The Life & Mind Seminar Network

New Enaction Book

Posted in General, Resources by Ezequiel on November 29, 2010

It’s been years in the making, now it’s a real thing (I and others can confirm its concrete worldly existence). The new book on Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, edited by John Stewart, Olivier Gapenne and Ezequiel Di Paolo, and published by MIT Press has finally come out.

From the publisher’s blurb:

“This book presents the framework for a new, comprehensive approach to cognitive science. The proposed paradigm, enaction, offers an alternative to cognitive science’s classical, first-generation Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Enaction, first articulated by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch in The Embodied Mind (MIT Press, 1991), breaks from CTM’s formalisms of information processing and symbolic representations to view cognition as grounded in the sensorimotor dynamics of the interactions between a living organism and its environment. A living organism enacts the world it lives in; its embodied action in the world constitutes its perception and thereby grounds its cognition. Enaction offers a range of perspectives on this exciting new approach to embodied cognitive science.

Some chapters offer manifestos for the enaction paradigm; others address specific areas of research, including artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, neuroscience, language, phenomenology, and culture and cognition. Three themes emerge as testimony to the originality and specificity of enaction as a paradigm: the relation between first-person lived experience and third-person natural science; the ambition to provide an encompassing framework applicable at levels from the cell to society; and the difficulties of reflexivity. Taken together, the chapters offer nothing less than the framework for a far-reaching renewal of cognitive science.

Contributors: Renaud Barbaras, Didier Bottineau, Giovanna Colombetti, Diego Cosmelli, Hanne De Jaegher, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo. Andreas K. Engel, Olivier Gapenne, Véronique Havelange, Edwin Hutchins, Michel Le Van Quyen, Rafael E. Núñez, Marieke Rohde, Benny Shanon, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Adam Sheya, Linda B. Smith, John Stewart, Evan Thompson”

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7 Responses

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  1. marekmcgann said, on November 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Great news! Many years in the making indeed – I’ve lost count how many times chapters in there have been cited “in press”.

  2. Ricardo Sanz said, on November 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Congratulations !

    It’s very good to have consolidated views on these hot topics.

  3. Tom Froese said, on December 2, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Wow! Finally we have a book with the word “enaction” in the title. This will surely be a citation classic!

    • Tom Froese said, on December 3, 2010 at 2:48 am

      Actually, I just remembered that Marieke’s book got that “enaction” distinction first! ;-)

      Anyway, let’s keep ’em comin’!

  4. Paulo said, on December 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Great news, just preoderd mine, can’t wait! On similar but different note, I am currently researching the relationship between enactivism and extended mind, and was hoping to have peoples view on a particular issue.
    Is the vehicle/content distinction, on a par with the operational/relational levels in autopoietic theory? And relatedly, is it, in this view, legitimate to draw a distinction between mind and cognition?
    Would really appreciate any coments in this.


    • Ezequiel said, on December 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Paulo,

      Check out these two papers on the relation between enaction and the extended mind:

      Thompson, E. & Stapleton, M. (2009) Making Sense of Sense-Making: Reflections on Enactive and Extended Mind Theories, Topoi, 28, Number 1, 23-30, DOI: 10.1007/s11245-008-9043-2

      Di Paolo, E. A. (2009) Extended Life, Topoi, 28, Number 1, 9-21, DOI: 10.1007/s11245-008-9042-3

      Enaction would probably question the vehicle/content distinction (or at least try to establish on which conditions you could speak of a such a distinction). Our chapter in the book has a section on value systems and the arguments there could easily be expanded to arguments against the generality of the vehicle/content distinction. However, it doesn’t seem obvious to me how it relates to the operational/relation distinction. Something to think about …


  5. Paulo said, on December 6, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Hi Ezequiel,
    Thanks for the comments, very much appreciate it. Recently read the two above papers, but I need to go through them again,
    I guess I am just trying to get clear on the operational/relational levels and how exactly they relate to each other.
    It made sense, in a way, to think of the operational level has the level of mechanisms (vehicles) and the emergent sense-making activities as the contents. And although (in relation to value systems) one should not look solely at the mechanisms envolved, nor reduce the phenomena to such mechanisms. There Is, nonetheless, a mechanistic component involved(?)
    Need to give it more thought either way.

    Thanks again

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