its basis: attraction or rejection, approach or escape’’(Weber and Varela 2002, p. 117), a system engaged in sense-making requires, apart from the norm given by self-construction, access to how it currently stands against the all-or-nothing barrier given by that norm.  (Di Paolo, 2009, pp. 14-15).
But, here it seems that sense-making requires more than just robustness and adaptivity.   The issue is that sense-making requires a valence, which does not seem to be guaranteed by having a robust, adaptive autopoeitic system.  The problem is that one might well have a system that can "possess operational mechanisms to potentially distinguish the different virtual implications of otherwise equally viable paths of encounters with the environment", yet have no valence about those different implications.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Menary's Edited Collection "The Extended Mind" Finally Out!

While many of the papers in this collection have circulated for years, the actual book is finally out from MIT.  Get it at Amazon or directly from MIT Press.

Di Paolo on Cognitive Systems

So, last time, it seemed that Di Paolo should say that a cognitive system is an autopoeitic system that operates according to potential future states, but that he does not just say this.

Instead, Di Paolo offers a theory of what it is to operate according to potential future states. He writes,
Only of the subset of autopoietic systems that are not just robust but also adaptive can we say that they posses operational mechanisms to potentially distinguish the different virtual implications of otherwise equally viable paths of encounters with the environment. (Di Paolo, 2009, p. 14).
By "robust" he means:
can sustain a certain range of perturbations as well as a certain range of internal structural changes without losing their autopoiesis. These limits are defined by the organization and current state of the system (ibid.)
By "adaptive" he means:
a system’s capacity, in some circumstances, to regulate its states and its relation to the environment with the result that, if the states are sufficiently close to the limits of its viability,
1. tendencies are distinguished and acted upon depending on whether the states will approach or recede from these proximal limits and, as a consequence,
2. tendencies that approach these limits are moved closer to or transformed into tendencies that do not approach them and so future states are prevented from reaching these limits with an outward velocity.  (ibid.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Di Paolo on Bare Autopoesis

Like much of the work on autopoeisis, I find Di Paolo's exposition a bit difficult to follow.  I just don't have the sense of the problematic here.  But, here's my take on the upshot of section 4.1.

Nothing can be a cognitive system simply in virtue of being an autopoeitic system.  Why?  Cognitive systems operate according to potential future states, but an autopoeitic system does not necessarily operate this way.

Now, one might expect the solution to this problem would be to say that a cognitive system is an autopoeitic system that operates according to potential future states.  But things do not appear to be that simple...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Di Paolo on Extended Mind 3

[The] 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. If we remove the external component the system’s behavioral competence will drop, just as it would if we removed part of its brain. Our thesis is that this sort of coupled process counts equally well as a cognitive process, whether or not it is wholly in the head (Clark and Chalmers 1998, p. 7).

This seems to suggest a practical and operational way out of the problem. Perform a causal analysis of the coupled system and work out what processes contribute to cognitive performance. But of course, without a measure of relevance, a causal analysis will inevitably invite an unbounded spread of causes (e.g., isn’t oxygen obviously crucial for a human to solve math problems?). It is clear that what counts as cognitive (the second boundary) should be the measure that determines the relevance of the causal contribution of a given process. But this leads us again to the problem already stated. The only test of the cognitive offered by EM is whether we intuitively would call something cognitive were it to happen in the head. (Di Paolo, 2009, p. 10).
And, I have to agree that the way to separate what merely causally influences cognition and what constitutes cognition is to have a mark of the cognitive.  We need a theory of what distinguishes cognitive processes from non-cognitive processes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Di Paolo on Extended Mind 2

Before asking where it is we must first say what it is. This is the single major problem with the way EM theorists have approached the genuine question of whether extra-neural, extra-bodily material processes are a constitutive part of what we intuitively recognize as cognitive processes. Relying solely on those intuitions is the problem. (Di Paolo, 2009, p. 10).
I've got to agree with the need for a mark of the cognitive.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Di Paolo on Extended Mind 1

Di Paolo begins his paper,
In a recent article, Wheeler (in press) has put a question mark on the relation between enactivism (in its life/mind continuity version, e.g., Varela et al. 1991; Thompson 2007) and the extended mind (EM) hypothesis (Clark and Chalmers 1998). His conclusion spells gloom for the prospects of a unified non-Cartesian cognitive science: enactivism and EM are demonstrably incompatible!
This conclusion seems at odds with the spontaneous understanding of enactivism as proposing a view of cognition as fundamentally embodied and situated and the (apparently!) parallel understanding of EM as signalling how much of our cognitive skills rely crucially on the availability of non-biological epistemic technologies.  (Di Paolo, 2009, p. 9. italics added).
Now, as I understand it, EM says more than that our cognitive skills rely crucially on the availability of non-biological epistemic technologies.  This sounds like the causal claim that cognition is causally influenced by non-biological epistemic technologies.  But, EM makes the stronger claim that cognition is constituted, in part, by the available non-biological epistemic technologies.  Or, to put the matter in another way, the phrase "rely crucially on" is at best ambiguous between a causal and a constitutive reading.

