MARIOTTI (2000) – Ciência cognitiva e experiência humana

MARIOTTI, Humberto. Ciência cognitiva e experiência humana. Cognitivismo, conexionismo e ciência cognitiva: suas implicações éticas. 2000. Disponível em www.humbertomariotti.com.br , acesso em 10/04/17.

 

  • O cérebro existe num corpo, o corpo existe no mundo e o organismo age, move-se, caça, reproduz-se, sonha, pensa. É dessa atividade permanente que emergem o sentido de seu mundo e as coisas. (Francisco Varela) p.i
  • Eis os meus pontos de partida:
    a) nossa idéia de mundo vem de nossa cognição;
    b) conhecemos o mundo segundo nossa estrutura;
    c) essa estrutura cognitiva implica um determinado modo de elaborar o que foi percebido;
    d) os resultados dessa elaboração orientam nossas ações;
    e) tais ações têm conseqüências éticas;
    f) logo, para mudá-las, é preciso modificar nossas idéias sobre a cognição, o que por sua vez alterará nossa estrutura cognitiva. p.1-2
  • Pode-se definir a ciência cognitiva como o estudo da mente e do conhecimento em todas as suas manifestações. p.2
  • a interdisciplinaridade tornou-se uma das principais características do que hoje conhecemos como ciência cognitiva, e hoje a beneficia com a convergência de pelo menos cinco disciplinas: neurociências, psicologia cognitiva, inteligência artificial, lingüística e filosofia. p.2
  • Essa primeira fase ficou conhecida como período cibernético. De um modo sumário, pode-se dizer que suas características básicas são: a) escolha da lógica matemática como instrumento de descrição do funcionamento do sistema nervoso e da mente; b) utilização da teoria geral dos sistemas como fio condutor de raciocínios e pesquisas; b) surgimento da teoria da informação; c) construção dos primeiros robôs. p.2
  • Em 1956 começou a segunda fase da ciência cognitiva, o chamado período cognitivista ou computacional. Seus principais pressupostos são: a) o cérebro é um computador neuronal produzido pela evolução; b) a cognição resulta do processamento de informações vindas no mundo natural; c) tais informações são processadas num nível simbólico existente na estrutura cerebral. Em outros termos, o que percebemos do mundo são representações. p.2
  • A metáfora do computador logo se tornou o “núcleo duro” da ortodoxia cognitivista. O cérebro é o hardware e as informações por ele processadas o software. O processamento (computação) das informações vindas do ambiente é feito sobre símbolos, isto é, elementos que representam as percepções às quais correspondem. No entanto, a dimensão cerebral que abriga esses símbolos como realidades físicas não é redutível à realidade tecidual, concreta, desse órgão. p.3
  • O pressuposto de base do cognitivismo é que o mundo é predeterminado, ou seja, pré-dado em relação ao observador, que assim o perceberia de modo passivo: absorveria informações que já viriam configuradas de fora. A esse modo de pensar chama-se representacionismo. Ele afirma que o conhecimento corresponde às representações que fazemos do mundo em nossa mente, a qual desse modo seria um espelho da natureza. Esse mundo anterior à nossa observação conteria informações independentes de nossa elaboração, cabendo-nos extrai-las dele por meio da cognição. p.3
  • Essa questão, ainda não resolvida, levou à busca de novas formas de teorização. Surgiu então a terceira fase da ciência cognitiva, o período conexionista. Aqui, a hipótese fundamental é que a cognição acontece por meio da dinâmica das redes de neurônios, de cujas conexões surgem as chamadas propriedades emergentes. p.3
  • O processo consiste, então, na emergência de estados globais a partir de redes de componentes simples. Não mais se trata de processar símbolos, mas sim dos resultados das interações complexas entre os elementos constitutivos dessas redes. O conexionismo mantém a idéia de que o mundo é anterior à experiência do observador e que a cognição corresponde a representações mentais. Depois do modelo conexionista, Francisco Varela introduziu a abordagem que chamou de enativa (teoria da atuação) e que examinaremos logo mais. p.3
  • Eis aqui um exemplo nítido de separação sujeito-objeto e observação não-participante. Pretende-se estudar a mente como se ela estivesse fora do corpo, e até mesmo fora do mundo. Trata-se de estudar uma mente não-corporificada, separada do corpo — uma coisa, um “isso”, e não um fenômeno natural. p.4
  • Em seu (David Chalmers) modo de ver, mesmo quando conseguimos explicar todas as funções cognitivas, como a discriminação perceptiva, a categorização, o acesso interno e a capacidade de relatar verbalmente, uma pergunta continua não respondida: por que essas funções são acompanhadas de experiência? Em outras palavras: quando estou pensando, por exemplo, por que me dou conta de que estou pensando? Por que tenho a experiência de estar fazendo isso? Ou, como indaga Chalmers, por que os processos mentais não acontecem “no escuro”, separados de sentimentos internos? p.5
