Traditional cognitive science is Cartesian in the sense that it takes as fundamental the distinction between the mental and the physical, the mind and the world. This leads to the claim that cognition is representational and best explained using models derived from AI and computational theory. The authors in this special issue depart radically from this model.

Advance Praise for Reclaiming Cognition

  • A notable collection of essays that will give much pleasure to those who have been missing the living body - and its actions and reactions - in contemporary cognitive and neural studies; a must read for those who haven't. Antonio Damasio
  • This collection is a valuable contribution to the elaboration and application of an understanding of mind and brain as situated and embodied. As such, it is timely and important.  Although it is unlikely anyone will agree with all the papers, together they pose a challenge every cognitive scientist, neuroscientist and philosopher has to face. Hubert Dreyfus
  • This book brings together a wide variety of contributions to the search for a science of the mind that will be capable of describing and explaining the bewildering diversity of mental phenomena. The dead hand of 'cognitivism' is finally being lifted, allowing us to see the mind as a biological and cultural entity rather than a disembodied symbol processor inspired by the mathematical formalisms that underpin computer science. Horst Hendriks-Jansen
  • Views of the mind as essentially embodied and embedded in its environment have recently made powerful advances in understanding perception and action and now have taken on cognition. This timely and richly interdisciplinary collection of essays, by innovative thinkers, displays the current exuberance of theoretical alternatives to the computational mainstream. Susan Hurley
  • The evidence from all over the cognitive sciences is overwhelming: Conceptual systems and language are embodied in the deepest way, shaped by the nature of our brains, our bodies, and our everyday functioning in the world. Reclaiming Cognition helps to wash away the old view of the mind as abstract and disembodied, of thought as symbol manipulation - something a computer could do - and of emotion as separate from reason. George Lakoff
  • Just as the 1990s were the Decade of the Brain, many have argued that we are now entering the Decade of the Mind. Meeting such a challenge requires that we transcend the crude reductionism and narrow cognitivism that has characterized much of the brain and behavioural sciences of the past century. Reclaiming Cognition teaches us that minds are not architectural modular structures that deal in information, but are constituted by the dynamic interactions of perceiver and percept, knower and that which is to be known  - socially, developmentally and evolutionarily formed. Steven Rose
  • Reclaiming Cognition is a potent antidote to shake up a number of received ideas about mind that have dominated cognitive science since its roots in the 1960s. In retrospect it now seems simply amazing that for so long many believed that mind was dis-embodied, abstract, symbol-based, and a-historical. The diverse contributions in this book provide excellent examples of recent work that extends alternative approaches that had remained in the margin and are now coming to the fore. Francisco J. Varela
  • Contents

    Editors' Introduction

    Walter J. Freeman and Rafael Núñez, Restoring to Cognition the Forgotten Primacy of Action, Intention and Emotion Full Text

    Embodied, Evolving and Ecological Minds

  • Andy Clark, Visual Awareness and Visuomotor Action   abstract
  • Jana M. Iverson & Esther Thelen, Hand, Mouth and Brain: The dynamic emergence of speech and gesture   abstract
  • Rafael Núñez, Could the Future Taste Purple? Reclaiming mind, body and cognition   abstract
  • Eleanor Rosch, Reclaiming Concepts   abstract
  • Christine A. Skarda, The Perceptual Form of Life   abstract
  • M.T. Turvey & Robert E. Shaw, Ecological Foundations of Cognition I. Symmetry and specificity of animal–environment systems  abstract
  • Robert E. Shaw & M.T. Turvey, Ecological Foundations of Cognition II. Degrees of freedom and conserved quantities in animal–
  •  environment systems   abstract
  • Mathematics and Neurobiology

  • Paul Cisek, Beyond the Computer: Behaviour as control   abstract
  • Walter J. Freeman, Consciousness, Intentionality and Causality  abstract
  • Ravi V. Gomatam, Quantum Theory and the Observation Problem  abstract
  • Giuseppe Longo, Mathematical Intelligence, Infinity and Machines: Beyond Gödelitis   abstract
  • J.S. Nicolis & I. Tsuda, Mathematical Description of Brain Dynamics in Perception and Action   abstract
  • Philosophy of Action, Intention and Emotion

