Guidance, Selection, and Representation/Affordances and Intentionality

Here is a two-fer from The Journal of Mind and Behavior:

1. Guidance, Selection, and Representation: Response to Anderson and Rosenberg

Tom Roberts

2. Affordances and Intentionality: Reply to Roberts

Michael L. Anderson and Anthony Chemero



Anderson and Rosenberg’s (2008) guidance theory of representation offers an analysis of mental content that strongly emphasises the influence that intentional states have upon the production and modulation of bodily behavior. On this view, a mental state gains both its status as a representation, and its content, in virtue of occupying a particular role in the guidance of action. I present three related challenges for the guidance theory, before defending an alternative model that is grounded not in action-guidance, but in action-selection. Firstly, I argue that the guidance theory fails to explain an important category of perceptual misrepresentation. Secondly, I propose that the content ascriptions predicted by the theory are not sufficiently determinate. Thirdly, I propose that the contents implicated by the guidance view do not match those that are naturally ascribed in the explanation of intentionally-directed behavior. The modified account that I develop responds to these concerns, and suggests that representational states depict affordance properties: the opportunities and obstacles that the subject’s environment offers for the pursuit of goals and plans.

Anderson and Anthony Chemero:

In this essay we respond to some criticisms of the guidance theory of representation offered by Tom Roberts. We argue that although Roberts’ criticisms miss their mark, he raises the important issue of the relationship between affordances and the action oriented representations proposed by the guidance theory. Affordances play a prominent role in the anti-representationalist accounts offered by theorists of embodied cognition and ecological psychology, and the guidance theory is motivated in part by a desire to respond to the critiques of representationalism offered in such accounts, without giving up entirely on the idea that representations are an important part of the cognitive economy of many animals. Thus, explorations of whether and how such accounts can in fact be related and reconciled potentially offer to shed some light on this ongoing controversy. Although the current essay hardly settles the larger debate, it does suggest that there may be more possibility for agreement than is often supposed.

P.S. Stay tuned for a critical notice of Tony Chemero’s Radical Embodied Cognitive Science to be reviewed in JMB by Rick Dale.