  • A exclusão da consciência do âmbito das abordagens dominantes da ciência cognitiva pode levar ao equívoco de que é possível conhecer sem saber que estamos conhecendo, que podemos pensar sem ter a experiência de estar fazendo isso. Dessa maneira, os dados fenomenológicos são afastados, ignorados, como denunciou — mesmo sem referir-se de forma explicita à fenomenologia — Owen Flanagan, o que o levou a perguntar como seria possível conceber a mente sem a consciência.8
  • A separação entre mente e experiência (entre o conhecer e o dar-se conta de estar conhecendo) equivale a ignorar os dados fenomenológicos do processo cognitivo. Isso significa descartar a subjetividade como fonte de dados importantes para a ciência cognitiva. Sabemos que conhecer a estrutura do sistema nervoso, a histologia e a fisiologia dos neurônios e o modo de produção e ação dos neurotransmissores, por exemplo, nada nos ensina a respeito de como esses dados e processos neurofisiológicos produzem sensações subjetivas.
  • Ou seja, nada sabemos sobre como se dão as relações entre o físico e o não-físico — o material e o imaterial, o corpo e a mente. Eis a chamada “lacuna explicativa” (explanatory gap), expressão introduzida por Joseph Levine para nomear o que talvez seja a principal limitação dos modelos dominantes de ciência cognitiva.
  • A abordagem enativa da ciência cognitiva se propõe a construir essa ponte, isto é, pretende preencher a lacuna entre o físico e o fenomênico, entre ciência e experiência. p.5
  • Depois das hipóteses cognitivista e conexionista (que foram seguidas por propostas de fusão entre ambas), surgiu a alternativa proposta por Francisco Varela — a abordagem a que ele deu o nome de enativa (ou teoria da atuação). Aqui a perspectiva muda, porque a base passa a ser o conjunto das idéias desenvolvidas por ele em colaboração com Humberto Maturana . Para esses autores, a cognição não consiste em representações que o cérebro do observador faz de um mundo que é predeterminado em relação a ele. Em vez disso, o processo cognitivo é visto como uma construção de mundo — uma construção dinâmica e portanto inseparável do histórico de vida, do processo do viver. p.6
  • Isso implica que os seres vivos são determinados por sua estrutura, isto é, percebem o mundo segundo sua estrutura. A percepção de um sistema vivo num dado momento depende de sua estrutura nesse momento. O que vem de fora apenas desencadeia potencialidades que já estão determinadas na estrutura do sistema percebedor. p.6
  • Varela sugere uma metáfora útil para a compreensão desse conceito, que modifico um pouco e passo a expor. Imaginemos uma campainha de vento — aqueles tubos de diferentes diâmetros e comprimentos que se penduram nas varandas das casas para que, tangidos pela brisa, produzam som. O som que um móbile desses produz não é determinado pelo vento, e sim pelo modo como os tubos se relacionam uns com os outros para formar o conjunto. O vento apenas deflagra potencialidades que estão na estrutura desse conjunto. O móbile está em interação (acoplamento) constante com o meio, de onde vem o vento. Seja este mais forte ou mais fraco, o som produzido pelo móbile será sempre uma potencialidade da interação de seus tubos. O soprar do vento desencadeará algo que está determinado na estrutura do móbile. Assim, o vento e o móbile se determinam mutuamente e o som emerge dessa interação. Sem a brisa não haveria som, é claro, mas este está determinado no móbile e não nela. p.6
  • Assim, é lícito supor que o mundo seja o mesmo para todos os seres vivos — mas não é percebido do mesmo modo por todos eles. Assim, a cognição é uma construção que resulta da interação do ser vivo com o seu mundo. À medida em que vive ele o constrói e vai sendo também por ele construído. Trata-se de uma relação de congruência e criação mútua. p.6-7
  • Na enação não há mais necessidade da representação de um mundo anterior à percepção do observador. Não se trata de uma estrada já aberta, mas sim da construção de um caminho pelo próprio caminhante, que interage com ele momento a momento. Como nos sempre citados versos do poeta espanhol António Machado: “Caminante, no hay camino / se hace camino al andar” [“Caminhante, não há caminho / o caminho se faz ao caminhar”]. Esse processo constitui um um fazer-emergir, uma ação muito ligada a seu autor. p.7
  • Dessa forma, há pelo menos dois modos de considerar um caminhar, e cada um deles tem suas próprias conseqüências éticas. O primeiro consiste em levar em conta apenas o ponto de chegada. É o que poderíamos chamar de “viagem de resultados”. O que interessa é o ponto final. No segundo, o interesse maior está voltado para o trajeto, isto é, para o processo. p.7
  • De todo modo, uma coisa é certa: não nos preocuparmos com o caminho não significa que podemos eliminá-lo. p.7