  • Brian Goodwin, Reclaiming a Life of Quality   abstract
  • Valerie Gray Hardcastle, It’s O.K. to be Complicated: The case of emotion abstract
  • Hilary Rose,  Changing Constructions of Consciousness  abstract
  • Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Emotion and Movement: A beginning empirical-phenomenological analysis of their relationship   abstract
  • Index

    Selected Abstracts

    Restoring to Cognition the Forgotten Primacy of Action, Intention and Emotion

    Núñez R. Institute of Cognitive Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
    Freeman W., Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berekeley

    Introduction to Special Issue on 'Reclaiming Cognition: The Primacy of Action, Intention and Emotion'.

    Making sense of the mind is the human odyssey. Today, the cognitive sciences provide the vehicles and équipage. As do all culturally shaped activities, they manifest crystallized generalizations and ideological legacies, many of which go unquestioned for centuries. From time to time, these ideologies are successfully challenged, generating revisions and new forms of understanding. We believe that the cognitive sciences have reached a situation in which they have been frozen into one narrow form by the machine metaphor. There is a need to thaw that form and move from a reductionist, atemporal, disembodied, static, rationalist, emotion- and culture-free view, to fundamentally richer understandings that include the primacy of action, intention, emotion, culture, real-time constraints, real-world opportunities, and the peculiarities of living bodies. These essays constitute an array of moves in that direction.


    Emotion and Movement. A Beginning Empirical-Phenomenological Analysis of Their Relationship

    259-77 Sheets-Johnstone M. Box 722, Yachats, OR 97498, USA

    This essay offers a beginning sketch of the intimate bond between emotions and movement, concentrating first on empirical research that preceded the rise of cognitivist science with its prominencing of an information-processing brain (Bruner, 1990) and its correlative dislocation of movement. I summarize three empirical studies of emotion that carry forward the work of Darwin, and that vindicate in different ways the work of physiological psychologist Roger Sperry on perception and his principle thesis that the brain is an organ of and for movement (Sperry, 1952). The summaries make evident the theoretics that bind the studies together and reveal the tactile-kinaesthetic body that is in each case their foundation. I turn then to a summary phenomenological analysis of movement, showing how the dynamic character of movement gives rise to kinetic qualia. The analysis exemplifies how empirical studies may be epistemologically deepened through phenomenology, in this instance through a phenomenological elucidation of the fundamentally qualitative structure of movement, a structure that grounds the relationship between movement and emotion in a qualitative dynamics and formal dynamic congruency. In virtue of that congruency, motion and emotion -- kinetic and affective bodies -- are of a dynamic piece. Methodological consequences follow from this exposition. So also do implications for cognitivism, which range from the observation that movement is not behaviour and that the term 'embodied' is a lexical band-aid to the observation that animate forms are not machines and that a kinetic, qualitative (meta)physics follows naturally from the study of animation and animate form.

    Changing Constructions of Consciousness

    Rose H. Department of Sociology, The City University, 4 Lloyd Square, London WC1X 9BA, UK

    No fresh-minted concept like the fluid genome or indeed sexual harassment (neither concept being available thirty years ago), consciousness has become immensely fashionable, but this time round as part of the new found cultural popularity of the natural sciences. However, what is immediately noticeable about the proliferation over the past decade of books and journals with 'consciousness' in their titles or invoked in their texts is that they seem to be drawn to the cultural glamour of the concept, but with little sense that the concept of consciousness has an entirely other history. Consciousness seems to lie around in the culture like a sparkling jewel, irresistible to the neuro-theorists. There seems to be no recognition amongst the many biologists, artificial intelligencers, physicists and philosophers who have played in print with their new toy that consciousness is part of another discourse and has an entirely other history. Above all, I want to underline that while for these neuro-theorists, consciousness is located within the individual human organism (and sometimes just the brain within that), the older tradition, coming from the humanities and social theory, sees consciousness as located in subjectivity and inter-subjectivity in historical context. The methodological individualism expressed in the objectivist language of the natural sciences erases both 'me' and 'you'; by contrast, in social theory, both agency and structure are crucial. For social theory there can be no development of individual consciousness without a social context. 323 6 11-12

