Friday, February 25, 2011

WWWW (What Wheeler Wouldn't Write)

2 Online intelligence is generated through complex causal interactions in an extended brain-body-environment system Recent work in, for example, neuroscience, robotics, developmental psychology, and philosophy suggests that on-line intelligent action is grounded not in the activity of neural states and processes alone, but rather in complex causal interactions involving not only neural factors, but also additional factors located in the nonneural body and the environment. Given the predominant role that the brain is traditionally thought to play here, one might say that evolution, in the interests of adaptive efficiency, has been discovered to outsource a certain amount of cognitive intelligence to the nonneural body and the environment. In chapters 8 and 9 we shall explicate this externalistic restructuring of the cognitive world-with its attendant (typically mild, but sometimes radical) downsizing of the contribution of the brain in terms of what Andy Clark and I have called nontrivial causal spread (Wheeler and Clark 1999). (Wheeler, 2005, p. 12)
Now, this is something that Wheeler did write back in 2005, but it is, I speculate, what Wheeler wouldn't write now.  I think he has gotten to be more careful about loose phrases such as "intelligence is generated through".  That's ambiguous between a thesis about ontogenetic development, on the one, hand (which A&A think is true) and a thesis about, say, the supervenience base of intelligence (which A&A think is not true).  "Grounded" might also be ambiguous, but I would read it as a kind of supervenience claim.  The appeal to evolution, however, suggests that it is not an ontogenetic thesis that is up for grabs, but a phylogenetic thesis.  All these are different claims and I think that Wheeler is probably now on to this. I think he may believe all three theses; I only believe two.  But, this is just a marking out he lay of the land ...

Wheeler, M. (2005) Reconstructing the Cognitive World.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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