Monday, October 21, 2013

Paul Thagard on the Extended Breath Hypothesis

"Consider Otto, a man with severe emphysema resulting from years of smoking that destroyed the air sacs in his lungs."

Thanks to Larry Shapiro for bringing my attention to this.  Is this the first less than enthusiastic treatment of EEEE cognition/mind/emotion/consciousness that they've had over at Psychology Today?

Friday, October 11, 2013

This is not my view

In my earlier post, I noted my surprise regarding some of Robinson's interpretations of my views.  Here is another surprising passage:
I also recognize in this particular case that both the proponents and the critics of the EMT have stipulated that empirical evidence either for or against the EMT will be set to one side, and the case argued on its philosophical merits. (p. 3).
I never register any stipulation like this.  Nor do I think Rupert does.  Maybe there are some people out there who have stipulated that empirical evidence for or against the EMT will be set to one side, but I don't think Rupert or Adams or I say that.  I don't think Clark or Rowlands or Menary or Wilson or Hurley or Noe think this.  I don't recall anyone who does.  Maybe there are folks out there who do this.  I have not read everything in the literature.

But, I also try to evaluate EMT on the empirical evidence.  Look at the discussion of primacy and recency effects in memory, the generation effect, etc.  How is that not appealing to empirical evidence?  Look at the discussion of retinal fading.  How is that not empirical?  Look at the stuff on neuromuscular blockade.   How is that not empirical?  Look at the stuff from psychology that Rupert talks about.

Is computation observer-relative?

The 7th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy:
Is computation observer-relative?

AISB-50, Goldsmiths, London, 1-4 April 2014

As part of the AISB-50 Annual Convention 2014 to be held at Goldsmiths, University of London

The convention is organised by the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB)


One of the claims integral to John Searle’s critique of computational cognitive science and ‘Strong AI’ was that computation is ‘observer-relative’ or ‘observer-dependent’ (Searle, The Rediscovery of the Mind, 1992). This claim has already proven to be very controversial in cognitive science and AI (Endicott 1996; Coulter & Sharrock, Rey, and Haugeland in Preston & Bishop (eds.), Views into the Chinese Room, 2002).

Those who come to the subject of computation via physics, for example, often argue that computational properties are physical properties, that is, that computation is ‘intrinsic to physics’. On such views, computation is comparable to the flow of information, where information is conceived of in statistical terms, and thus computation is both observer-independent and (perhaps) ubiquitous. Connected with this are related issues about causality and identity (including continuity of), as well as the question of alternative formulations of information.

This symposium seeks to evaluate arguments, such as (but not limited to) Searle’s, which bear directly on the question of what kind of processes and properties computational processes and properties are. It thus seeks to address the general question ‘What is computation?’ in a somewhat indirect way. Questions that might be tackled include: Are computational properties syntactic properties? Are syntactic properties discovered, or assigned? If they must be assigned, as Searle argues, does this mean they are or can be assigned arbitrarily? Might computational properties be universally realized? Would such universal realizability be objectionable, or trivialise computationalism? Is syntax observer-relative? What kinds of properties (if any) are observer-relative or observer-dependent? Is observer-relativity a matter of degree? Might the question of whether computation is observer-relative have different answers depending on what is carrying out the computation in question? Might the answer to this question be affected by the advent of new computing technologies, such as biologically- and physically-inspired models of computation? Is it time to start distinguishing between different meanings of ‘computation’, or is there still mileage in the idea that some single notion of computation is both thin enough to cover all the kinds of activities we call computational, and yet still informative (non-trivial)? Does Searle’s idea that syntax is observer-relative serve to support, or instead to undermine, his famous ‘Chinese Room argument’?


Questions of ontology and epistemology


Is computation an observer relative phenomenon? What implications do answers to this question have for the doctrine of computationalism?


Does computation (the unfolding process of a computational system) define a natural kind? If so, how do we differentiate the computational from the non-computational?


To what extent and in what ways can we say that computation is taking place in natural systems? Are the laws of natural processes computational? Does a rock implement every input-less FSA (Putnam, Chalmers)? Is the evolution of the universe computable as the output of an algorithm? I.e. is the temporal evolution of a state of the universe a digital informational process akin to what goes on in the circuitry of a computer? Digital ontology' (Zuse), "the nature of the physical universe is ultimately discrete"; cf. Kant's distinction - from the antinomies of pure reason - of "simple parts" and no simple parts; the discrete and the analogue.


Computation in machines and computation in nature; Turing versus non-Turing computation


Investigating the difference between formal models of physical and biological systems and physical/biological reality-in-itself and the implication(s) for theory of mind / cognition.