  • Tentar excluir a experiência não significa que estejamos isentos dela — nem das conseqüências dessa tentativa de exclusão. Tudo isso significa que não somos passivos diante do mundo: nós o percebemos à medida em que o construímos e enquanto somos por ele construídos. Trata-se de um processo dialógico. A cognição não é uma simples representação do mundo em nossas mentes, resulta de nossa interação com ele. Trata-se de um desvelamento mútuo. p.7
  • Na abordagem enativa, é fundamental observar que: a) a mente não é uma instância abstrata e separada do cérebro, isto é, ela está corporificada; b) o cérebro faz parte do corpo; c) o corpo faz parte do mundo e nele vive sua história, segue o fluxo de sua existência. O corpo e seu meio ambiente vivem histórias que interagem enquanto dura o processo vital de ambos. Quando Varela diz que a mente está corporificada no cérebro (e portanto no corpo), sustenta também que ela não está separada do mundo. p.7-8
  • Para a abordagem enativa, a interação produz significados compartilhados. Fazer-emergir é fazer-emergir-com. Aqui se inclui a consciência e, claro, os sentimentos, as emoções, a dimensão histórica e o contexto em que ocorrem os fenômenos. Tudo isso influencia a cognição, que não é um simples meio de resolver problemas propostos por um mundo pré-dado: ela define questões na interação com o mundo. p.8
  • Em vista disso, autores como Francisco Varela, Natalie Depraz, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Shaun Gallagher, Evan Thompson, Bernard Pachoud, Luiz Pessoa, Jean Petitot e Jean-Michel Roy, entre outros. Esses pesquisaores vêm desenvolvendo um minucioso trabalho teórico, com a finalidade de promover a “naturalização” da fenomenologia. O objetivo é modificá-la, de modo a que ela passe a ser não apenas compreensiva, mas também explicativa. Dizendo de outro modo: para que por meio dela seja possível fazer uma ciência cognitiva ao mesmo tempo naturalista e fenomenológica. Essa abordagem vem sendo chamada de “fenomenologia naturalizada”. p.8
  • A exclusão de dimensões importantes da condição humana produz conseqüências éticas importantes, dentro e fora do âmbito das teorias científicas. Tentar, mesmo que provisoriamente, afastar a incerteza, a aleatoriedade, a finitude e a imprevisibilidade, corresponde a pretender negar aquilo que mais caracteriza o ser humano. Ele só é (e mesmo assim até certo ponto) mecanizável e quantificável em relação aos parâmetros de sua vida mecânica: ingestão, digestão, excreção, reprodução e as praxes sociais a isso destinadas ou daí decorrentes. Existe, porém, a vida não-mecânica, que além dos sentimentos e emoções inclui os fatores já mencionados, que a ciência cognitiva ortodoxa pretende expurgar. p.9
  • O expurgo de boa parte das características fundamentais da condição humana tem vários objetivos. Um deles é padronizar e quantificar as pessoas. Essa circunstância por um lado as reduz a meios de produção, e por outro as transforma em clientes — máquinas de consumo e descarte. p.10
  • A reflexão confere à consciência a dimensão humana. “Se só tenho a experiência”, diz Varela”, “não serei mais que um gorila”.19 A reflexão que se segue à experiência abre-nos a possibilidade de trabalhá-la e ampliá-la. Pode-se dizer que ela é um meio — e dos mais importantes — de ajudar a perceber o mundo, compreender como ele se desvela em suas interações conosco, como é construído por nossa experiência e, por sua vez, a constrói. Ou, como diz Varela, “explorar a experiência humana com grande rigor de coleta de dados fenomenais” (VARELA, 1996) p.11
  • A conclusão acaba sendo um lugar-comum: condicionar as pessoas para a pressa, o imediatismo, o desejo de saciedade instantânea e invariável e, em especial, para a padronização de movimentos, escolhas e desejos, é uma forma eficaz de impedir que elas pensem — é a negação de sua capacidade reflexiva. Trata-se de um modo de impedir que elas construam seus mundos segundo suas estruturas e, assim, passem a acreditar que existe um mundo que é igual para todos, que pode ser padronizado, bitolado, edulcorado. E quem não o perceber dessa maneira está com problemas: é diferente, excêntrico, “subjetivo”. Está, enfim, à margem da sociedade estabelecida. Portanto, a negação da reflexão é uma forma de controlar as pessoas. p.11
  • Se o mundo é igual para todos — como sustenta a hipótese representacionista —, que necessidade há de refletir sobre ele? Que necessidade há de pensar sobre nossas experiências? O corolário é que se o mundo é predeterminado, se é o mesmo para todos, basta manipulá-lo para que as pessoas sejam também manipuladas — e em massa. Eis mais outro exemplo desse vasto conjunto de obviedades, que quanto mais se mostram menos percebidas são. p.11
