Books

Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language

Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Elena Clare Cuffari, Hanne De Jaegher, 2018, MIT Press.

 

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A novel theoretical framework for an embodied, non-representational approach to language that extends and deepens enactive theory, bridging the gap between sensorimotor skills and language.

Linguistic Bodies offers a fully embodied and fully social treatment of human language without positing mental representations. The authors present the first coherent, overarching theory that connects dynamical explanations of action and perception with language. Arguing from the assumption of a deep continuity between life and mind, they show that this continuity extends to language. Expanding and deepening enactive theory, they offer a constitutive account of language and the co-emergent phenomena of personhood, reflexivity, social normativity, and ideality. Language, they argue, is not something we add to a range of existing cognitive capacities but a new way of being embodied. Each of us is a linguistic body in a community of other linguistic bodies. The book describes three distinct yet entangled kinds of human embodiment, organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective; it traces the emergence of linguistic sensitivities and introduces the novel concept of linguistic bodies; and it explores the implications of living as linguistic bodies in perpetual becoming, applying the concept of linguistic bodies to questions of language acquisition, parenting, autism, grammar, symbol, narrative, and gesture, and to such ethical concerns as microaggression, institutional speech, and pedagogy.

 

Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal

Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Thomas Buhrmann, Xabier E. Barandiaran, 2017, Oxford University Press.

 

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How accurate is the picture of the human mind that has emerged from studies in neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science? Anybody with an interest in how minds work – how we learn about the world and how we remember people and events – may feel dissatisfied with the answers contemporary science has to offer.

Sensorimotor Life draws on current theoretical developments in the enactive approach to life and mind. It examines and expands the premises of the sciences of the human mind, while developing an alternative picture closer to people’s daily experiences. Enactive ideas are applied and extended, providing a theoretically rich, naturalistic account of meaning and agency. The book includes a dynamical systems description of different types of sensorimotor regularities or sensorimotor contingencies; a dynamical interpretation of Piaget’s theory of equilibration to ground the concept of sensorimotor mastery; and a theory of agency as organized networks of sensorimotor schemes, as well as its implicatons for embodied subjectivity.

Review

Baggs, E. (2018). A psychology of in-between? Constructivist Foundations, 13(3), 395–397.

 

Towards an Embodied Science of Intersubjectivity: Widening the Scope of Social Understanding Research, edited by Ezequiel A. Di Paolo and Hanne De Jaegher, Lausanne: Frontiers Media, 2015.

A Frontiers in Psychology open access ebook based on the 42 contributions to a Research Topic.

Towards_an_Embodied_Science_of_Intersubjectivity_-_Widening_the_Scope_of_Social_Understanding_Research_CoverAn important amount of research effort in psychology and neuroscience over the past decades has focused on the problem of social cognition. This problem is understood as how we figure out other minds, relying only on indirect manifestations of other people’s intentional states, which are assumed to be hidden, private and internal. Research on this question has mostly investigated how individual cognitive mechanisms achieve this task. A shift in the internalist assumptions regarding intentional states has expanded the research focus with hypotheses that explore the role of interactive phenomena and interpersonal histories and their implications for understanding individual cognitive processes.

This interactive expansion of the conceptual and methodological toolkit for investigating social cognition, we now propose, can be followed by an expansion into wider and deeply-related research questions, beyond (but including) that of social cognition narrowly construed.

Our social lives are populated by different kinds of cognitive and affective phenomena that are related to but not exhausted by the question of how we figure out other minds. These phenomena include acting and perceiving together, verbal and non-verbal engagement, experiences of (dis-)connection, management of relations in a group, joint meaning- making, intimacy, trust, conflict, negotiation, asymmetric relations, material mediation of social interaction, collective action, contextual engagement with socio-cultural norms, structures and roles, etc. These phenomena are often characterized by a strong participation by the cognitive agent in contrast with the spectatorial stance typical of social cognition research. We use the broader notion of embodied intersubjectivity to refer to this wider set of phenomena.

This Research Topic aims to investigate relations between these different issues, to help lay strong foundations for a science of intersubjectivity – the social mind writ large.

