Open peer commentary on the article “Interactivity and Enaction in Human Cognition” by Matthew Isaac Harvey, Rasmus Gahrn-Andersen & Sune Vork Steffensen. Upshot: To sort out their differences with enactive theory, interactivity theorists would do better to focus on operational closure only insofar as it constitutes a condition of intrinsic normativity or self-regulated coupling.
In this paper, I describe what I consider to be some of the similarities between semiotics and second-order cybernetics. Particular attention is paid to the importance of interpretation and recursion in both fields. A distinction is made between the concept of representation in representational realism and representation as the stand-for relationship. Two models derived from cybernetic theory, ‘a recursive theory of communication’ and ‘levels of experience, ’ are discussed from a semiotic perspective and possible educational implications are described
This Introduction is our attempt to clarify further the cluster of key notions: autonomy, viability, abduction and adaptation. These notions form the conceptual scaffolding within which the individual contribution contained in this volume can be placed. Hopefully, these global concepts represent fundamental signposts for future research that can spare us a mere flurry of modelling and simulations into which this new field could fall.
In this paper, we argue for a theoretical separation of the free-energy principle from Helmholtzian accounts of the predictive brain. The free-energy principle is a theoretical framework capturing the imperative for biological self-organization in information-theoretic terms. The free-energy principle has typically been connected with a Bayesian theory of predictive coding, and the latter is often taken to support a Helmholtzian theory of perception as unconscious inference. If our interpretation is right, however, a Helmholtzian view of perception is incompatible with Bayesian predictive coding under the free-energy principle. We argue that the free energy principle and the ecological and enactive approach to mind and life make for a much happier marriage of ideas. We make our argument based on three points. First we argue that the free energy principle applies to the whole animal–environment system, and not only to the brain. Second, we show that active inference, as understood by the free-energy principle, is incompatible with unconscious inference understood as analagous to scientific hypothesis-testing, the main tenet of a Helmholtzian view of perception. Third, we argue that the notion of inference at work in Bayesian predictive coding under the free-energy principle is too weak to support a Helmholtzian theory of perception. Taken together these points imply that the free energy principle is best understood in ecological and enactive terms set out in this paper.
Open peer commentary on the article “The Epigenetic Immune Network” by Nelson Monteiro Vaz & Luiz Antônio Botelho Andrade. Upshot: Vaz and Andrade recount how Varela collaborated with a group of immunologists to advance a nonconformist view of the immune system. Here, I outline my interpretation of four concepts related to the philosophy of the immune system that Vaz and Andrade associate with the ideas of Varela: modeling, cognition, closure and enaction.
In this paper, we start exploring the affective and ethical dimension of what De Jaegher and Di Paolo (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6:485–507, 2007) have called ‘participatory sense-making’. In the first part, we distinguish various ways in which we are, and feel, affectively inter-connected in interpersonal encounters. In the second part, we discuss the ethical character of this affective inter-connectedness, as well as the implications that taking an ‘inter-(en)active approach’ has for ethical theory itself.
Open peer commentary on the article “Interactivity and Enaction in Human Cognition” by Matthew Isaac Harvey, Rasmus Gahrn-Andersen & Sune Vork Steffensen. Upshot: Enaction, as a paradigm, is still negotiating its position with respect to science done in an objective key. Some of the problems identified by the authors arise by treating enactive descriptions as if they were realist accounts. Negotiating a resolution here will demand progress all round.
The enactive turn in cognitive science fundamentally changes how questions about experience and behaviour are addressed. We propose that there exists a suite of core concepts within enaction that are suited to the characterisation of many kinds of intentional subjects, including and especially animals, plants, collectivities and artefacts. We summarise some basic concerns of enactive theory and show how the common illustration of the single cell ascending a chemotactic gradient serves as a focus point for discussion of important topics such as identity, perspective, value, agency and life-mind continuity. We also highlight two important deficits of this example: the cell is ahistorical and asocial. Historicity and sociality are defining characteristics of living beings and are addressed within enactive theory by the concepts of structural coupling and participatory sense-making, respectively. This strongly biological framework is to be distinguished from scientific psychology which is, we argue, necessarily anthropomorphic. We propose a constrained bio-enactive framework that remains true to its biological foundations and that would allow us to negotiate consensus-based understanding in contested domains, where incompatible value systems enacted by competing systems are in conflict. A consensual ‘we’ is, we contend, a matter of negotiation, not of fixed essence. A bio-enactive framework may serve as a jumping off point for consensus-based discussion within contested domains.
In this article, I sketch an enactive account of autism. For the enactive approach to cognition, embodiment, experience, and social interaction are fundamental to understanding mind and subjectivity. Enaction defines cognition as sense-making: the way cognitive agents meaningfully connect with their world, based on their needs and goals as self-organizing, self-maintaining, embodied agents. In the social realm, the interactive coordination of embodied sense-making activities with others lets us participate in each other’s sense-making (social understanding = participatory sense-making). The enactive approach provides new concepts to overcome the problems of traditional functionalist accounts of autism, which can only give a piecemeal and disintegrated view because they consider cognition, communication, and perception separately, do not take embodied into account, and are methodologically individualistic. Applying the concepts of enaction to autism, I show: (1) How embodiment and sense-making connect, i.e., how autistic particularities of moving, perceiving, and emoting relate to how people with autism make sense of their world. For instance, restricted interests or preference for detail will have certain sensorimotor correlates, as well as specific meaning for autistic people. (2) That reduced flexibility in interactional coordination correlates with difficulties in participatory sense-making. At the same time, seemingly irrelevant “autistic behaviors” can be quite attuned to the interactive context. I illustrate this complexity in the case of echolalia. An enactive account of autism starts from the embodiment, experience, and social interactions of autistic people. Enaction brings together the sensorimotor, cognitive, social, experiential, and affective aspects of autism in a coherent framework based on a complex non-linear multi-causality. This foundation allows to build new bridges between autistic people and their often non-autistic context, and to improve quality of life prospects.
As yet, there is no enactive account of social cognition. This paper extends the enactive concept of sense-making into the social domain. It takes as its departure point the process of interaction between individuals in a social encounter. It is a well-established finding that individuals can and generally do coordinate their movements and utterances in such situations. We argue that the interaction process can take on a form of autonomy. This allows us to reframe the problem of social cognition as that of how meaning is generated and transformed in the interplay between the unfolding interaction process and the individuals engaged in it. The notion of sense-making in this realm becomes participatory sense-making. The onus of social understanding thus moves away from strictly the individual only.