Avoiding these ambiguities is one reason to keep a distinction between causal and constitutive claims front and center in the EC debates.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Trust & Glue Versus Coupling "in the right way" 5

And, what holds for the "trust and glue" to coupling "in the right way" move seems to hold with the move from, say, other coupling conditions, such as "reciprocal causal coupling".

Future Posts

Having seen the program of the First European Summer School of Life and Cognition, I was moved to read Ezequiel Di Paolo's "Extended Life".  So, I should have a few posts on this in the coming days.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Trust & Glue Versus Coupling "in the right way" 4

And, note that the move to the weaker claim that cognition extends when coupled to the body and environment "in the right way" is a mere logical move that does not bring with it insight into the nature of extended cognition.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Trust & Glue Versus Coupling "in the right way" 3

Ok.  So, I could be wrong about the origins of the "in the right way" move.  Wheeler, forthcoming, might have had this independently of Clark, 2008, and Wilson and Clark, 2009:
The second claim that Malafouris needs to establish is that when things-beyond-the-skin achieve the status of being essential to the enactment of, and partly constitutive of, certain cognitive systems or operations, they often do so in virtue of a kind of causal contribution that is, in some way to be determined, a product of those things’ essential materiality, rather than in virtue of some other kind of causal contribution. (Wheeler, forthcoming, p. 1).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trust & Glue Versus Coupling "in the right way" 2

Note that the apparent weakening of the considerations of coupling to maintain only coupling in the right way appears to have been prompted by A&A's articulation of the C-C fallacy.

Here is Clark, (2008):
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.  (p. 87).
Wilson & Clark, (2009) also present the weakening as part of a reply to A&A here:
One key failure of the arguments supporting the extended-mind story, they suggest (this volume), is the failure of those arguments to distinguish mere causal influence from constitution. Now merely coupling a resource to an agent does not, of course, make it part of the agent. But this does not show the nature and degree of intercomponential coupling to be irrelevant to the question of constitution. What makes my hippocampus part of my cognitive system, it seems fair to say, has a great deal to do with how it is informationally integrated with the rest of my cognitive system. We can imagine a case in which, despite being firmly located in my head, there is zero integration and hence the onboard hippocampus fails to form part of my active cognitive system. Contrariwise, we can imagine a hippocampus in a distant vat whose activity is so well integrated as to unproblematically count as part of my cognitive apparatus (see, e.g., Dennett, 1978 - a classic treatment titled "Where Am I?"). Coupling, we conclude, does not in and of itself render a tool or resource part of the agent's cognitive apparatus. But the right kind of coupling (one resulting in deep functional integration) is a major part of what determines the scope and bounds of an agent's cognitive apparatus.  (p. 68)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Extended and Embodied Cognition at the First European Summer School of Life and Cognition


An Interesting Topic: An Extended Mind Perspective on Natural Number Representation

An Extended Mind Perspective on Natural Number Representation
Helen De Cruz
Philosophical Psychology, 1465-394X, Volume 21, Issue 4, 2008, Pages 475 – 490

Trust & Glue Versus Coupling "in the right way" 1

The move from C&C's "conditions of trust and glue"to coupling "in the right way" is apparently a move to a weaker claim.

If you adopt the conditions of trust and glue, then you are thereby apparently committed to them as showing coupling in the right way.  By contrast, if you are only committed to cognitive extension when X is coupled to Y in the right way, you are not thereby committed to the conditions of trust and glue.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Parity Principle 3

But, I think that part of what people think might be going on with the Parity Principle, in addition to the idea that in-the-head versus outside-the-head makes no cognitive difference per se, is something to do with recognizing processes as cognitive.

But, Clark and I disagree on what we should recognize as cognitive processes.  Clark thinks that Martians manipulating bitmap images should count, but A&A don't.  So, it looks like what might be worth investigating in the Parity Principle is what should count as a cognitive process.  But, that seems just to be an indirect route to what A&A have loosely described as the mark of the cognitive, about which we have said a lot.

But, Clark has also expressed some scepticism about there being such a thing as the mark of the cognitive.  So, I don't see what payoff there is in more attention to the Parity Principle.  If it's about the MotC, then talk about the MotC.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

EC at HuffPo?