(a)  The study of 'computation' using natural processes / entities (i.e. machines not exclusively based on [man-made] silicon-based architectures).
(b)  What is the underlying nature of such natural [physical/biological] computational processes? I.e. are the laws of natural processes computational at their very core OR merely contingently computational because the mathematical language we use to express them is biased towards being computational?


Submissions must be full papers and should be sent via EasyChair:

Text editor templates from a previous convention can be found at: <>

We request that submitted papers are limited to eight pages. Each paper will receive at least two reviews. Selected papers will be published in the general proceedings of the AISB Convention, with the proviso that at least ONE author attends the symposium in order to present the paper and participate in general symposium activities.


      i. Full paper submission deadline: 3 January 2014
      ii. Notification of acceptance/rejection decisions: 3 February 2014
      iii. Final versions of accepted papers (Camera ready copy): 24 February 2014
      iv. Convention: 1st - 4th April 2014, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK [symposium date to be confirmed]

There will be separate proceedings for each symposium, produced before the Congress, and available to conference delegates. In previous years there have been awards for the best student paper, and limited student bursaries. These details will be circulated as and when they become available. Authors of a selection of the best papers will be invited to submit an extended version of the work to a journal special issue.


Symposium Chair: Dr. John Preston, Department of Philosophy, The University of Reading, Reading, UK.
                  tel. +44 (0) 118 378 7327
                  web page: <http://>

Symposium Executive-Officer and OC member: Dr. Yasemin J. Erden, CBET, St Mary's University College, Twickenham, UK.

tel: +44 (0) 208 224 4250
web page: <>

Symposium OC Member: Prof. Mark Bishop, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK.

tel: +44 (0) 207 078 5048
web page: <>

Symposium OC member: Prof. Slawomir J Nasuto, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, UK.

tel: +44 (0) 118 378 6701
web page: <>




Dr Mark Coeckelbergh (University of Twente, NL)

Prof. S. Barry Cooper (University of Leeds, UK)

Dr. Anthony Galton (University of Exeter, UK)

Dr Bob Kentridge (Durham University, UK)

Dr Stephen Rainey (St Mary's University College, UK)

Dr Mark Sprevak (University of Edinburgh, UK)

Prof. Michael Wheeler (University of Stirling, UK) 

Dr Yasemin J. Erden
Lecturer/Programme Director Philosophy
St Mary's University College
Waldegrave Road
Twickenham, TW1 4SX
United Kingdom
AISB Committee member (Schools Liaison)

Human Computation and the Humanities Conference

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS - Human Computation and the Humanities Conference

DATE: February 22-23rd, 2014

VENUE: Columbia University in the City of New York 
(Travel funding may be available for selected participants)

SUBMISSIONS: 300-400 word abstract of a 4,000-5,000 word paper OR a proposal for a discussion panel





Human computation is an emerging area of transdisciplinary research.  The field draws on insights from computer science, complexity theory, psychology, network theory, economics, engineering, machine learning, and many other disciplines to explore the computational potential of systems in which humans and machines collaborate to solve problems.  Successful applications of the theory of human computation include von Ahn’s reCAPTCHA,’s mechanical turk, computationally significant games like’s protein folding puzzle game, and Google’s Waze platform for monitoring traffic and road conditions.
While human computation is traditionally seen as field dominated by mathematically-oriented work, there is room for significant humanistic contribution.   Human Computation and the Humanities (HCH) is designed to bring philosophers, historians, literary theorists, and other humanities scholars interested in human computation into dialog both with one another and with more traditional human computation researchers.  Mary Catherine Bateson, in her introduction to the recent Springer Handbook on Human Computation,  suggests that this field may potentially offer “models of interdependence and connectivity that will convey to those who work with them the conviction that individual voices and actions count.”  The study of human computation thus raises a number of issues relevant to the humanities, including the nature of collective intelligence, the metaphysics of complex systems, the prerequisites for social collaboration, the ethics of privacy, the politics of self-organized societies, and many others.
HCH explores this complex of questions from a transdisciplinary point of view--one that emphasizes collaboration between the humanities and the sciences. This conference is a supplement and follow-up to the more general AAAI Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing (HCOMP-2013), held November 6-9, 2013 in Palm Springs, California, USA, and comes on the heels of the publication of Springer’s Handbook of Human Computation in December 2013.  These two events will provide ample fodder for cross-talk between the humanities and the sciences.

HCH is structured to maximize the opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement and reflection on a broad spectrum of topics related to human computation.  HCH will highlight the transdisciplinary nature of the study of human computation, and engage with areas of academia and culture that might not generally participate in the discourse surrounding information processing and computation.  
We invite proposals for both paper and panel presentations from scholars working in any field related to human computation.  Submitted abstracts should be of approximately 300-400 words, and associated papers should be suitable for approximately 30 minute presentation time (4,000-5,000 words).  Proposed panel discussions should include a clear description of the panel’s topic, its relationship to human computation, and a suggested list of invited participants.

