The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Seminar #13: Externalism and Situated Cognition

Posted in Seminars by Tom Froese on March 1, 2007

A special Mind and Life seminar on Monday 5th, 15:00-16:00, Room Pev1 1A6

Prof Charles Lenay
Costech – Groupe Suppléance Perceptive
Université de Technologie de Compiègne

Charles will be giving a talk about “Externalism and Situated Cognition”

In order to defend the twin themes of externalism and situated cognition, this talk proposes a series of experiments based on minimalist prosthetic perception (perceptual supplementation). These very simple experimental situations make it possible to go beyond the negative critique of representationalism, and to provide both a precise definition, and a concrete functioning example, of the explanatory schema of perception as enaction. The localisation of objects and the recognition of shapes take place in the space of displacements of the point of view relative to the object that is perceived. The space of perception is the space of the action itself, and not the space of an internal representation. This is the position of radical externalism, according to which cognitive activity and the content of lived experience are to be understood in terms of the sensorimotor dynamics of coupling between an organism and its environment, and not as a process of computation on internal mental representations. This externalism would seem to be an appropriate epistemological and theoretical framework in order to account for the effectiveness of situated cognition. Technical devices and environments transform our possibilities of action, and thereby transform our lived experience, offering new capacities for perception, imagination, memory and reasoning. Similarly, an externalist framework allows a fruitful dialogue between phenomenology and psycho-physiology. Rather than presupposing a separation between internal lived experience and external objectivity, which leads only to the search for neuronal correlates of states of consciousness, for externalism this separation is actually constituted during the very process of concrete activity. As a result, the space of lived experience is co-extensive with the space of action and perception.

This talk is in addition to the normal Wednesday seminar that will be announced shortly.

All welcome.


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