The Parity Principle 2

Despite the interest that Chalmers, and others, have in the Parity Principle, I'm not really sure what help it is.  Here is what A&A, 2001, had to say about the principle:
In defending what we take to be common sense, we don’t propose to challenge a principle articulated by Clark and Chalmers: “If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is … part of the cognitive (Clark & Chalmers, 1998, p. 2).  To us, this means that the skull does not constitute a theoretically significant boundary for cognitive science. More specifically, it means that being inside the brain cannot be the mark of the cognitive. This seems to us to be true and obvious. (Adams & Aizawa, 2001, p. 46). 
 So, if the principle is nothing but a "veil of metabolic ignorance" (as Clark sometimes describes it)--so that we should not use an in-the-head versus outside-the-head condition as a basis for telling what is, or is not, cognition--that by itself does not seem to me to speak to whether there is, or is not, extended cognition.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Extended Cognition hits Discover Magazine Online


The Parity Principle 1

Chalmers recently suggested in comments here that more attention might be paid to the Parity Principle as a means of arguing for EC.  Mike Wheeler is, I think, doing this in his current book project Extended X.  And Sven Walter also has a paper where he is developing other versions of the principle in an effort to show that there is a kind of pro-EC bias in the current formulation.  Shannon Spaulding also has a paper discussing this.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Aizawa Review of Clark's Supersizing

My "subversive little review", as Andy Clark describes it, is out in The Philosophical Quarterly.  What makes the review subversive, I think Andy and I agree, is the attempt to undermine the import of Clark's EC by drawing a distinction between the hypothesis of extended folk cognition (that Clark apparently supports) versus the hypothesis of extended scientific cognition (which is what Rupert, Adams and Aizawa, have apparently been challenging.  A&A think that maybe it is ok to let the Hypothesis of Extended Folk Cognition (HEFC) slide while the rejection of the Hypothesis of Extended Scientific Cognition (HESC) is what matters.

Järvilehto on Reaction Time Experiments 2

Immediately after the text cited in my last post, Järvilehto writes
From these considerations follows a principle which is of utmost importance for all psychophysiological and neurophysiological research. The events appearing after the stimulus in the brain (or in behavior) are the result of organization preceding the behavior; they do not reflect any processing of the stimulus, nor do they indicate any processes started by the stimulus per se. Every stimulus in a way closes a system, the whole activity of which leads to the result of behavior. In addition, the perception of the stimulus is a result of the preceding organization. Thus, the perceptual process is not produced by the stimulus, but is going on before its presentation. A stimulus means the possibility of acting; there is no causal relationship between the stimulus and perception because the stimulus is only one element in the system realizing perceptual results. Every perceived change in the environment means a change of behavior, and new possibilities of realizing the results of behavior. (Järvilehto, 1998, p. 331, italics added).
I get the idea the stimulus is not supposed to start anything, since the stimulus is just one element in the life of the organism-system that preceded the stimulus.  But, why say that there is no processing of the stimulus?  And, it looks like the argument for the view that there is no causal relationship between the stimulus and perception reflects more on some background views concerning causation than on the nature of reaction time experiments.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Järvilehto on Reaction Time Experiments 1

What, therefore, is the explanatory role of the "stimulus" in the reaction time situation?  As a matter of fact, the situation is quite the opposite of what it is thought to be in a superficial stimulus-response way of thinking. The reaction of the subject does not appear because a stimulus is presented, but the stimulus itself is a result of the action of the subject, and it is possible only therefore that the subject is organized to act in a certain way. The stimulus exists as a stimulus because a preorganized system defining some environmental change as a stimulus is present before this change appears. When the stimulus is finally presented it does not cause any "processing" because this "processing" has been carried out before its appearance, in the sense that the organism must have a system into which this environmental change defined by the experimenter fits. The subject is not "reacting" to the stimulus, but the behavior of the subject defines the changes in the environment which may act as "stimuli" and are needed as a part of the organization necessary for the achievement of the desired results. (Järvilehto,1998, p. 331).
Let us say that the stimulus occurs at time t0.  Then, we can agree with Järvilehto that the stimulus in a reaction time experiment is a result of the action of the subject prior to t0.  And we can agree with much else in this.  Only, why would the fact that the stimulus at t0 is the product of prior actions and features of the preorganized system show that the system is not reacting to the stimulus after t0?  Why can't it be that actions of the system prior t0 lead to the stimulus at t0, but then the stimulus at t0 leads to a later response at, say, t1?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Järvilehto on One or Two Systems

So, Järvilehto objects to postulating two systems, an organismal system and an environmental system, because it is so hard (impossible?) to define a clear boundary between the two.  Instead he claims,
Thus, behavior is realized in the organism-environment system. Behavior does not mean movement or interaction of two systems, but action of only one system, reorganization of this system, or change of the relations between its elements.  (Järvilehto, 1998, p. 330).
But, I don't see how moving to one system rather than two really helps with Järvilehto's problem.  If it's a problem that you can't (easily) define a clear boundary between organism and environment taken as systems, then it still seems to be a problem if you can't (easily) define a clear boundary between organism and environment taken as elements.  The talk of "reorganization" of the system or "change of the relation between its elements" only seems to mask the problem a little.