 Proposals must be submitted by December 22, 2013, and should be submitted via email to
Decisions will be announced by January 13, 2014.  The HCH will be held on February 22 and 23, and will take place on the campus of Columbia University.  Travel funding may be available for selected participants.


Jon Lawhead
Columbia University PhD Candidate, Philosophy

Varieties of Enactivism

An upcoming event.  Info here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Intro of Feeling Extended

So, the blogging on Feeling Extended has begun over at Brains.  

So, the putative problem for Clark is that he says that the machinery of the mind literally extends, but machinery is metaphorical.  "What is “the machinery of the mind”? Obviously it’s a metaphor: not only is the mind not literally mechanical; the brain isn’t either. "  I don't see the other commentators buying the charge of metaphor.  But, ok, so why not simply charitably interpret Clark in a non-metaphorical way?  (I know it's strange reading me defending Clark, but there you have it.)

The putative problem for Adams and me is, well, ... I'm not sure.  Robinson attributes to me views I don't recognize.  
1) if nothing material extends, mind doesn’t extend.  
I am not sure what this means or why Robinson attributes this to me.  
2) Speaking a language doesn’t help us think? 
Speaking a language might help us think.  There is probably some sense to be made of that, but I don't see where I've committed to this one way or the other.
3) Thinking itself isn’t a form of internalized conversation, steeped in transcraniality? 
I don't believe that thinking itself is a form of internalized conversation, but I'm not sure where I've committed to this.
4) Speech acts aren’t performed by whole groups?  
I do think speech acts are, at least some times, performed by whole groups.  But, I don't know how Robinson comes to the view that I deny that speech acts are performed by whole groups.  
So, it seems to me that Robinson is not being very charitable to either Clark or me.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

EC blogging at Brains

Over at Brains, there will be some discussion of two recent EC-related books:

In the next few weeks, Brains will be host to two philosophers who’ve recently published books on interestingly parallel topics:
I've ordered a copy of Robinson's book, so I might stop by there and see how it goes.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Book from MIT: Feeling Extended

At Amazon.

This looks to work on some different assumptions than are found in many discussions of EC.

Incidentally, Brian McLaughlin mentioned to me in passing that Extended Cognition is big in Asia.  I did not really know that, but perhaps this is one small piece of that.

Friday, August 30, 2013

From the dark corners of my c.v.:

I vaguely remember the paper, although I had forgotten the author's name:
Commentary on Andrew Wilson’s “A Methodological Alternative to the Assumption of Mental Representation.” For the Society for Philosophy and Psychology meetings, June 19-21, 2001 at the University of Cincinnati.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Extended Mind and After: Socially Extended Mind and Actor-Network

Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science
August 2013

Tetsuya Kono

The abstract to this paper begins, "The concept of extended mind has been impressively developed over the last 10 years by many philosophers and cognitive scientists."

Now, maybe I am taking this comment too seriously or too literally and maybe I am just biased here, but maybe readers can give me some insight here.  What do the proponents of EM think have been the "impressive developments" in EM over the last 10 years  (And, here I want to read "impressive developments" straight, by which I mean things that are positive and important developments in EM.)  Thanks in advance for your proposals.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

CIC action vs REC embodied action

Enactivists inspired by its original formulation invoke the notion of “embodied action” even when describing mental activity that doesn’t involve content or representations of any kind. For intellectualists this makes no sense, since for them nothing qualifies as an action proper unless it is produced by or otherwise connected to contentful states of mind of some sort. Thus, when enactivists speak of “embodied action” and their intellectual opponents talk of “action,” they are not operating with the same notion of action. There is a chance that when this semantic confusion is cleared up the relevant philosophical work might be divvied up so that REC and restricted CIC complement each other. 
Yes, all this sounds right.  
But this envisaged rapprochement between REC and restricted CIC is not in the cards as long as intellectualist extremists continue to demand that any bout of activity counts as mindful only if it is connected with contentful states of mind. As long as that commitment is in place, CIC is unrestricted and logically excludes REC.
But, this seems hasty to me.  Why can't the rapprochement be that CIC keeps what it means by "action" and REC folks tell us what they mean by "embodied action" so we can be clear not to confuse the two?    Then we might begin to examine evidence for the two theories.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Who fights this?

What REC insists on is that creatures are capable of dealing with aspects of their environments, sometimes in quite remarkable and sophisticated ways (ways that count as properly mental and cognitive), even if the capacity for content-involving deliberation or planning never develops. 
It seems to me that CIC could well agree that there are creatures who deal with their environments in quite remarkable and sophisticated ways that count as cognitive and mental without content-involving deliberation and planning.  Deliberation and planning are only some types of cognitive processes.

Maybe deer reacting to headlights by freezing involves dealing with an environment using representations, but I presume that deer do not deliberate about whether to freeze.  Nor do they plan to freeze.

