Monday, October 18, 2010

EP and Levels

This is just a question post.

So, cognitivists typically (actually, without exception to my knowledge) hold that there are something like "levels".  So, for example, there is a psychological level that is realized by neuronal processes, which are realized by chemical processes, which are realized by quantum mechanical processes.  Sometimes the levels are, following Marr, input-output, algorithmic, and implementational.  Now, there are differences of opinion about what levels are, how many there are, and what relations there are between them, but do EPists have some version of this kind of picture of reality?

Runeson has something like this with his anti-reductionism and Gibson seems to insist on something like the psychological being a molar kind of enterprise distinct from physics, but I have never seen them talk about things like levels and their relations.  (Nor is it something I've seen in introductions to Phenomenology.)


  1. Well the Turvey set up is (roughly)

    There is the world
    There is information about the world; this information specifies properties of the world (such as affordances)
    There is the organism which perceives the world by virtue of detecting that information

    I think Tony Chemero gets grumpy about this set up in his book because he thinks affordances are relations, not properties; but you may have seen this discussed there.

    Is that the sort of thing you meant?

  2. No, it's not what I have in mind. So, what I have in mind is, for example, how the human retina is made up of a bunch of rods, cone, amacrine, bipolar, and horizontal cells. At one level, the retina is a tissue, but at a lower level it is made up of a bunch of cells. This is one example of the kind of thing that is meant by "levels", but does not do justice to all.

    Or, how about another example. Computer programs written in LISP are compiled into lower level machine code. This is sometimes said to be a difference in levels. (Although likely a different sense of levels.)

    I am asking about this, since there have been times when a cognitivist would naturally have talked of levels, but I've never read you or Gary allude to such a thing.

    I don't see that admitting levels is a problem for Gibson. Indeed, I see talk of levels as helping. Gibsonian could say that there is this ecological level that is realized by neural processes, but that these are different levels. This is a standard cognitivist thing to say, but is independent of the theory one has of what happens at each level.

  3. Actually, I just read something that indicates that Runeson, at least, has something like this levels distinction:
    "In analogy with the planimeter and its user, our perceptual systems will be considered as a set of smart instruments which are (more or less actively) used by our intellect to get information about the environment.

    The study of perception would then be the study of the perceptual instruments. This may be subdivided into the search for the principles behind the function of the instruments, and the discovery of the physical realizations of these principles, i.e. how these instruments are actually built. The former would be the psychological part of the enterprise and the latter would be the physiological part."