To contribute to this goal, we encouraged contributions in psychology, neuroscience, psychopathology, philosophy, and cognitive science that address this wider scope of intersubjectivity by extending the range of explanatory factors from purely individual to interactive, from observational to participatory.

 

The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics

Patricia A. Vargas, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Inman Harvey and Phil Husbands (eds.), MIT Press, 2014.

9780262026765_0Evolutionary robotics (ER) aims to apply evolutionary computation techniques to the design of both real and simulated autonomous robots. The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics offers an authoritative overview of this rapidly developing field, presenting state-of-the-art research by leading scholars. The result is a lively, expansive survey that will be of interest to computer scientists, robotics engineers, neuroscientists, and philosophers.

The contributors discuss incorporating principles from neuroscience into ER; dynamical analysis of evolved agents; constructing appropriate evolutionary pathways; spatial cognition; the coevolution of robot brains and bodies; group behavior; the evolution of communication; translating evolved behavior into design principles; the development of an evolutionary robotics–based methodology for shedding light on neural processes; an incremental approach to complex tasks; and the notion of “mindless intelligence”—complex processes from immune systems to social networks—as a way forward for artificial intelligence.

Contributors: Christos Ampatzis, Randall D. Beer, Josh Bongard, Joachim de Greeff, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Marco Dorigo, Dario Floreano, Inman Harvey, Sabine Hauert, Phil Husbands, Laurent Keller, Michail Maniadakis, Orazio Miglino, Sara Mitri, Renan Moioli, Stefano Nolfi, Michael O’Shea, Rainer W. Paine, Andy Philippides, Jordan B. Pollack, Michela Ponticorvo, Yoon-Sik Shim, Jun Tani, Vito Trianni, Elio Tuci, Patricia A. Vargas, Eric D. Vaughan.

A review:

Lehman, J. (2015). Review of The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics, Genet Program Evolvable Mach (2015) 16:393–395.

Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science,

John Stewart, Olivier Gapenne and Ezequiel A. Di Paolo (eds.), MIT Press, 2010.

enaction

This book presents the framework for a new, comprehensive approach to cognitive science. The proposed paradigm, enaction, offers an alternative to cognitive science’s classical, first-generation Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). Enaction, first articulated by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch in The Embodied Mind (MIT Press, 1991), breaks from CTM’s formalisms of information processing and symbolic representations to view cognition as grounded in the sensorimotor dynamics of the interactions between a living organism and its environment. A living organism enacts the world it lives in; its embodied action in the world constitutes its perception and thereby grounds its cognition. Enaction offers a range of perspectives on this exciting new approach to embodied cognitive science.

Some chapters offer manifestos for the enaction paradigm; others address specific areas of research, including artificial intelligence, developmental psychology, neuroscience, language, phenomenology, and culture and cognition. Three themes emerge as testimony to the originality and specificity of enaction as a paradigm: the relation between first-person lived experience and third-person natural science; the ambition to provide an encompassing framework applicable at levels from the cell to society; and the difficulties of reflexivity. Taken together, the chapters offer nothing less than the framework for a far-reaching renewal of cognitive science.

Contributors: Renaud Barbaras, Didier Bottineau, Giovanna Colombetti, Diego Cosmelli, Hanne De Jaegher, Ezequiel A. Di Paolo. Andreas K. Engel, Olivier Gapenne, Véronique Havelange, Edwin Hutchins, Michel Le Van Quyen, Rafael E. Núñez, Marieke Rohde, Benny Shanon, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Adam Sheya, Linda B. Smith, John Stewart, Evan Thompson”

A couple of reviews:

Froese, T. (2012). From adaptive behavior to human cognition: a review of Enaction, Adaptive Behavior, 20, 209 – 221, DOI: 10.1177/1059712311433892

Kirchhoff, M. D. (2012). Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, Philosophical Psychology, DOI:10.1080/09515089.2012.681864

Reid, D. A. (2011). Enaction: An Incomplete Paradigm for Consciousness Science. Review of “Enaction: Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science” edited by John Stewart, Olivier Gapenne and Ezequiel A. Di Paolo, Constructivist Foundations 7(1): 81–83