  • Como já foi dito, a manutenção da separação consciência/mente (ou experiência/mente), imaginada pelo cognitivismo e pelo conexionismo, afasta a ciência da experiência. Ao propor uma mente nãocorporificada (separada do cérebro), essa abordagem permite, por um lado, a apropriação do corpo para a produção de energia mecânica. Entretanto, como tal energia já não é tão importante nesta era do virtual, o corpo ficou sujeito (e com muita freqüência é conduzido) ao descarte em massa. Por outro lado, essa mesma orientação propicia a apropriação da mente, que assim pode ser submetida com  facilidade ao “pensamento único” e, dessa maneira, é impedida de questionar a apropriação do corpo. p.12
  • A padronização da gestualidade para a produção no menor tempo possível de energia mecânica, é a característica básica do taylorismo, ou gerência científica, que se consolidou no começo do século 20. O objetivo era o de sempre: calculabilidade (previsibilidade, evitação da incerteza), eficiência (os fins justificam os meios) e padronização. p.12
  • Para se manterem, o neotaylorismo e as práticas sociais a ele ligadas precisam arregimentar e conservar seus públicos-alvo. Se o objetivo é vender padronização, imediatismo e repetitividade, é preciso induzir as pessoas a serem padronizadas, imediatistas e repetitivas: fazer as mesmas coisas no menos tempo possível e fazê-las sempre. Isso implica que elas devem ser transformadas em clientes. É o que chamo de clientização. Para que isso seja possível, é preciso que as pessoas: a) sejam impedidas de refletir (porque tudo já vem empacotado e com instruções de uso); b) tenham seus desejos atendidos: ao menor sinal de insatisfação, tal como bebês que ameaçam chorar, elas recebem, já prontas para o consumo, suas “mamadeiras”. p.13
  • A condição si ne qua non para alguém ser clientizado é ter dinheiro para pagar pelos produtos e serviços padronizados. Quem não o tem não pode ser um cliente. E, como na ótica da nossa cultura de resultados quantitativos não existem senão clientes, quem não é cliente não é nada. Precisa, portanto, ser excluído. Substituem-se a reflexão e a individualidade pelo individualismo, pela “competitividade” e pela ética do empanturramento. Da condição de pessoa, passa-se ao status de cliente; da cidadania à mentalidade de rebanho; da reflexão à obediência. É assim que o indivíduo vai, sem se dar conta disso, do qualitativo ao quantitativo. E ainda é levado a crer que está adquirindo uma “boa qualidade de vida”. p.13
  • Em outras palavras, a diminuição da quantidade de governos ditatoriais no mundo não significa liberdade de pensamento, a qual por sua vez levaria à liberdade de escolha. Tal não acontece porque continuamos vivendo em uma cultura na qual, para a maioria das pessoas, a liberdade de pensar e escolher está controlada pelos meios de condicionamento de massa. p.13
  • Assim, a inclinação par a privilegiar determinados ideários e ideologias baseia-se no pressuposto, enraizado em nossa cultura, de que os conhecimentos ditos científicos são “mais corretos”, “mais exatos” e portanto “mais importantes” do que os demais. Mesmo no âmbito científico, as chamadas “ciências exatas” são privilegiadas, o que as leva a serem consideradas “”mais sérias” ou “mais confiáveis” do que as ditas “humanas”. p.14
  • Essa é a posição adotada pela ciência cognitiva ortodoxa. Ao agir assim, ela dá a sua contribuição à tarefa na qual todos nós, há séculos, nos empenhamos com afinco: fazer com que o homem se divida e se aliene de si próprio. Fazer com que ele se distancie cada vez mais de seu lado não-exato, não mecânico, no qual residem “conceitos obscuros” como os sentimentos e as emoções — ou seja, as dimensões que definem a sua condição. p.14
  • A idéia de um mundo predeterminado diminui o valor da experiência e da reflexão, favorece o condicionamento e a padronização e, no limite, a dominação. Um mundo assim não é desvelado, não é construído. É um mundo no qual se vive como quem segue um manual de instruções já prontas, vindas de fora. Um mundo predeterminado não é um horizonte a desvelar, e sim um corpus de diretivas a obedecer. Por que então cuidar dele, responsabilizar-se por ele? p.15
  • a) a manutenção da crença de que existe uma verdade fora de nós, que é a mesma para todos e que pode ser veiculada por meio de discursos “autorizados”, é essencial à manutenção das atuais estruturas de dominação social;
  • b) para que essas estruturas funcionem, é indispensável que todos estejam convencidos de que o mundo corresponde à representação que dele fazemos em nossas mentes;
  • c) em outros termos, é preciso manter a crença de que tudo está determinado antes de nossa participação;
  • e) esse mundo predeterminado deve ser aceito sem questionamentos. Devemos viver nele como quem segue um manual de instruções elaboradas fora de nossa percepção;
  • f) nos dias atuais, esses são os principais fundamentos das éticas que levam à criação e à manutenção do conformismo e da obediência coletivos;
  • g) enquanto nossa cultura permanecer formatada pelo pensamento linear, terá imensas dificuldades para produzir modelos mentais diferentes desse padrão;
  • h) como vimos ao longo deste texto, a abordagem enativa da cognição é uma proposta que pode contribuir para mudar essa situação. p.16

