Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SPP & Extended Cognition Highlights

I'm still making my way home from the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. The SPP had a good showing for extended cognition.

In a session on Embodied Cognition, Carlos Zedik of Indiana University, had a nice review of different sorts of dynamicist approaches to cognition in his “The Varieties of Dynamicism.” Such a review is helpful in breaking down the idea that there is just one moral one might draw from the application of the mathematics of dynamical systems in cognitive science.

David Michael Kaplan, WashU, tried to formulate a radical version of the embodied perception approach that does not rely on the claim that perception constitutively depends on action. I don’t think that he was entirely successful, but the problematic and its execution were clear. It begins as a way of trying to avoid the coupling-constitution fallacy.

Marcus Avran, U. British Columbia, presented a reply to Justin Fisher’s contention that everything mental is just in the head.

In a separate session, Rob Wilson discussed social cognition and extended cognition.

There were also two posters, one by Teed Rockwell, Sonoma State, and Shannon Spaulding, Wisconsin-Madison, taking Adams & Aizawa (and Rupert) to task. Zoe Drayson, Bristol, and George Theiner, Alberta, also had posters. (Alas, I didn’t get to talk with Zoe. I’m a conference slacker!)

So, SPP is extended cognition friendly and worth thinking about for presentations for next year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Clark on the Mark of the Cognitive?

I started (once again) working through Andy Clark’s Supersizing the Mind. In Chapter 1, I was struck by the following:
The mathematics of a system of interlocking differential equations can (at least in simple cases) accurately capture the way two or more systems engage in a continuous, real-time, and effectively instantaneous dance of mutual codetermining interaction. But it is a burden insofar as it threatens to obscure the specifically intelligence-based route to evolutionary success. That route involves the ability to become apprised of information concerning our surroundings and to use that information as a guide to present and future action. As soon as we embrace the notion of the brain as the principal (though not the only) seat of information-processing activity, we area already seeing it as fundamentally different from, say, the flow of a river or the activity of a volcano.

This seems to me to point out that the dynamical systems approach to extended cognition needs to take into account a distinction between cognitive processes (which Clark here treats as information processing processes) and other non-cognitive causal processes. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this is one way of making one of my favorite points, namely, that the advocates of ExCog in general need a plausible theory for distinguishing cognitive and non-cognitive processing. They need a mark of the cognitive.

Another Noe Question

Here is a simple Flash demo of amodal completion:


While the black square occludes the white thing, I do not, strictly speaking, see a circle, but I visually perceive a white circle. I think this is common ground.

Ok. Now, no matter how long I look at this demo-no matter how long I take in the sensorimotor contingencies this demo affords, (I’m assuming that) I will continue to visually perceive the white occluding thing as a circle. Contrary to what Noe seems to me to predict, we apparently have a case in which SMK does not influence my visual perception. Contrary to what Noe seems to me to predict, even though I expect that white thing to be revealed as a non-circle, I still visually perceive a circle during the maximal occlusion.

How about this?