But, then again, the freezing response might not be very remarkable or sophisticated.  Human navigation through a crowded train station might be remarkable and sophisticated (Haugeland in "Mind embodied and embedded" would seem to have been of this opinion), but a lot of that does not involve deliberation or planning.  That might be highly reactive.  I don't think one has to give up one's CIC card in order to hold that view.  Such a restricted CIC does not seem all that restricted to me.

Or, maybe a better example still is language acquisition.  A dyed-in-the-wool cognitivist CIC could think that language acquisition is an extremely remarkable and sophisticated process that requires mental representation, but that it requires little in the way of planning or deliberation.

How Things Shape the mind: A Theory of Material Engagement

How Things Shape the Mind

A full-blown exportation of the extended mind from philosophy?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hutto & Myin, 2013, p. 12

once one abandons the idea that mentality is essentially content involving there is no a priori reason to suppose that cognition is an exclusively heady affair. Rejection of [Content Involving Cognition], and along with it representationalism, thus provides the cleanest and clearest motivation for thinking that cognition is fully embodied and embedded, and not merely embrained.
I see a few gaps here.

1. Suppose you think, as I do, that cognition does involve content.  Still that provides no a priori reason to think that cognition is embrained.  One would presumably also need some empirical work to establish that content (typically) occurs in brains.

2. Grant that once one abandons the idea that mentality is essentially content involving there is no a priori reason to suppose that cognition is an exclusively heady affair.  That leaves open the possibility that there is an a posteriori reason to suppose that cognition is an exclusively heady affair.

3. Grant that cognition is not essentially content involving.  How does that tell you what the realization base of cognition is?  Presumably you would need some account of what cognition is, then something like empirical evidence about the realization base of that cognition.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Extended Mind, Dynamicism, and Computation: Cagliari Colloquim

In addition to this event, I've noticed some discussions of extended mind in Italian in the past year.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Artifactual Mind

Too bad I missed this.

The author is from Delft and I was just in Delft.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Material Bases of Cognition

My Intro.

Some papers on Extended/Embodied Cognition in this volume.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Andy Clark - Perceiving as Predicting (Public Opening Keynote Lecture)

9th International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication "Perception and Concepts" public opening keynote lecture by Andy Clark (University of Edinburgh, UK) - Perceiving as Predicting

Video here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Extended Knowledge Workshop

The Edinburgh folks are at it again.  A chapter in the Extended Knowledge Project.

Socially extended cognition

Shaun Gallager's recent in Cognitive Systems Research.

h/t to Leslie Marsh on this one.

Funny, I think I have a photo of myself with those two heads of philosophers.  (See Leslie's blog.)  The Neues Museum in Berlin?

The Dynamically Extended Mind


Abstract—The extended mind hypothesis has stimulated
much interest in cognitive science. However, its core claim, i.e.
that the process of cognition can extend beyond the brain via the
body and into the environment, has been heavily criticized. A
prominent critique of this claim holds that when some part of the
world is coupled to a cognitive system this does not necessarily
entail that the part is also constitutive of that cognitive system.
This critique is known as the “coupling-constitution fallacy”. In
this paper we respond to this reductionist challenge by using an
evolutionary robotics approach to create a minimal model of two
acoustically coupled agents. We demonstrate how the interaction
process as a whole has properties that cannot be reduced to the
contributions of the isolated agents. We also show that the neural
dynamics of the coupled agents has formal properties that are
inherently impossible for those neural networks in isolation. By
keeping the complexity of the model to an absolute minimum, we
are able to illustrate how the coupling-constitution fallacy is in
fact based on an inadequate understanding of the constitutive
role of nonlinear interactions in dynamical systems theory.

Two points here (prior to having read the paper):
1) We don't take the "coupling-constitution fallacy" is not a critique of extended cognition per se.  Instead, it is meant to call out a particular kind of argument for extended extended cognition.

2) I take it that it is pretty common (typical?) for wholes to have properties not had by their parts, so it is not surprising that " the interaction process as a whole has properties that cannot be reduced to the
contributions of the isolated agents."  This is pretty standard in the literature on mechanistic explanation.  Carl Craver, for example, has a pretty well-known picture of how this typically goes.  So, I don't think one needs to do a whole lot of heavy duty mathematical work to show this.

Socio-Psychological Externalism and the Coupling/Constitution Fallacy

Extended cognition moves into, what is to me, new territory, namely, its link to George Herbert Mead.

Chapter here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A New Chapter

After 18 years at Centenary, I will be joining Kati Balog, Jeff Buechner, and Raffaella De Rosa at Rutgers University, Newark.  Angie and I are looking forward to so many great new things, it has only begun to sink in.

Now back to repairing that wood trim on the house ....