    It's O.K. to be Complicated. The Case of Emotion

    Hardcastle V.G. Department of Philosophy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0126, USA

    Since at least the time of Darwin, we have recognized that our human emotional life is very similar to the emotional life of other creatures. We all react in characteristic ways to emotionally valenced stimuli. Though other animals may not blush or cry, we all have prototypical ways of expressing anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, and curiosity. In assuming that the neural circuits underlying these reactions are homologous or at least analogous across species, neurophysiologists and neuropsychologists have been able to construct impressive and substantial research programmes studying the neural correlates for emotion. They are to be applauded, for we now know quite a lot about where and how basic emotions are processed in the brain.

    At the same time, there is a dangerous trend developing in the study of emotion in neurophysiology and neuropsychology, a trend toward oversimplifying and reducing emotional responses to the point of distortion. We all know that scientists must abstract away from much of what is going on in order to produce quantitative and unambiguous data. We also know that scientists operate using several basic methodological, technological, and theoretical assumptions. The question I wish to address here is whether, in the case of emotions, scientists haven't gone too far in their tendency to modularize brain processes and to reduce reactions down to their simplest

    Reclaiming a Life of Quality

    Goodwin B. Schumacher College, Dartington, Devon TQ9 6EA, UK

    The argument that I shall pursue here will take the following form. Organisms are wholes that are centres of agency. To live is to act intentionally, to discriminate and to experience. To accommodate within science an understanding of the life with which we as organisms are familiar, it is necessary to acknowledge the reality of qualitative experience. This leads to an expanded conception of science that preserves all that is of value in our tradition of exploring reality but avoids the unfortunate conclusion that some of our deepest experiences are in some sense unreal.

    Mathematical Description of Brain Dynamics in Perception and Action

    Nicolis J.S., & Tusuda, I.,  Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Patras, Greece

    A given but otherwise random environmental time series impinging on the input of a certain biological processor passes through with overwhelming probability practically undetected. A very small percentage of environmental stimuli, though, is 'captured' by the processor's nonlinear dissipative operator as initial conditions, and is 'processed' as solutions of its dynamics. The processor, then, is in such cases instrumental in compressing or abstracting those stimuli, thereby making the external world to collapse from a previous regime of a 'pure state' of suspended animation into a set of stable complementary and mutually exclusive eigenfunctions or 'categories'. The characteristics of this cognitive set depend on the operator involved and the hierarchical level where the abstraction takes place. Depending on the context, the transition from one state to another occurs in such a cognitive operator. The chaotic itinerancy may play a crucial role for this process. In this paper we model the dynamics which may underlie such a cognitive process and the role of the thalamo-cortical pacemaker of the (human) brain. In order to model them, conceptualization by the notion of 'attractor ruin' in high-dimensional dynamical systems is necessary.

    Mathematical Intelligence, Infinity and Machines: Beyond Gödelitis

    Longo G. CNRS and Dépt. De Mathématiques et Informatique, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France

    We informally discuss some recent results on the incompleteness of formal systems. These theorems, which are of great importance to contemporary mathematical epistemology, are proved using a variety of conceptual tools provably stronger than those of finitary axiomatisations. Those tools require no mathematical ontology, but rather constitute particularly concrete human constructions and acts of comprehending infinity and space rooted in different forms of knowledge. We shall also discuss, albeit very briefly, the mathematical intelligence both of God and of computers. We hope in this manner to help the reader overcome formalist reductionism, while avoiding naïve Platonist ontologies, typical symptoms of Gödelitis which affected many in the last seventy years.