Texto na íntegra

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NÓBREGA (2008) – Corpo, percepção e conhecimento em Merleau-Ponty

Imagem: Vanessa Alcântara

NÓBREGA, Terezinha Petrucia. Corpo, percepção e conhecimento em Merleau-Ponty. Estudos de Psicologia, v.13, n.2, p.141-148, 2008.

 

  • Especialmente na obra Fenomenologia da Percepção, Merleau-Ponty (1945/1994) apresenta uma crítica ampla e rigorosa à compreensão positivista da percepção por meio da revisão do conceito de sensação, sua relação com o corpo e com o movimento. A ciência, em sua versão positivista, considera a percepção como algo distinto da sensação, embora a relacione por meio da causalidade estímulo-resposta. Nesse sentido, a percepção é o ato pelo qual a consciência apreende um dado objeto, utilizando as sensações como instrumento. p.141
  • Uma nova maneira de compreender a percepção é oferecida pela Gestalt. Segundo essa teoria, a percepção é compreendida através da noção de campo, não existindo sensações elementares, nem objetos isolados. Dessa forma, a percepção não é o conhecimento exaustivo e total do objeto, mas uma interpretação sempre provisória e incompleta. p.141
  • A compreensão fenomenológica tem influenciado vários estudos contemporâneos sobre a percepção e suas relações com o conhecimento, em especial os trabalhos dos biólogos chilenos Humberto Maturana e Francisco Varela. p.141

