Upshot: This eclectic collection of essays attempts to make sense of the complexly vexed relation between various modalities of sense-making and non-sense – a relation previously underspecified by enactivist theories and programs of research. As such, the book offers creative conceptual elaboration often augmented by analysis of experimental research in support of the enactivist approach to cognition.
Excerpt:The cognitive accomplishments of all human groups depend on the simultaneous operation of cognitive processes on all of these levels from neuron to social group. The big questions in contemporary cognitive science concern the ways that humans, understood as biological creatures, can produce culturally meaningful outcomes.
Context: Neurophenomenology, as formulated by Varela, offers an approach to the science of consciousness that seeks to get beyond the hard problem of consciousness. There is much to admire in the practical approach to the science of consciousness that neurophenomenology advocates. Problem: Even so, this article argues, the metaphysical commitments of the enterprise require a firmer foundation. The root problem is that neurophenomenology, as classically formulated by Varela, endorses a form of non-reductionism that, despite its ambitions, assumes rather than dissolves the hard problem of consciousness. We expose that neurophenomenology is not a natural solution to that problem. We defend the view that whatever else neurophenomenology might achieve, it cannot close the gap between the phenomenal and the physical if there is no such gap to close. Method: Building on radical enactive and embodied approaches to cognitive science that deny that the phenomenal and the physical are metaphysically distinct, this article shows that the only way to deal properly with the hard problem is by denying the metaphysical distinction between the physical and the phenomenal that gives the hard problem life. Results: This article concludes by discussing how neurophenomenology might be reformulated under the auspices of a radically enactive and embodied account of cognition. That is, only by denying that there are two distinct phenomena - the physical and the phenomenal - can the neurophenomenological project get on with addressing its pragmatic problems of showing how neuroscientists may be guided by first-person data in their analysis of third-person experimental data, and vice versa. Implications: The topic addressed in this article is of direct value to consciousness studies in general and specifically for the project of neurophenomenology. If the neurophenomenological project is to deal with the hard problem, it must denude itself of its non-reductionist background assumption and embrace a strict identity thesis. Constructivist content: Radical enactive and embodied approaches to mind and consciousness adopt a view of consciousness as a dynamic activity - something an organism enacts in ongoing engagement with its environment. These approaches therefore share with constructivist approaches an action-based view of mind.
Context: Epistemologically, constructivism has reached its goals, particularly by emphasizing the idea of participatory observation, circularity, and the fact that construction is based on experience. However, rather than research, the main occupation of constructivists and second-order cyberneticians seems to lie in making the case for their epistemological idea, which has been exhausted in many aspects. Purpose: To counteract this exhaustion and an increasingly apparent lack of energy, it is argued that constructivism requires a dedicated field of research, a field where it would be possible to test constructivist concepts empirically and thus go beyond mere theoretical discourse. Method: Based on a review of basic constructivist premises and a critical examination of the field of empirical phenomenological research, the article connects their respective findings. Results: The article proposes that empirical research on lived experience (i.e., empirical phenomenology) requires a constructivist epistemological foundation and might therefore be a logical continuation of constructivist endeavours. In such a way, both fields might benefit considerably. Not only would constructivism acquire an empirical tool for testing its ideas, such a partnership might also provide empirical phenomenology with a more suitable epistemological platform than the realism-based research framework of cognitive science (of which it has become an integral part. The possibilities and problems of introducing empirical research into constructivism are also discussed. Implications: The article presents an opportunity to re-think the role and future of constructivism. It suggests educating a new generation of constructivist researchers whose principal goal would be the attempt to study lived human experience. That could also open a path to the experimental grounding of many constructivist insights.
Summary: What makes Hutto’s account special is his commitment to the rejection of content, a point where he becomes a real radical. The book is not just another book about enactivism but it is an enactive book for everyone written by an enactivist.
Upshot: In his latest book, Antonio Damasio explores the neural underpinnings of self-consciousness in an evolutionary context, while reconsidering his previous views. His current views may be interesting for constructivists.
Upshot: The fact that both “consciousness” and “music” are quite elusive terms makes the attempt to explain the nature (or even the existence of) “musical consciousness” a compelling quest. The papers in this book tackle these problems in an engaging way, ranging from sociology of music to drug altered music cognition. Some also apply enactive and ecological approaches to music cognition, which makes the book an interesting read for constructivists.
Upshot: Hutto & Myin’s latest “radical enactive cognition” manifesto is a truly exciting book and – despite its short length – quite thick with argumentation. The word “manifesto” here does not only describe the rousing writing style (filled with witty and resounding expressions), but also the general awed feeling one gets, while reading, of the importance of “RECtifying” the current state of research in enactive cognition. Interestingly for the constructivist community, the hallmark thesis of their book is that there can be intentionally directed cognition and perceptual experience without content.
Context: The past few years have presented us with a growing amount of theoretical research (yet that is often based on neuroscientific developments) in the field of enactive music cognition. Problem: Current cognitivist and embodied approaches to music cognition suffer, in our opinion, from a too firm commitment to the explanatory role of mental representations in musical experience. This particular problem can be solved by adopting an enactive approach to music cognition. Method: We present and compare cognitivist, embodied and enactive approaches to music cognition and review the current research in enactive music cognition. Results: We find that, in general, the enactive approaches to human musicality are capable of explaining the basic relationship between a musical subject and a musical object according to a pre-conceptual and pre-linguistic form of understanding related to bodily motor expertise. This explanation does not rely on on sophisticated forms of representation. Implications: Proponents of enactive music cognition should, in our opinion, focus on providing a consistent explanation of the most basic level of musical understanding. Constructivist content: We hope to invite the constructivist community to engage with the discussions on the intersection between music and enactivism.
Perceptual modalities have been traditionally considered the product of dedicated biological systems producing information for higher cognitive processing. Psychological and neuropsychological evidence is offered which undermines this point of view and an alternative account of modality from the enactive approach to understanding cognition is suggested. Under this view, a perceptual modality is a stable form of perception which is structured not just by the biological sensitivities of the agent, but by their goals and the set of skills or expertise which they are deploying at a given time. Such a view suggests that there is no such thing as an experience that is purely visual, auditory, or otherwise modal and that our attempts to understand consciousness and the mind must be conducted within a framework that provides an account of embodied, goal-directed adaptive coping with the world. Relevance: This paper provides an enactive analysis of perceptual modality, and argues for a more constructivist view of how consciousness is analysed, specifically according to the skilled activities in which an agent is engaged.