This open access from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
Radical enactive and embodied approaches to cognitive science oppose the received view in the sciences of the mind in denying that cognition fundamentally involves contentful mental representation. This paper argues that the fate of representationalism in cognitive science matters significantly to how best to understand the extent of cognition. It seeks to establish that any move away from representationalism toward pure, empirical functionalism fails to provide a substantive “mark of the cognitive” and is bereft of other adequate means for individuating cognitive activity. It also argues that giving proper attention to the way the folk use their psychological concepts requires questioning the legitimacy of commonsense functionalism. In place of extended functionalism—empirical or commonsensical—we promote the fortunes of extensive enactivism, clarifying in which ways it is distinct from notions of extended mind and distributed cognition.
Stigmergy gets a bit of a mention in Newsweek.
Swarms often work by “stigmergy,” a term coined by French biologist Pierre-Paul Grassé in 1959 to describe termite behavior. He defined it as “the stimulation of workers by the performance they have achieved.” It has come to mean a mark left in the environment. Think of stigmergic marks as road signs: A termite makes a ball of mud laced with pheromones (chemicals that affect behavior through smell) and puts it down. The next mud-ball-making termite that happens along smells the first, makes its own ball and adds it to the pile. Millions of balls later, a hollow mud spire stands 8 feet tall, as outlandish as the towers of Turkey’s Cappadocia region—a magnificent termite-apartment complex.
Each individual in a swarm acts seemingly at random—scientists term this “stochastic”—yet as a group a swarm is amazingly focused, coherent and logical.
Translating nature to math can be staggeringly difficult.
Check out a preview of Francis Heylighen’s paper for Ted and my forthcoming Human Stigmergy: Theoretical Developments and New Applications, Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics. Springer.
Another paper by Shaun this time coauthored with Jan Slaby (check out Jan’s website – lot’s of good stuff here).
The concept of a socially extended mind suggests that our cognitive processes are extended not simply by the various tools and technologies we use, but by other minds in our intersubjective interactions, and more systematically by institutions that, like tools and technologies, enable and sometimes constitute our cognitive processes. In this paper we explore the potential of this concept to facilitate the development of a critical neuroscience. We first explicate the concept of cognitive institution and show how it builds on a more enactive version of the extended mind. We then turn to the idea that science itself is a good example of a cognitive institution that through various practices and rules shapes our cognitive activity so as to constitute a certain type of knowledge, packaged with relevant skills and techniques. Building on this idea, we focus on neuroscience, its cultural impact, and the various institutional entanglements that complicate its influence on reframing conceptions of self and subjectivity, and defining what questions count as important and what kind of answers will be valued. Our intent is to show that by understanding neuroscience as a cognitive institution – that is, as a set of practices that help us to think and solve problems within a specific domain – we gain a critical perspective on what neuroscience accomplishes.