    Quantum Theory and the Observation Problem

    173-90 Gomatam R.V. Bhaktivedanta Institute, Juhu Road, Juhu, Bombay 400049, India
    or 2334 Stuart Street, Berkeley, CA 94705, USA

    Although quantum theory is applicable, in principle, to both the microscopic and macroscopic realms, the strategy of practically applying quantum theory by retaining a classical conception of the macroscopic world (through the correspondence principle) has had tremendous success. This has nevertheless rendered the task of interpretation daunting. We argue the need for recognizing and solving the 'observation problem', namely constructing a 'quantum-compatible' view of the properties and states of macroscopic objects in everyday thinking to realistically interpret quantum theory consistently at both the microscopic and macroscopic levels. Toward a solution to this problem, we point out a category of properties called 'relational properties' that we regularly associate with everyday objects. We see them as being potentially quantum-compatible. Some possible physical implications are discussed. We conclude by touching upon the nexus between the relational property view within quantum physics and some neurobiological issues underlying cognition.

    Consciousness, Intentionality and Causality

    Freeman W.J. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, LSA 129, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3200, USA

    According to behavioural theories deriving from pragmatism, gestalt psychology, existentialism, and ecopsychology, knowledge about the world is gained by intentional action followed by learning. In terms of the neurodynamics described here, if the intending of an act comes to awareness through reafference, it is perceived as a cause. If the consequences of an act come to awareness through proprioception and exteroception, they are perceived as an effect. A sequence of such states of awareness comprises consciousness, which can grow in complexity to include self-awareness. Intentional acts do not require awareness, whereas voluntary acts require self-awareness. Awareness of the action/perception cycle provides the cognitive metaphor of linear causality as an agency. Humans apply this metaphor to objects and events in the world to predict and control them, and to assign social responsibility. Thus, linear causality is the bedrock of technology and social contracts.

    Complex material systems with distributed non-linear feedback, such as brains and their neural and behavioural activities, cannot be explained by linear causality. They can be said to operate by circular causality without agency. The nature of self-control is described by breaking the circle into a forward limb, the intentional self, and a feedback limb, awareness of the self and its actions. The two limbs are realized through hierarchically stratified kinds of neural activity. Intentional acts are produced by the self-organized microscopic neural activity of cortical and subcortical components in the brain. Awareness supervenes as a macroscopic ordering state, that defers action until the self-organizing microscopic process has reached closure in reflective prediction. Agency, which is removed from the causal hierarchy by the appeal to circularity, re-appears as a metaphor by which events in the world are anthropomorphized, making them appear subject to human control.

    Beyond the Computer Metaphor: Behaviour as Interaction

    Cisek P. Dept. de physiologie, Université de Montréal, 2960 Chemin de la tour, Montréal, (Québec) H3C 3J7, Canada

    Behaviour is often described as the computation of a response to a stimulus. This description is incomplete in an important way because it only examines what occurs between the reception of stimulus information and the generation of an action. Behaviour is more correctly described as a control process where actions are performed in order to affect perceptions. This closed-loop nature of behaviour is de-emphasized in modern discussions of brain function, leading to a number of artificial mysteries. A notable example is the 'symbol grounding problem'. When behaviour is viewed as a control process, it is natural to explain how internal representations, even symbols, can have meaning for an organism, and how actions can be motivated by organic needs.

    Ecological Foundations of Cognition. I: Symmetry and Specificity of Animal-Environment Systems Ecological Foundations of Cognition.

    Turvey M.T. & Shaw, R.E., Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action, University of Connecticut, Stoors, CT 06269-1020, USA

    Ontological and methodological constraints on a theory of cognition that would generalize across species are identified. Within these constraints, ecological arguments for (a) animal-environment mutuality and reciprocity and (b) the necessary specificity of structured energy distributions to environmental facts are developed as counterpoints to the classical doctrines of animal-environment dualism and intractable nonspecificity. Implications of (a) and (b) for a cognitive theory consistent with Gibson's programme of ecological psychology are identified and contrasted with contemporary cognitivism

    Ecological Foundations of Cognition. II: Degrees of Freedom and Conserved Quantities in Animal-Environment Systems

    Shaw R.E. & Turvey M.T., Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action, University of Connecticut, Stoors, CT 06269-1020, USA

