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Jackson 1 Kara Jackson Professor Carole Lee PHIL 464 15 November 2012 A Critique of Nos Theory of Embedded Cognition

In thinking about thinking, or, more specifically, thinking about visual perception, cognitive scientists and philosophers have most commonly subscribed to a constructivist theory of mind where visual/mental experiences supervene upon brain states. The idea is that every experience gets routed to the brain, which then turns the perception into a mental representation. Against this dominant school of thought, Alva No argues that you are not your brain, because your neural states alone are not enough to create perception. Rather, visual perception comes from a form of active engagement with the environment (No, 50) and not mental representations. Here, I argue that Nos theory is seriously hurt by the existence of mental representations without environmental interaction, such as dreaming. Ill briefly explore why these perceptions necessitate internal representations and then revisit Nos hypothesis and rebuttal to the dreamobjection from a later paper. Though there is use and interest in embedded cognition theories such as his, denying mental representations creates more problems than it solves, and should be reconsidered. In Experience and the Active Mind, No puts forth the idea that cognition is based upon the sensorimotor contagion, which does the perceiving, and having a body/brain/environment complex. The environment is useful as part of cognition because it stores lots of information that we do not have access to continually- he uses evidence

Jackson 2 from change blindness studies to show that humans are not that good at perceiving details of their visual field, even though we may feel like we have a full, detailed experience. We are perceptually aware and Perceptual awareness . . . is a state of interactive engagement with the world, not a state of picture-making. It is just such an active (or "enactive") conception of perceptual consciousness that is endorsed by reflection on the character of perceptual experience. Perceptual consciousness is a capacity of the whole, environmentally animal (No 51). He gives two examples of having the feeling of being aware of a bottle that we touch one point of or cat that we see bits of through a fence; he thinks the feeling comes from us understanding that we have immediate access to the rest of the knowledge as it is in our present environment. However, this access over time seems inherently incompatible with have mental representations of the objects being accessed: The worry is that, given the temporally extended, whole animal character of perceptual activity, it becomes unclear how one could even come to think that neural activity could be nominally sufficient to produce experience (No 52). Cognition is not just neural activity? Now, this might seem radical but plausible, especially if you go down the route that No guides you on and begin to think about all the things that are in the environment that you dont perceive. You may begin to doubt that you see what you think you see, and not without reason. But this doesnt mean that No is right on all counts. Push back a little: because No needs us to believe that information is stored in the environment, and not the brain, we should ask the opposite question: Is some sort visual information stored in the brain, but not the environment? Three fairly straightforward examples of perception, dreams, hallucinations, and novel

Jackson 3 and vivid visualizations, present problems when trying to eliminate internal representations. Dreams are especially interesting because they are certainly internal by virtue of having no interaction with the outside environment. They can be very realistic, with sensations of sights, sounds, emotion, and human interaction. Theyre also hard to study accurately or directly- can we tell if dreams have some degree of novelty, or are they just composites of things that weve already experienced? Dreams dont always abide by the laws of physics or the reality your life; many have been privy to the odd sensation of knowing that something in the dream is meant to represent something else, even though they bear no physical similarity- i.e. We were by the Eiffel tower, but it wasnt really the Eiffel tower. Yet for all these oddities, dreams are experienced as having similar phenomenological feel as waking life with normal vision- we recount them as we would the events of day. Hallucinations seem to be characterized by vividness or intensity- having the quality of seeming real. Like dreams, they may not match up to the patterns of nature or your life. Unlike dreams, they are not entirely internal, as there exists the possibility for interaction between things that are from the environment and things that you see that arent really there. Yet this chance supports internal representations, as it would demonstrate that there must be two separate channels for perceptual experience external and internal- that can both run concurrently. Vivid and Novel Visualizations. By this I mean designing in the mind something that youve never seen before without prompting from the immediate environment. Artists and designers can do it when they have an idea of something they want to create

Jackson 4 without having seen things like it. Im doing it when I conceive of a pink hippo with backpack, riding a Vespa in Helsinki. And I dont think visualization of this type is necessarily a conscious act. One of the most often heard complaints regarding movie adaptations must be Thats not how I pictured it! Would it be possible for moviegoers to have such woes had they not had vivid, certain, and accessible representations of characters, events, and places in their heads? All of this seems pretty damning. No is positing that there are no visual representations, that we need to be connected to the environment in order to have cognition, and that theres no mental state that is sufficient to create a perceptual experience. Yet with this collection of experiences, we see that though they differ in their veridicality, internal nature, and vividness, they provide a phenomenological, if not perceptual1 experience, like the one provided by the world, where one can feels as if he or she is perceiving things and situations. Most, if not all, of the concepts that compose these came from the environment, certainly, but the environment is no longer supplying information, ipso facto, it must be represented in the brain somewhere. Still, what if Im interpreting No too loosely? He was quite ambiguous about what constituted representation and perceptual experience. Lets revisit an updated version of his theory. In a second and later piece with ORegan, No uses the same argument and examples (hand on jar, car behind fence) but with stronger definitions and an explanation for the dream objection. Regarding mental representations without environmental interaction, ORegan and No write, It is often claimed that dreaming, or other types of mental imagery,

