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Enaction as reality research Tom Froese Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics (CCNR), Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive.

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Presentation on theme: "Enaction as reality research Tom Froese Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics (CCNR), Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive."— Presentation transcript:

1 Enaction as reality research Tom Froese Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics (CCNR), Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science (PAICS), University of Sussex, UK

2 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research2 Overview There are two paradigms in the cognitive sciences which can be distinguished by their epistemology: –Objectivist: cognitivism –Non-objectivist: enaction In this talk it will be argued that: –Cognitivism is a consequence of traditional science –Enaction is a consequence of cognitive science And it will be concluded that: –A paradigm shift toward enaction in cognitive science entails both an end and a new beginning for science

3 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research3 Two explanatory paths Maturanas (1988) ontological diagram

4 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research4 How do we know what we know? In the sense that Western thought has generally been a rational quest for objective truth, it is fundamentally transcendental. This objectivist stance is reflected in traditional science by its claim that the knowledge it generates is observer-independent. However, a constitutive approach is spreading through a number of fields which insists that knowledge only exists in relation to the activity of a knower. It is in the cognitive sciences where such an approach is facing its most important challenge! If it turns out that cognition is best conceived as constitutive, then such a paradigm shift will not remain internal to cognitive science itself – the conception of knowledge as such is at stake.

5 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research5 Cognitive science as meta-science Cognitive science is the scientific study of cognition. The process of scientific study is itself a particular kind of cognitive activity. Thus, cognitive science is also a science of science; it is a form of meta-science. This is the final frontier: science has begun to study the conditions for its own existence!

6 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research6 The power of meta-science There are several fundamental implications associated with the establishment of a meta-science: 1) Cognitive science research has the power to profoundly change science as a whole. 2)And due to the authority science has in our society, it also has the potential to produce social change. 3)And since society provides the norms by which we live, it can also change the way understand ourselves.

7 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research7 The role of cognitivism Now we can also begin to understand what is at stake with the success of cognitivism and its objectivist representationalism: 1)The traditional scientific worldview with its objectivist separation between knowledge and the knower. 2)The traditional Western heritage of the Enlightenment and its ideal of a rational progression towards objective truth. Motivation: cognitivism as the defender of the status quo. If cognitivism turns out to be an untenable position, this will necessarily also cast doubt on the authority of traditional science and Western rationalist values.

8 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research8 Objectivist cognitive science? What are the chances that the traditional objectivist approach to science will succeed in cognitive science? Once the inherent reflexivity of cognitive science is brought into focus we can see that at this level, strong ontological objectivism is self-contradictory and therefore untenable (Stewart 2001). Indeed, the cognitive sciences represent an intrinsic challenge to this pure form of objective science, […] since the topic under study directly implies the social agents themselves (Varela & Shear 1999).

9 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research9 An non-objectivist alternative The reflexivity of cognitive science itself suggests the need for a non-objectivist account of cognition. And such an account is also supported by some important empirical observations: –Autopoiesis of organisms –Operational closure of the nervous system Enaction is a response to these challenges.

10 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research10 The Doughnut of Cognitive Homeostasis The nervous system is organized (or organizes itself) so that it computes a stable reality. (von Foerster 1973)

11 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research11 Second-Order Science Cognitive science is an instance of what von Foerster would call a second-order cybernetic system. What are its eigenbehaviors? There is a need to better understand the constitutive factors underlying self-generated stability in such systems. With its acceptance of the constitutive role of the observer, enaction appears as the historical emergence of a second-order science. It marks the point where science ceases to be Modern and starts to be Post-modern.

12 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research12 The role of the observer Traditional science may have reached its final frontier in cognitive science, but conversely cognitive science has also become the point of origin for a new kind of science. Enaction marks the start of a second-order science which transcends the traditional subject-object distinction. Motivation: by incorporating the role of the observer it has made space for a scientific account that includes autonomy and phenomenal experience.

13 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research13 Enaction as new beginning The adoption of a non-objectivist epistemology necessarily goes hand in hand with a loss of the metaphysical certainty that the scientific tradition previously believed to have had. But enaction is also an opportunity for a new beginning beyond the mind-body problem. While phenomenal experience and autonomous subjectivity had to be explained away before, they are now moved to the centre of wider framework.

14 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research14 World (Physics) Mind (Cognitive Science) Body (Biology) Self (Psychology) Lived Body (Enaction)

15 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research15 The enactive framework theoreticalempirical experiential All 3 domains do not only presuppose a background of non-thematic skillful coping, but also one of pre- reflective lived experience – our way of living/being.

16 Tom FroeseEnaction as reality research16 Concluding remarks If we accept that cognition is a constitutive process, if our experiential world is enacted by our doing, then we are not only engaged in doing cognitive science but something much more fundamental: reality research. We are not only studying cognition, but we are researching the conditions for existence as such. The naturalization of phenomenology has in turn given rise to the phenomenologization of nature. This paradigm shift has two essential consequences: –We need to accept that there are limits to what we can know. –We are fundamentally responsible for what we experience.

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