    Cognition means different things to different psychologists depending on the position held on the mind-matter problem. Ecological psychologists reject the implied mind-matter dualism as an ill-posed theoretic problem because the assumed mind-matter incommensurability precludes a solution to the degrees of freedom problem. This fundamental problem was posed by both Nicolai Bernstein and James J. Gibson independently. It replaces mind-matter dualism with animal-environment duality (isomorphism) -- a better posed scientific problem because commensurability is assured. Furthermore, when properly posed this way, a conservation law is suggested that encompasses a psychology of transactional systems, a biology of self-actional systems, and a physics of interactional systems. For such a solution, a theory of cognition for goal-directed behaviour (e.g., choosing goals, authoring intentions, using information, and controlling actions) is needed. A sketch is supplied for how such a theory might be pursued in the spirit of the new physics of evolving complex systems.

    The Perceptual Form of Life

    Skarda C.A. 1544 Campus Drive, Berkeley, CA 94708, USA

    To view organismic functioning in terms of integration is a mistake, although the concept has dominated scientific thinking this century. The operative concept for interpreting the organism proposed here is that of 'articulation' or decomposition rather than that of composition from segregated parts. It is asserted that holism is the fundamental state of all phenomena, including organisms. The impact of this changed perspective on perceptual theorizing is profound. Rather than viewing it as a process resulting from internal integration of isolated features detected by receptor neurons into a perceptual whole, the new theory suggests that the task of perceptual processing is to break up what initially exists holistically in sense organs into features and eventually perceived objects. Similarly, the goal of perceptual activity is not Sherrington's, that of integrating essentially unrelated organisms with their environmental surround, but rather to generate percepts in which the environment appears as a field of objects and events independent of the perceiver which are available for manipulation. Perception is a process by which organisms use their embeddedness in physical reality as if they were independent of it. There are a number of interesting results of this conceptual reorientation. The binding problem is eliminated because the percept's holistic character is the precondition for neural activity, not its product. The concept of representation can be dispensed with since the fundamental conceptual motivation for its introduction -- the assumed need to produce an internal copy of what was assumed to exist independently outside the organism in order to integrate organismic behaviour with its environmental causes -- is rejected outright. And finally, the issue of perceptual consciousness is addressed: how does the percept acquire its objective status vis-à-vis a perceiver, and what is the basis of the experiential character of perception?

    Could the Future Taste Purple? Reclaiming Mind, Body and Cognition

    Núñez R. Institute of Cognitive Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

    This article examines the primacy of real-world bodily experience for understanding the human mind. I defend the idea that the peculiarities of the living human brain and body, and the bodily experiences they sustain, are essential ingredients of human sense-making and conceptual systems. Conceptual systems are created, brought forth, understood and sustained, through very specific cognitive mechanisms ultimately grounded in bodily experience. They don't have a transcendental abstract logic independent of the species-specific bodily features. To defend this position, I focus on a case study: the fundamental concept of time flow. Using tools of cognitive linguistics, I analyse the foundations of this concept, as it is manifested naturally in everyday language. I show that there is a precise conceptual metaphor (mapping) whose inferential structure gives an account of a huge variety of linguistic expressions, semantic contents, and unconscious spontaneous gestures: Time Events Are Things In Space. I discuss various special cases of this conceptual metaphor. This mapping grounds its source domain (space) in specific spatial bodily experiences and projects its inferential structure onto a target domain (time) making inferences in that domain possible. This mechanism allows us to unconsciously, effortlessly, and precisely understand (and make inferences with) expressions such as 'the year 2000 is approaching' or 'the days ahead of us'. The general form of the mapping seems to be universal. The analysis raises important issues which demand a deeper and richer understanding of cognition and the mind: a view that sees the mind as fully embodied. In order to avoid misunderstandings with a general (and somewhat vague) notion of 'embodiment' which has become fashionable in contemporary cognitive science, I describe what I mean by 'full embodiment': an embodied-oriented approach that has an explicit commitment to all of cognition, not just to low-level aspects of cognition such as sensory-motor activity or locomotion (lower levels of commitment). I take embodiment to be a living phenomenon in which the primacy of bodily grounded experience (e.g., motion, intention, emotion) is inherently part of the very subject matter of the study of the mind.

