Complexity and Extended Phenomenological-Cognitive Systems

A freely available piece from Topics in Cognitive Science. With the keywords complexity; dynamical systems; extended cognition; consciousness – who could resist. In fact the whole issue is freely available from this relatively new title published under the auspices of the Cognitive Science Society.

The complex systems approach to cognitive science invites a new understanding of extended cognitive systems. According to this understanding, extended cognitive systems are heterogenous, composed of brain, body, and niche, non-linearly coupled to one another. This view of cognitive systems, as non-linearly coupled brain–body–niche systems, promises conceptual and methodological advances. In this article we focus on two of these. First, the fundamental interdependence among brain, body, and niche makes it possible to explain extended cognition without invoking representations or computation. Second, cognition and conscious experience can be understood as a single phenomenon, eliminating fruitless philosophical discussion of qualia and the so-called hard problem of consciousness. What we call “extended phenomenological-cognitive systems” are relational and dynamical entities, with interactions among heterogeneous parts at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

The above article was cited by Guy Van Orden and Damian Stephen in their (also freely available) “Is Cognitive Science Usefully Cast as Complexity Science?

Readers of TopiCS are invited to join a debate about the utility of ideas and methods of complexity science. The topics of debate include empirical instances of qualitative change in cognitive activity and whether this empirical work demonstrates sufficiently the empirical flags of complexity. In addition, new phenomena discovered by complexity scientists, and motivated by complexity theory, call into question some basic assumptions of conventional cognitive science such as stable equilibria and homogeneous variance. The articles and commentaries that appear in this issue also illustrate a new debate style format for topiCS.