Symposium: Robert Lowe & Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic, Embodied Cognition: Constructivist and Computationalist Perspectives

(Full Program)

The term cognition is a controversial one when considered in terms of its constitution and function. On the one hand, it has been construed as a type of computation consisting of syntactical manipulations of symbolic representations. At the opposite extreme cognition is considered to be continuous with life; its constitution being constantly re-established by autopoietic self-organization fundamental to all living systems (cf. Maturana and Varela 1980, Stewart 1996, Thompson 2007, Froese and Ziemke 2009). Many perspectives, however, reside somewhere between these extremes – advocates of constructivist (including enactivist) approaches are not universal in their eschewing of representational language (cf. Chrisley and Ziemke 2003, Seth 2013, 2015, Clark 1997, 2016), and computationalists are not only those who construe cognition as “language of thought” or even human language processing.

An aspect of cognition central to the above divide is Embodiment. Embodied cognition holds that cognition is grounded in environmental interactions in the world (e.g. Wilson 2002) and is invisible in classical symbolic representation accounts of cognitive function, which is modeled on human “thinking” or “mentality”. However, modern computational perspectives on cognition such as natural computation (including info-computationalism) account for embodiment whereby cognitive processes are considered to emerge from interactions in the world (cf. Scheutz 2002, Chrisley 2009, Dodig-Crnkovic and Müller 2009, Milkowski, 2013, Dodig-Crnkovic 2014, Schroeder and Vallverdú, 2015). In this symposium, we wish to encourage frank debate about the perceived differences in the various perspectives on constructivist and computationalist accounts of cognition, and specifically embodied cognition. This will be fostered by the balanced representation of speakers and panel discussants that represent (often diametrically) opposing perspectives in the area. This debate concerns the Cognitive Science, Computation & Cognition theme of the IACAP annual meeting and provides critical arguments concerning the controversies regarding the nature of cognition. Could it be that different approaches focus on different aspects of cognition? Thinking in early computationalism vs. generative and evolutionary mechanisms in embodied cognition? Is it possible to reconcile constructivism with computationalism in a new synthesis? What is the role of emotions in computational approaches? What is the role of higher cognitive functions in embodied approaches?

Confirmed Speakers:

Ron Chrisley, University of Sussex:

Tom Ziemke, University of Skövde/University of Linköping:

Vincent Müller, American College of Thessaloniki:

Piotr Bołtuć, University of Illinois-Springfield:

Marcin Schröder, Akita International University:

Marcin Milkowski, Polish Academy of Sciences:

Oron Shagrir, Hebrew University of Jerusalem:


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Chrisley, R., & Ziemke, T. (2002). Embodiment. Encyclopedia of cognitive science.

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Clark, A. (2015). Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind. Oxford University Press.

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Schroeder, M.J., Vallverdú, J., (2015) Situated Phenomenology and Biological Systems: Eastern and Western Synthesis, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology doi:10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2015.06.019.

Seth A. K. (2015). The cybernetic Bayesian brain — from interoceptive inference to sensorimotor contingencies, in Open MIND, Vol. 35, eds Metzinger T., Windt J. M., editors. (Frankfurt: MIND Group; ), 1–24.

Seth, A. K. (2013). Interoceptive inference, emotion, and the embodied self. Trends in cognitive sciences, 17(11), 565-573.

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