A percepção como atitude corpórea

  • Para compreender a percepção, a noção de sensação é fundamental. A sensação não é nem um estado ou uma qualidade, nem a consciência de um estado ou de uma qualidade, como definiu o empirismo e o intelectualismo. As sensações são compreendidas em movimento: “A cor, antes de ser vista, anuncia-se então pela experiência de certa atitude de corpo que só convém a ela e com determinada precisão”  (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1994, p. 284). p.141-42
  • A percepção está relacionada à atitude corpórea. Essa nova compreensão de sensação modifica a noção de percepção proposta pelo pensamento objetivo, fundado no empirismo e no intelectualismo, cuja descrição da percepção ocorre através da causalidade linear estímulo-resposta. Na concepção fenomenológica da percepção a apreensão do sentido ou dos sentidos se faz pelo corpo, tratando-se de uma expressão criadora, a partir dos diferentes olhares sobre o mundo. p.142
  • Considerando-se que “das coisas ao pensamento das coisas, reduz-se a experiência” (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1994, p. 497), é preciso enfatizar a experiência do corpo como campo criador de sentidos, isto porque a percepção não é uma representação mentalista, mas um acontecimento da corporeidade e, como tal, da existência. p.142
  • Para Merleau-Ponty, a percepção do corpo é confusa na imobilidade, pois lhe falta a intencionalidade do movimento. p.142
  • Nos capítulos sobre o mundo percebido em Fenomenologia da Percepção, Merleau-Ponty reforça a teoria da percepção fundada na experiência do sujeito encarnado, do sujeito que olha, sente e, nessa experiência do corpo fenomenal, reconhece o espaço como expressivo e simbólico. p.142
  • A teoria da percepção em Merleau-Ponty (1945/1994) também se refere ao campo da subjetividade e da historicidade, ao mundo dos objetos culturais, das relações sociais, do diálogo, das tensões, das contradições e do amor como amálgama das experiências afetivas. Sob o sujeito encarnado, correlacionamos o corpo, o tempo, o outro, a afetividade, o mundo da cultura e das relações sociais. p.142
  • Relacionada ao corpo em movimento, a percepção remete às incertezas, ao indeterminado, delineando assim o processo de comunicação entre o dado e o evocado. A fé perceptiva é uma adesão ao mundo, à realidade tal como vemos. No entanto, a percepção exige o exame radical da nossa existência por meio do corpo e da imputação de sentidos. Merleau-Ponty (1964/1992) afirma que o sentido dos acontecimentos está na corporeidade e não em uma essência desencarnada, … p.142

A percepção como sensibilidade estética

  • os sentidos não produzem um decalque do mundo exterior. p.143
  • A obra de arte está colocada como campo de possibilidades para a experiência do sensível, não como pensamento de ver ou de sentir, mas como reflexão corporal. p.143
  • A linguagem sensível configura possibilidades de outro arranjo para o conhecimento, expresso na dimensão estética. O logos estético exprime o universo da corporeidade, da sensibilidade, dos afetos, do ser humano em movimento no mundo, imerso na cultura e na história, criando e recriando, comunicando-se e expressando-se. p.143
  • A sensorialidade é um investimento que configura a estesia, a capacidade fisiológica, simbólica, histórica, afetiva de impressão dos sentidos. p.143
  • “A apreensão das significações se faz pelo corpo: aprender a ver as coisas é adquirir um certo estilo de visão, um novo uso do corpo próprio, é enriquecer e reorganizar o esquema corporal” (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1994, p. 212). p.143
  • A estesia do corpo proposta na fenomenologia de Merleau-Ponty apóia-se em uma compreensão sensível da vida e do conhecimento que ultrapassa as dicotomias clássicas e o racionalismo. p.143

