This introduction to a special issue of Topoi introduces and summarises the relationship between three main varieties of 'enactivist' theorising about the mind: 'autopoietic', 'sensorimotor', and 'radical' enactivism. It includes a brief discussion of the philosophical and cognitive scientific precursors to enactivist theories, and the relationship of enactivism to other trends in embodied cognitive science and philosophy of mind.
The sensorimotor theory of perceptual experience claims that perception is constituted by bodily interaction with the environment, drawing on practical knowledge of the systematic ways that sensory inputs are disposed to change as a result of movement. Despite the theory’s associations with enactivism, it is sometimes claimed that the appeal to ‘knowledge’ means that the theory is committed to giving an essential theoretical role to internal representation, and therefore to a form of orthodox cognitive science. This paper defends the role (...) ascribed to knowledge by the theory, but argues that this knowledge can and should be identified with bodily skill rather than representation. Making the further argument that the notion of ‘representation hunger’ can be replaced with ‘prima facie representation hunger’, it concludes that although the theory could optionally be developed scientifically in part by reference to internal representation, it makes a strong and natural fit with anti-representationalist embodied or enactive cognitive science. (shrink)
O’Regan and Noë’s sensorimotor approach rejects the old-fashioned view that perceptual experience in humans depends solely on the activation of internal representations. Reflecting a wealth of empirical work, for example active vision, the approach suggests that perceiving is, instead, a matter of bodily exploration of the outside environment. To this end, the approach says the perceiver must deploy knowledge of sensorimotor contingencies, the ways sense input changes with movement by the perceiver or object perceived. Clark has observed that the approach (...) faces a challenge accounting for the experience of temporal duration, since event-like properties cannot be characterised by reference to the sensory consequences of possible movements. This paper argues that the account can best be shored up by emphasising, more than Noë does, the dependence of perceptual experience, in general, on temporally extended, organismic interaction with the outside environment. The paper argues, moreover, that an ‘extensionalist’ account of temporal experience could help make sense of object experience, which is itself, plausibly, an experience of temporal duration. (shrink)
Recently, Michael Wheeler has argued that despite its sometimes revolutionary rhetoric, the so called 4E cognitive movement, even in the guise of ‘radical’ enactivism, cannot achieve a full revolution in cognitive science. A full revolution would require the rejection of two essential tenets of traditional cognitive science, namely internalism and representationalism. Whilst REC might secure antirepresentationalism, it cannot do the same, so Wheeler argues, with externalism. In this paper, expanding on Wheeler’s analysis, we argue that what compromises REC’s externalism is (...) the persistence of cognitively relevant asymmetries between its purported cognitive systems and the environment. Complementarily, we argue that an antirepresentationalist ancestor of enactivism, the autopoietic theory of cognition, is able to deliver and secure externalism, thus offering the explosive combination that Wheeler claims us needed for a revolution in cognitive science. (shrink)
The sensorimotor theory is an influential account of perception and phenomenal qualities that builds, in an empirically supported way, on the basic claim that conscious experience is best construed as an attribute of the whole embodied agent's skill-driven interactions with the environment. This paper, in addition to situating the theory as a response to certain well-known problems of consciousness, develops a sensorimotor account of why we are perceptually conscious rather than not.
The sensorimotor theory of perception and consciousness is frequently presented as a variety of anti-representationalist cognitive science, and there is thus a temptation to suppose that those who take representation as bedrock should reject the approach. This paper argues that the sensorimotor approach is compatible with representationalism, and moreover that representationalism about phenomenal qualities, such as that advocated by Tye, would be more complete and less vulnerable to criticism if it incorporated the sensorimotor account of conscious feel. The paper concludes (...) by arguing that the project of naturalizing phenomenal qualities would nonetheless be better served by abandoning ‘representation’ talk altogether, a move that would require only a small modification of existing representationalist accounts. (shrink)
The sensorimotor theory is an influential, non-mainstream account of perception and perceptual consciousness intended to improve in various ways on orthodox theories. It is often taken to be a variety of enactivism, and in common with enactivist cognitive science more generally, it de-emphasises the theoretical role played by internal representation and other purely neural processes, giving theoretical pride of place instead to interactive engagements between the brain, non-neural body and outside environment. In addition to offering a distinctive account of the (...) processing that underlies perceptual consciousness, the sensorimotor theory aims to offer a new and improved account the logical and phenomenological character of perceptual experience, and the relation between physical and phenomenal states. Since its inception in a 2001 paper by O’Regan and Noë, the theory has prompted a good deal of increasingly prominent theoretical and practical work in cognitive science, as well as a large body of secondary literature in philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of perception. In spite of its influential character, many of the theory’s most basic tenets are incompletely or ambiguously defined, and it has attracted a number of prominent objections. This thesis aims to clarify the conceptual foundations of the sensorimotor theory, including the key theoretical concepts of sensorimotor contingency, sensorimotor mastery, and presence-as-access, and defends a particular understanding of the respective theoretical roles of internal representation and behavioural capacities. In so doing, the thesis aims to highlight the sensorimotor theory’s virtues and defend it from some leading criticisms, with particular attention to a response by Clark which claims that perception and perceptual experience plausibly depend on the activation of representations which are not intimately involved in bodily engagements between the agent and environment. A final part of the thesis offers a sensorimotor account of the experience of temporally extended events, and shows how with reference to this we can better understand object experience. (shrink)
We propose in this paper to focus upon the de-ontological self concept discoverable in Eastern and Western philosophical traditions. In a larger study, we intend to contrast this “no self” paradigm with major pro-ontological formulations of the self concept. These pro-ontological definitions can be divided into three basic types, namely the absolute-universal self, the transcendental-constituting self, and the natural-organic self.
In this response, I examine the ambiguity about the status of Membership Categorization Device Analysis in the work of Harvey Sacks. The ‘five guiding principles’ of MCDA that Stokoe enunciates serve as a crucial guide to future research. In what follows, I give some further examples of data analysis which, I believe, supports both her strong and weaker claims.