The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Seminar #59: Enaction and extended cognition: from non-representationalism to sociality

Posted in Seminars by matthewegbert on February 1, 2010

All welcome!

Enaction and extended cognition: from non-representationalism to sociality

Pierre Steiner
Université de Technologie de Compiègne, COSTECH/CRED

Date: 03/02/2010
Time: 4:30-6:00
Room: ARUN 401 (The usual Alergic Room)

There is a relatively clear consensus in enactive (Maturana-Varela style) cognitive science for rejecting representationalism, i.e. the idea that cognition includes the manufacture, retrieval and use of mental representations (be they ontologically real or mere explanatory posits).

But there is no consensus on what the most efficient arguments against representationalism may be (metaphysical arguments, conceptual arguments, epistemological arguments, phenomenological arguments, empirical arguments, arguments coming from engineering practices…). This is somehow problematic, especially if one considers how representationalism has gained some new strength during the recent decade, in conjunction with many embodied, embedded and extended accounts of cognition. Fodorian representationalism is not the only game in town anymore.

In this talk, I will first rehearse what I consider as being the most powerful arguments against representationalism, as they come from the enactive perspective, but also from other traditions. I will then propose some new arguments. Their originality will consist in the fact they result from an alliance between enaction (Maturana-Varela style) and some insights coming from the recent model of extended cognition (Clark). This idea might sound paradoxical, since the mainstream version of extended cognition endorses representationalism. But this endorsement is not required for using and integrating the main insights of extended cognition into enaction, in order to reject representationalism… even in its extended-cognition versions. In sum, the main part of my talk will consist in arguing that extended cognition needs enaction for rejecting representationalism; but enaction also needs extended cognition for a better rejection of representationalism. But not only: I will indeed end with some considerations on the crucial and urgent necessity for enaction to consider the importance of the technological (extended) dimensions of cognition in order to bridge the “cognitive gap” of the life-mind continuity thesis. Probably less consensually, I will further conclude that these technological dimensions are so pervasive in our cognitive life that they might ultimately lead us to give up intersubjectivity as a foundational or paradigmatic instance of what the sociality of cognition amounts to.


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