A percepção como autopoiésis e como enação

  • A concepção tradicional considera que o sistema sensorial é formado por fibras aferentes que conduzem o estímulo da periferia para o sistema nervoso central. A partir daí, as fibras eferentes se encarregam de processar as informações e efetuar uma resposta. Especialmente durante as duas últimas décadas, tem havido diversas tentativas de se tratar o organismo como um sistema dinâmico complexo em íntima conexão com o ambiente. A reflexão de Merleau-Ponty sobre a circularidade existente entre os sistemas aferente e eferente aproxima-se desse esforço contemporâneo em não dicotomizar as partes e o todo, mas em considerar as interconexões que se realizam na ação humana com o meio ambiente, com a cultura e com os processos sóciohistóricos. p.144
  • A percepção é o processo de juntar partes novas do ambiente ao sistema organismo-entorno, porém não se trata de um processamento de informações. Com a ajuda dos receptores eferentes, cada organismo cria seu próprio mundo, simultaneamente objetivo e subjetivo (Jarvileto, 1999). p.144
  • As células receptoras não têm como função exclusiva a conexão com o sistema nervoso central através das fibras aferentes, mas há também conexões com fibras eferentes. As conexões podem ocorrer de fora para dentro ou no interior do próprio organismo, por meio de sinais elétricos e químicos. As conexões eferentes têm influência nos órgãos sensoriais, o que modifica a maneira como o organismo interpreta os estímulos do ambiente. Isso significa que a percepção não é um processo linear de decodificação de estímulos e sim, preferivelmente, um círculo que envolve o sensório e o motor não como partes integrantes, mas como uma unidade dinâmica (Jarvileto, 1999). p.144
  • Essa compreensão da percepção é possível porque os sentidos não são considerados como janelas do conhecimento. Desse modo, embora o estímulo exista como estímulo, ou seja, embora o estímulo impressione os sentidos, oferecendo informações ao organismo, este assume configurações variadas para cada acontecimento; assim, a percepção não apenas decodifica estímulos, linearmente, mas reflete a estrutura do nosso corpo frente ao entorno, em contextos sociais, culturais e afetivos múltiplos. p.144
  • O movimento do organismo é a expressão da reorganização do sistema como um todo. É preciso considerar a unidade entre o sensório e o motor na teoria da percepção. p.144
  • Desse modo, a percepção seria a cooperação entre os órgãos sensoriais e os músculos, havendo uma sinergia. No entanto, as teorias motoras da percepção, mesmo considerando a sinergia, ainda vêem os sentidos como transmissores de informações do ambiente, não rompendo com a concepção tradicional de sentidos como janelas da alma. É preciso avançar na perspectiva de reconhecer o caráter dinâmico da atividade neural (Jarvilehto, 1999). p.144 – Novos estudos e autores, como a Maxine Sheets-Johnstone fazem uma crítica a esta abordagem da percepção e da sua relação com o sensório-motor, afirmando que a percepção vai além dos órgãos sensoriais e dos músculos e nos presentam uma visão mais complexa que entende a percepção como relação entre corpo-movimento-mundo
  • O conhecimento perceptivo não é uma adequação, mas fundamentalmente criação, haja vista a plasticidade do cérebro-corpo. p.144
  • Nessa perspectiva, os estudos sobre o sistema nervoso são esclarecedores. Por exemplo, a proposição de Damásio (1996), segundo a qual o eu ou a subjetividade é um estado biológico constantemente reconstituído e não uma entidade imaterial. Não se trata de compreender a mente isolada do organismo (corpo e entorno), mas compreender que a mente emerge do organismo, das interações cérebro-corpo. p.144
  • No diálogo entre as reflexões de Merleau-Ponty e as ciências contemporâneas fazemos uma aproximação com a noção de autopoiésis produzida por Maturana e Varela (1995), destacando-se a interação entre o organismo, o meio e a importância do movimento na ação. A autopoiésis refere-se à complexidade do ser vivo, trata-se de um processo recursivo caracterizado pela clausura operacional e pelo acoplamento estrutural. O conceito de clausura operacional não se restringe ao uso habitual de ausência de interação, mas caracteriza uma nova forma de interação mediada pela autonomia do sistema, pela auto-referência (Maturana & Varela, 1995; 1997). p.144
  • Assim, há um ponto de referência nas interações (clausura), flexível o suficiente para incorporar os acontecimentos (acoplamento). Trata-se de um jogo dinâmico, complementar, não sendo o determinismo do ambiente, nem o equilíbrio estático que definem as regras da organização da unidade viva. Ao invés de determinismo, o que há é um ponto de referência nas interações, a saber, a emergência (Maturana & Varela, 1995; 1997). p.144-45
  • A emergência inaugura a natureza do fenômeno interpretativo, desde a célula até níveis de maior complexidade, como o corpo em movimento. As modificações no organismo não são determinadas exclusivamente pelo meio externo, conforme o esquema causal estímulo-resposta, mas o próprio organismo, através do movimento, participa da reorganização da estrutura do ser. Nesse sentido, o conceito de emergência é fundamental para compreender o corpo em movimento, relacionando organismo e entorno. p.145
