Saturday, 30 May 2015

Why Brandom Thinks Analytic Philosophy Has Failed Cognitive Science

In anticipation for UCD's upcoming Summer Institute in American Philosophy entitled "The Reaches of Pragmatism," here is a piece by Robert Brandom called "How Analytic Philosophy Has Failed Cognitive Science."  Spoiler alert: the reason analytic philosophy has failed cognitive science is because, according to Brandom, "we have failed to communicate some of the most basic ideas, failed to explain their significance, failed to make them available in forms useable by those working in allied disciplines who are also professionally concerned to understand the nature of thought, minds, and reason" (Brandom, 2009, p. 121).  In this way, it reminded me of Abi's question related to the possibility/extent of interdisciplinary accounts of consciousness, cognition, etc.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Potential Space



The reading list from this module has seemed to me to be guiding us away from the brain centred attitude to the theories of action in the environment and its many influences on our cognition. And so I ask the question what of the space between human and object (what Buber would call the I-It) and Winnicott would term the "third space" (1996 p102) or the "potential space"?
Winnicott studied thousands of Mothers and babies and how these babies learned to endure separateness from Mother by sometimes using a transitional object (teddy bear or blanket) which becomes a symbol for the child of being able tolerate separateness through play with the symbolic object. This creative play Winnicott would suggest within the space between Mother and a Motherless space becomes the foundations for symbolic use, the creative process and our cultural life.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Death by Utopia

A few weeks ago I came across a curious study on influence of overcrowding on society. The experiment performed by John B Calhoun with mice and published in 1973. Calhoun designed a habitat for mice that had all the resources needed to survive, basically a “mouse paradise”. There was no need for looking for food, water and shelter as it was all there. There were also no predators, so mice did not need to invest in protection. Calhoun called his experiment “Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice” and is also known as “Universe 25”.

Postcognitive Topics final post

During our post-cognitive topics module we have covered many different approaches to cognitive science from the Extended Mind to Enaction. Other approaches include Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuropsychology and Computational Cognitive Science. One thing all the approaches have in common is a tendency to produce long papers - like this post.



Elman et al., in Rethinking Innateness, describe development as an interactive process where ‘emergent form is the rule rather than the exception.’ They go on to describe development as taking place at multiple levels and in discussing innateness say ‘development is constrained at one or more of these levels. Interactions may occur within and also across levels. And outcomes which are observed at one level may be produced by constraints which occur at another level.’ They are describing development in emergent terms.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Different views of Affordances












Photograph taken with UV filter showing
possible view bees may have


I did some research on bees a few years ago for an art piece, looking at what is known about their social interaction as a hive or community It came to mind several times when reading through our reading list for this module. Von Uexull in his discussion of the "phenomenal world" of the varieties of life in the meadow.  Lyon and Keijzer because of their call to avoid our "species-centrisim"(p134) and acknowledge the insights that studying animal species can give us humans. And Harry Heft's discussion of Gibson's affordance theory "that seem most plausibly applied to features of the environment that have species-specific or transcultural significance" (p1).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Beyond input-output mappings

In this post, a major paradigm shift in neuroscience from the last 20 years or so is described.  The move is from consideration of the activity of nervous systems as mapping from input to output (as in feed-forward neural networks) to a view whereby sensory input modulates the ongoing endogenous activity of the system (think of a recurrent network that is spontaneously generating activity before any input arrives) .  Sensory input is thus a perturbation to the system, whose effect will depend on the structure and activity of the system, rather than a stimulus producing a determinate response.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A Criticism of Noe: Andy Clark

The enactive approach states that perception is something that we actively participate in and do, and not merely something that happens to us in a passive manner. Alva Noe aimed to describe perception as an action - and so treated action as a crucial part of perception in itself. The constitutivist thesis is at the focal point of Enactivism and it states that both sensorimotor skills and knowledge constitute the contents within our perceptual experience. Although Noe's approach is widely accepted, flaws and limitations can be observed through the criticisms of Andy Clark, which are interpreted and described in Mineki Oguchi's (2008) paper "Is Perception Enactive?"

Clark utilised Milner and Goodale's "dual stream model" in order to critique Noe's approach. The most prominent limitation highlighted by Clark is "sensorimotor chauvinism". Clark states that sensorimotor chauvinism can be seen in this excerpt from Noe's Action in Perception ; "it turns out that there is a good reason to believe that the sensorimotor dependences are themselves determined by low level details of the physical systems on which our sensory systems depend. The eye and visual parts of the brain form a most subtle instrument indeed, and thanks to this instrument, sensory stimulations varies in response to movement in precise ways. To see as we do, you must then have a sensory organ and a body like ours".