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Published by: Luis Miguel García Sánchez on Oct 21, 2011
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Luis Miguel García Sanchéz SUMMARY – CHAPTER 2.

Challenging Standard Cognitive Science


Before embodied cognition (EC) appears there was already a few new ideas that challenge what Shapiro calls standard cognitive science (SCS). Some of them, mainly ecological theory of perception and connectionism, were later incorporated into EC. Gibson´s ecological theory of perception attacks computationalist view that input stimuli is poor, underspecified and need so to be computed. Gibson thinks perceptual stimuli are already “structured” in the environment. By this he means that at every point of observation there is a specific arrangement of surrounding surfaces that reflects light to this point. Gibson calls this arrangement “ambient optic array”. Anyway vision don’t work on specific “ambient optic arrays” at discrete points but with a continuum of stimuli as perceivers move about their environments. SCS considers perception mostly as a passive process done by static beings instead of considering humans as mobile beings. Mobility reduces disparity levels and solve in this way undertermination problems that arises in traditional cognitive science. There are also some constant features in this process that Gibson calls “invariants”. And these invariants should be the object of study of perceptual cognition. The obvious questions is what is then brain role in cognition. Gibson says that instead a central processor brain should be regarded as a “resonator”, a self-tuning system. But if brain function is merely to resonate what is already outside it is difficult to see how is possible to account for difference between individuals and learning processes. By this, some (Fodor and Pylyshyn 1981) have accused Gibson account as a disguised behaviourism, treating psychological processes as mysterious. Hatfield acknowledges also same problem but asserts that even though if we agree on the existence of some kind of internal states the way computationalism has treated these states is not the only possible answer. At the same time SCS has to face the objection that brains work with parallel, flexible neural networks instead of the serial, explicit fashion that Von Neumann architecture computers typically adopt. Neural networks, also know as connectionism, can be explained with only three layers of nodes interconnected. Input nodes get the stimulus, send signal depending of its level of activity to the next, hidden layer. Connections between layers are weighted and the sum specify the amount that is send again to the output layer. Neural networks are still computational and perform better in terms of adaptation and speed without need of algorithms. Moreover connectionism does not rely on representational content or codification and could not be decomposed into minimum units as zeros and ones. – CHAPTER 3. Conceptions of Embodiment. Varela, Thompson and Rosch´s (VTR) The Embodied Mind (1991) put together for the first time some of the key ideas about what we know today as EC. Their aim to is build a theory that lies somewhere between idealism and realism, between the denial of the external world and the view of this as having pre-given properties. VTR claim that mental life depends on having a specific body and the sensorimotor abilities that emerge from it. At the same time embodied cognition is seen instead as “embodied action” in which the body and the sensorimotor capacities develop. Thus, cognition is seen as determined by action and vice versa in a loop fashion. They reject so the SCS position of a representational mind perceiving a pre-given world. Esther Thelen et al.expand EC postulates into empirical research to show how psychological processes can be explained without relying on representations. Previously Piaget explained infants

Dynamic-Computational Complementarity. 3. Clark believes there is still room for computational analysis and that EC do not deny the validity of computationalism. instead relies on past history and reinforcing habits to explain perseverative behaviour. 2. Perceivers do not act as passive subjects.Open Channel Perception. Thelen into Replacement and Clark into the Constitution one.Principle of Ecological Assembly.Perception as Sensorimotor Experience. VTR work fits into the hypothesis of Conceptualization. – Could the difference between connectionism and standard algorithm based computationalism be subsumed into the difference between analog vs digital computation? – Couldn´t all this mess bewteen mental description and physical existence solve by an istrumentalist stance? – Maybe Shapiro is falling to grasp VTR book as one within continental tradition instead analytic philosophy. QUESTIONS – The case that you accept that the spring scale and computer analogies work as analogies of how human cognition works because “there is a level of description at which the device might properly be conceived as more than simply a physical mechanism” (Shapiro. Perception derives from the sensorimotor routines the agent performs. 4. Robots that use this approach rely on external forces as gravity or friction instead of complex internal algorithms and mechanisms that exploit costly resources. 5. He then divides them in three categories. Thelen. He suggests six points to illustrate the common ground of EC research program. This is based upon Gibson´s ecological theory of perception. This is the case if you adopt physicalism. So the language they employ could be seen as more evocative than accurate and then problems with VTR version of EC could diminished. 6. The idea is that if a agent is engage in actions that require information retrieval the agent structures that information by itself without any need of a preprogram plan.Nontrivial Causal Spread. 1. A organism tend to use whatever strategy and resource works and is available in his environment. Cognition so does not need to rely on representational content to make sense of behaviour. Both can be integrated in successful explanations of cognition. pag 40) and because the description is exactly the same in these three devices does not mean that these three devices (scale. Instead they use perception as an open channel of constant interaction with the environment.Information Self-Stucturing. mind. computer) are actually performing any computation at all. Finally Andy Clark has been maybe the most salient proponent of EC. 2011. Shapiro finally draws a distinction between all these new approaches to EC.perseverative behaviour by postulating the existence of object concepts in infants. . It could be the case that human mind is proyecting computationalist ideas on purely physical devices.

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