    Hand, Mouth and Brain. The Dynamic Emergence of Speech and Gesture

    Iverson J.M, & Thelen E.,. Department of Psychology, University of Misouri, 210 McAlester Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA

    We examine the embodiment of one foundational aspect of human cognition, language, through its bodily association with the gestures that accompany its expression in speech. Gesture is a universal feature of human communication. Gestures are produced by all speakers in every culture (although the extent and typology of gesturing may differ). They are tightly timed with speech (McNeill, 1992). Gestures convey important communicative information to the listener, but even blind speakers gesture while talking to blind listeners (Iverson and Goldin-Meadow, 1998), so the mutual co-occurrence of speech and gesture reflects a deep association between the two modes that transcends the intentions of the speaker to communicate. Indeed, we believe that this linkage of the vocal expression of language and the arm movements produced with it are a manifestation of the embodiment of thought: that human mental activities arise through bodily interactions with the world and remain linked with them throughout the lifespan. In particular, we propose that speech and gesture have their developmental origins in early hand-mouth linkages, such that as oral activities become gradually used for meaningful speech, these linkages are maintained and strengthened. Both hand and mouth are tightly coupled in the mutual cognitive activity of language. In short, it is the initial sensorimotor linkages of these systems that form the bases for their later cognitive interdependence.

    Visual Awareness and Visuomotor Action Visual Awareness and Visuomotor Action

    Clark A. Department of Philosophy, Washington University, Campus Box 1073, One Brookings Drive, St Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA

    Recent work in 'embodied, embedded' cognitive science links mental contents to large-scale distributed effects: dynamic patterns implicating elements of (what are traditionally seen as) sensing, reasoning and acting. Central to this approach is an idea of biological cognition as profoundly 'action-oriented' -- geared not to the creation of rich, passive inner models of the world, but to the cheap and efficient production of real-world action in real-world context. A case in point is Hurley's (1998) account of the profound role of motor output in fixing the contents of conscious visual awareness -- an account that also emphasizes distributed vehicles and long-range dynamical loops. Such stories can seem dramatically opposed to accounts, such as Milner and Goodale (1995), that stress relatively local mechanisms and that posit firm divisions between processes of visual awareness and of visuomotor action. But such accounts, I argue, can be deeply complementary and together illustrate an important lesson. The lesson is that cognition may be embodied and action-oriented in two distinct -- but complementary -- ways. There is a way of being embodied and action-oriented that implies being closely geared to the fine-grained control of low level effectors (hands, arms, legs and so on). And there is a way of being embodied and action-oriented that implies being closely geared to gross motor intentions, current goals, and schematic motor plans. Human cognition, I suggest, is embodied and action-oriented in both these ways. But the neural systems involved, and the size and scope of the key dynamic loops, may be quite different in each case.

    Reclaiming Concepts

    Rosch E. Department of Psychology, University of California, 3210 Tolman Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-1650, USA

    The story is told of a physicist who is invited by a dairy farmers' association to tell them how to get more milk from cows. The physicist begins: 'First we start with a spherical cow.' That is told as a joke! Yet far more strange is what cognitivism has done to what is supposed to be the study of human thought and human life. This chapter is about concepts, the central building blocks of cognitivist theory. I will first show how cognitivism necessarily cannot give an adequate treatment of concepts and will then, more importantly (who pays any attention to criticisms?), outline the foundations for a new nonrepresentational view of concepts which should place the study of concepts on a real (rather than a spherical cow) basis.


    Full Synopsis

    In recent decades many cognitive scientists have come to identify a predominant approach to the study of mental processes as ‘cognitivism’. This label has come to be narrowly applied to certain viewpoints, grounding their conceptual framework on dualism and functionalism, which commonly share five features: ‘Reclaiming Cognition’ will be a collection of new papers from a variety of disciplines concerned with the scientific study of the mind. The common thread will be a determination to understand the biological nature of the human animal and to develop conceptual frameworks and methodologies freed from the assumptions of cognitivism outlined above.

    Topics will be grouped in three sections:

    (1) Empirical results:

    (2) Methodological issues: (3) Philosophical and theoretical issues: