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Posts Tagged ‘Cognition’

Cognition at the crossroads: from embodied minds to thinking bodies

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Michael Wheeler
Department of Philosophy,
University of Stirling,

Given the often impressive advances made by contemporary research within the embodied cognition paradigm, it is perhaps surprising that one of the most basic concepts that defines the field, namely that of embodiment itself, has not yet been articulated in a satisfactorily clear or precise manner. In an attempt to present the ‘state of the art’ with respect to this foundational issue, I shall begin by drawing a distinction between two broad notions of embodiment that are operative within embodied cognition research. According to the first notion, which I shall call implementational embodiment, the body is conceptualized as ‘no more than’ a bridge to new realizations of functionally specified cognitive architectures. To theorize in terms of implementational embodiment is to hold that the same mind might be embodied differently. According to the second notion of embodiment, which I shall call vital embodiment, bodily acts and structures make a nonsubstitutable contribution to cognition, with the precise nature of that contribution determined by certain local theoretical commitments and interests. To theorize in terms of vital embodiment is to hold that different bodies will think differently. Having positioned a number of alternative versions of embodied cognition research (e.g., enactivism, the extended mind) in relation to this distinction, I shall use the resulting analysis to say what kinds of considerations might lead us to choose between those alternatives. Finally, in a more speculative register, I shall endeavour to look to the future, by adapting and extending some work on embodiment from recent feminist phenomenological thinking in order to take us beyond the very distinction between implementational and vital materiality with which we began.

Presentation Slides [pptx]

Michael Wheeler: “Cognition at the crossroads: from embodied minds to thinking bodies” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Extending sensorimotor contingencies to cognition

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Andreas Engel
Dept. of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

In the cognitive sciences, we currently witness a “pragmatic turn” away from the traditional representation-centered framework towards a paradigm that focusses on understanding the intimate relation between cognition and action. Such an „action-oriented“ paradigm has earliest and most explicitly been developed in robotics, and has only recently begun to gain impact on cognitive psychology and neurobiology. The basic notion is that cognition should not be understood as a capacity of deriving world-models, which then might provide a “database” for thinking, planning and problem-solving. Rather, it is emphasized that cognitive processes are not only closely intertwined with action but that cognition can actually best be understood as “enactive“, as a form of practise itself. Cognition, on this account, is grounded in a pre-rational understanding of the world that is based on sensorimotor acquisition of real-life situations. control strategy. One key concept I will discuss is that of sensorimotor contingencies, i.e., law-like relations between actions and associated changes in sensory input. I will propose to advance this concept further and suggest that actions not only play a key role for perception, but also in developing more complex cognitive capabilities.

Andreas Engel: “Extending sensorimotor contingences to cognition” from eSMCs on Vimeo.