Several recently developed philosophical approaches to the self promise to enhance the exchange of ideas between the philosophy of the mind and the other cognitive sciences. This review examines two important concepts of self: the ‘minimal self’, a self devoid of temporal extension, and the ‘narrative self’, which involves personal identity and continuity across time. The notion of a minimal self is first clarified by drawing a distinction between the sense of self-agency and the sense of self-ownership for actions. This distinction is then explored within the neurological domain with specific reference to schizophrenia, in which the sense of self-agency may be disrupted. The convergence between the philosophical debate and empirical study is extended in a discussion of more primitive aspects of self and how these relate to neonatal experience and robotics. The second concept of self, the narrative self, is discussed in the light of Gazzaniga’s left-hemisphere ‘interpreter’ and episodic memory. Extensions of the idea of a narrative self that are consistent with neurological models are then considered. The review illustrates how the philosophical approach can inform cognitive science and suggests that a two-way collaboration may lead to a more fully developed account of the self.
I review three answers to the question: How can phenomenology contribute to the experimental cognitive neurosciences? The first approach, neurophenomenology, employs phenomenological method and training, and uses first-person reports not just as more data for analysis, but to generate descriptive categories that are intersubjectively and scientifically validated, and are then used to interpret results that correlate with objective measurements of behaviour and brain activity. A second approach, indirect phenomenology, is shown to be problematic in a number of ways. Indirect phenomenology is generally put to work after the experiment, in critical or creative interpretations of the scientific evidence. Ultimately, however, proposals for the indirect use of phenomenology lead back to methodological questions about the direct use of phenomenology in experimental design. The third approach, “front-loaded” phenomenology, suggests that the results of phenomenological investigations can be used in the design of empirical ones. Concepts or clarifications that have been worked out phenomenologically may operate as a partial framework for experimentation.
Context: In developing an enactivist phenomenology the analysis of time-consciousness needs to be pushed toward a fully enactivist account. Problem: Varela proposed a neurophenomenology of time-consciousness. I attempt to push this analysis towards a more complete enactivist phenomenology of time-consciousness. Method: I review Varela’s account of time-consciousness, which brings Husserl’s phenomenological analysis of the intrinsic temporal structure of experience into contact with contemporary neuroscience and dynamical systems theory, and pushes it towards a more enactivist conception of consciousness. I argue that Varela’s analysis motivates a closer examination of the phenomenological aspects of the intrinsic temporal structure of experience, understanding it in terms of an action-oriented embodied phenomenology in its most basic manifestation. Results: This fully enactivist phenomenology of time-consciousness continues the analysis initiated by Varela and remains consistent with but also goes beyond Husserl’s later writings on time-consciousness. Implications: This analysis shows that the enactive character of intentionality in general, goes all the way down; it is embedded in the micro-structure of time-consciousness, and this has implications for understanding perception and action. Constructivist content: This account is consistent with Varela’s constructivist approach to cognition.
We distinguish between three philosophical views on the neuroscience of predictive models: predictive coding (associated with internal Bayesian models and prediction error minimization), predictive processing (associated with radical connectionism and ‘simple’ embodiment) and predictive engagement (associated with enactivist approaches to cognition). We examine the concept of active inference under each model and then ask how this concept informs discussions of social cognition. In this context we consider Frith and Friston’s proposal for a neural hermeneutics, and we explore the alternative model of enactivist hermeneutics.
The full scope of enactivist approaches to cognition includes not only a focus on sensory-motor contingencies and physical affordances for action, but also an emphasis on affective factors of embodiment and intersubjective af-fordances for social interaction. This strong conception of embodied cognition calls for a new way to think about the role of the brain in the larger system of brain-body-environment. We ask whether recent work on predictive coding offers a way to think about brain function in an enactive system, and we sug-gest that a positive answer is possible if we interpret predictive coding in a more enactive way, i.e., as involved in the organism’s dynamic adjustments to its environment.
Excerpt: In the first part of this essay, we provide a brief account of Husserl’s classical analysis. We then proceed to focus on the concept of primal impression by considering various objections that have been raised by Jacques Derrida and Michel Henry, who basically argue in opposite directions. Derrida emphasizes the relationality of time-consciousness and downplays the importance of the primal impression, whereas Henry emphasizes the irrelationality of time-consciousness and downplays the importance of protention and retention. In a further step, we consider some of Husserl’s later manuscripts on time, where he revises his original privileging of the primal impression. In the final section, we turn to the question of an enactive temporal structure. ||
Recent advances in brain imaging have improved the measure of neural processes related to perceptual, cognitive and affective functions, yet the relation between brain activity and subjective experience remains poorly characterized. In part, it is a challenge to obtain reliable accounts of participant’s experience in such studies. Here we addressed this limitation by utilizing experienced meditators who are expert in introspection. We tested a novel method to link objective and subjective data, using real-time fMRI (rt-fMRI) to provide participants with feedback of their own brain activity during an ongoing task. We provided real-time feedback during a focused attention task from the posterior cingulate cortex, a hub of the default mode network shown to be activated during mind-wandering and deactivated during meditation. In a first experiment, both meditators and non-meditators reported significant correspondence between the feedback graph and their subjective experience of focused attention and mind-wandering. When instructed to volitionally decrease the feedback graph, meditators, but not non-meditators, showed significant deactivation of the posterior cingulate cortex. We were able to replicate these results in a separate group of meditators using a novel step-wise rt-fMRI discovery protocol in which participants were not provided with prior knowledge of the expected relationship between their experience and the feedback graph (i.e., focused attention versus mind-wandering). These findings support the feasibility of using rt-fMRI to link objective measures of brain activity with reports of ongoing subjective experience in cognitive neuroscience research, and demonstrate the generalization of expertise in introspective awareness to novel contexts.
According to Enactivism, cognition should be understood in terms of a dynamic interaction between an acting organism and its environment. Further, this view holds that organisms do not passively receive information from this environment, they rather selectively create this environment by engaging in interaction with the world. Radical Enactivism adds that basic cognition does so without entertaining representations and hence that representations are not an essential constituent of cognition. Some proponents think that getting rid of representations amounts to a revolutionary alternative to standard views about cognition. To emphasize the impact, they claim that this ‘radicalization’ should be applied to all enactivist friendly views, including, another current and potentially revolutionary approach to cognition: predictive processing. In this paper, we will show that this is not the case. After introducing the problem (section 2), we will argue (section 3) that ‘radicalizing’ predictive processing does not add any value to this approach. After this (section 4), we will analyze whether or not radical Enactivism can count as a revolution within cognitive science at all and conclude that it cannot. Finally, in section 5 we will claim that cognitive science is better off when embracing heterogeneity.
A novel way to model an agent interacting with an environment is introduced, called an Enactive Markov Decision Process (EMDP). An EMDP keeps perception and action embedded within sensorimotor schemes rather than dissociated, in compliance with theories of embodied cognition. Rather than seeking a goal associated with a reward, as in reinforcement learning, an EMDP agent learns to master the sensorimotor contingencies offered by its coupling with the environment. In doing so, the agent exhibits a form of intrinsic motivation related to the autotelic principle (Steels), and a value system attached to interactions called “interactional motivation.” This modeling approach allows the design of agents capable of autonomous self-programming, which provides rudimentary constitutive autonomy – a property that theoreticians of enaction consider necessary for autonomous sense-making (e.g., Froese & Ziemke). A cognitive architecture is presented that allows the agent to discover, memorize, and exploit spatio-sequential regularities of interaction, called Enactive Cognitive Architecture (ECA). In our experiments, behavioral analysis shows that ECA agents develop active perception and begin to construct their own ontological perspective on the environment. Relevance: This publication relates to constructivism by the fact that the agent learns from input data that does not convey ontological information about the environment. That is, the agent learns by actively experiencing its environment through interaction, as opposed to learning by registering observations directly characterizing the environment. This publication also relates to enactivism by the fact that the agent engages in self-programming through its experience from interacting with the environment, rather than executing pre-programmed behaviors.
The enactive AI framework wants to overcome the sense-making limitations of embodied AI by drawing on the bio-systemic foundations of enactive cognitive science. While embodied AI tries to ground meaning in sensorimotor interaction, enactive AI adds further requirements by grounding sensorimotor interaction in autonomous agency. At the core of this shift is the requirement for a truly intrinsic value function. We suggest that empowerment, an information-theoretic quantity based on an agents embodiment, represents such a function. We highlight the role of empowerment maximisation in satisfying the requirements of enactive AI, i.e. establishing constitutive autonomy and adaptivity, in detail. We then argue that empowerment, grounded in a precarious existence, allows an agent to enact a world based on the relevance of environmental features in respect to its own identity.