Perhaps not perceptual to No, because they dont start with the environment, and he may consider starting at the environment necessary for his definition of perceptual.
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Jackson 5 provide a counterexample to our denial that the brain must represent what is seen. Since dreams and mental images are apparently pictorial in nature, this seems to show that we are, after all, capable of creating an internal iconic image (ORegan and No, 947). What seems objectionable is that dreaming gets reduced without discussion to pictorial status, when we know that pictorial representations are exactly what the authors are against. Indeed, Whether dreams, hallucination, or normal vision are at stake, these arguments are another instance of the error of thinking that when we see things as picture-like (be it when we look at reality or when we have a dream), this must be because there is some kind of internal picture (ORegan & No, 947). Here, as throughout the rest of their paper, O&N demonstrate that their understanding of the characteristics of a representation is primarily visual. No is arguing against visual representations, but after a certain point in his writing, he begins to assimilate all representations without exploring what the nature of representations is, except for to say that we dont have little projector screen in our heads, or little letters floating around in our word processors.2 3 4 It begins to seem absurd: No one expects to open a skull and find a dolls house filled with vignettes of its owners life. Perhaps this

It does not mean that they think that inside their brains there is a detailed copy of the environment .. (O&N ,946) 3 It is as though, in order to generate letters on ones screen, the computer had to have little letters floating around in its electronics somewhere (O&N, 947) 4 . . As misguided as the supposition that to see red, there must be red neurons in the brain (O&N 947)
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Jackson 6 stance is a reaction to what No perceives as the constructivist approach5, but it doesnt eliminate the possibility of a non-visual representation.6 Still, assuming that mental representations exist, I dont think theres anything about them that necessarily conflicts with an approach that takes the sensorimotor contagion and environment as paramount to cognition and mental representations. Rather, they seem to have the possibility to be complimentary. For example, if you want the most up to date visual information, then you use your visual field and sensorimotor contagion. If its snowing and you want to know what it looks like outside OR what it looks like outside when it snows, you should look no further than your window. But if you are Svalbard and you mother calls you to tell you that it finally snowed at home, looking outside no longer serves as a good tool to visualize or experience what your house looks like in the snow. Your representation of snow may indeed be based on the your present settings- seeing icicles hang off gutters may remind you of your houses own icicle tendencies, and seeing drifts on roofs may show you the physics of snow piling and allow you to think about what the snow looks like on your roof. You need both the mental and visual representation of your house and environmental perception to sustain the imagery.

A large portion of the experimental literature on the subject has assumed the existence of an internal representation,like a panoramic internal screen, into which successive snapshots of the visual world are inserted so as to create a fused global patchwork o f the whole visual environment (O&N 949) 6 I think a big part of the problem is the twisty Mobius strip nature of qualia and representations, not knowing where they interact with each other and what they are or are not. Clearly, its subjective, controversial, and I dont claim special knowledge, but it seems as if representations arent explicitly are ultimately informed by more than the visual system. O & N make assumptions about the qualia of representations- that they have a visual feel. It seems more reasonable to me that representations that the have the phenomenological feel and share many qualia, with active interaction with the environment. O& N deny the need for qualia in their model but dont deny phenomenological, which is also problematic.
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Jackson 7 A softer version of embedded cognition that supports the above example is Ruperts hypothesis of embedded cognition (HEMC): According to (HEMC), cognitive processes depend very heavily, in hitherto unexpected ways, on organismically external props and devices and on the structure of the external environment in which cognition takes place. Adopting such a view significantly affects our estimation of what goes on inside the thinking subject-for example, which computations she must perform using her own neural resources in order to exercise a given cognitive ability (Rupert, 393). Not having the environment be necessary for cognition solves all the issues presented by a Nos stronger version: now mental representations can exist and, dreaming and hallucinations hang together, and the systems can all work together.

Works Cited No, Alva. "Experience and the Active Mind." Synthese. 129.1 (2001): 41-60. Print. O'Regan, J. Kevin, and Alva No. "A Sensorimotor Account of Vision." Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 24. (2001): 939-1031. Web. 26 Nov. 2012. Rupert, Robert D. "A Challenges to the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition." Journal of Philosophy. 101.8 (2004): 389-428. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.