  • Na perspectiva da autopoiésis, a relação entre os sistemas aferente e eferente é modificada, sendo considerada circular e não mais linear. O próprio sistema, isto é, a organização motora, internamente, pode modificar o sistema, gerando diferentes possibilidades de respostas. Não predomina o determinismo do ambiente, mas certa clausura operacional, o que significa que o próprio sistema tem as condições de operar, embora esteja disponível para trocas com o ambiente (acoplamento estrutural). p.145
  • Considerar o corpo em movimento como um sistema autopoiético é reconhecê-lo como fenômeno que não se reduz à causalidade linear; é considerar ainda que o ser humano não seja um ser determinado, mas uma criação contínua. É, por fim, uma tentativa de abordar a corporeidade não como algo abstrato, é recusar as dicotomias, é ensaiar atitudes complexas para compreender o humano e sua condição de ser corpóreo em incessante movimento, admitindo diferentes interpretações, pautadas na circularidade ou recursividade dos fenômenos. p.145
  • A reversibilidade diz respeito à comunicação entre os diferentes sentidos, como a apalpação pelo olhar, o tato como visão pelas mãos, sempre relacionada à motricidade, a essa capacidade de se pôr em movimento. p.145
  • A reversibilidade coloca o corpo, não como suporte de uma consciência cognoscente, sempre referendada por um sujeito, mas apresenta-o na experiência do movimento. p.145
  • As Ciências Cognitivas buscam, na filosofia de Merleau-Ponty, o corpo vivido, a experiência, a percepção, a motricidade, retomada como base para a compreensão da inscrição corporal do conhecimento nas teorias sobre aprendizagem. Varela et al (1996) apontam o começo de uma nova ciência bio-fenomenológica, referindo-se ao pensamento de Merleau-Ponty, ao relacionar cognição e experiência vivida no acontecer corporal do conhecimento. Em outras palavras, a cognição depende da experiência que acontece na ação corporal, vinculada às capacidades de movimento, opondo-se à compreensão de cognição enquanto um processamento de informações. p.145
  • Para Merleau-Ponty (1964/1992), a percepção é uma porta aberta a vários horizontes; porém, é uma porta giratória, de modo que, quando uma face se mostra, a outra se torna invisível. Cada sentido se exerce em nome das demais possibilidades. Sob o meu olhar atual surgem as significações. Mas, o que garante a relação entre o que vejo e o significado, entre o dado e o evocado? Essa relação é arbitrária, depende das intenções do momento, de dados culturais, de experiências anteriores e do movimento. p.145
  • Percepção e pensamento são o mesmo no sistema nervoso; por isso não tem sentido falar de espírito versus matéria, ou idéias versus corpo: todas essas dimensões da experiência são o mesmo no sistema nervoso; noutras palavras, são operacionalmente indiferenciáveis. (Maturana & Varela, 1995, p. 43-44) p.146
  • Os estudos da percepção têm contribuído para ampliar a compreensão de cognição, no sentido de tornar mais claro como se realiza o fenômeno conhecer. A enação desloca o papel da representação ao considerar que o conhecimento é incorporado, isto é, refere-se ao fato de sermos corpo, com uma infinidade de possibilidades sensório-motoras, e estarmos imersos em contextos múltiplos. O termo enação inspira-se no neologismo criado por Varela et al (1996), do espanhol enacção e do inglês enaction. A expressão foi traduzida por Assmann (1996) como “fazer emergir” e diz respeito à compreensão da cognição defendida pelos referidos autores. A cognição emerge da corporeidade, da experiência vivida e da capacidade de se movimentar do ser humano. p.146
  • A enação enfatiza a dimensão existencial do conhecer, emergindo da corporeidade. A cognição depende da experiência que acontece na ação corporal. Essa ação vincula-se às capacidades sensório-motoras, envolvidas no contexto afetivo, social, histórico, cultural. O termo significa que os processos sensoriomotores, percepção e ação, são essencialmente inseparáveis da cognição. p.146
  • A cognição é inseparável do corpo, sendo uma interpretação que emerge da relação entre o eu e o mundo, nas capacidades do entendimento. “Essas capacidades são originadas na estrutura biológica do corpo, experienciadas no domínio consensual e ações da história e da cultura” (Varela et al, 1996, p. 149). A mente não é uma entidade des-situada, desencarnada ou um computador; a mente também não está em alguma parte do corpo, ela é o próprio corpo. Essa unidade implica que as tradicionais concepções representacionistas enganam-se ao colocar a mente como uma entidade interior. O pensamento é insuficiente e a estrutura mental é inseparável da estrutura do corpo. p.146
  • Para compreender o sentido da enação, é preciso compreender o aspecto recursivo que o envolve. O princípio da recursividade refere-se a processos em que os produtos e os efeitos são ao mesmo tempo causas e produtores daquilo que os produziu, posto que efeitos e produtos são necessários nos processos que os geram. Na lógica recursiva, supera-se o limite da linearidade, segundo o qual tal causa produz tal efeito. Não se trata mais do olhar externo que transforma as coisas em objetos, em busca da explicação causal linear; trata-se de olhar não mais sobre o objeto isoladamente, mas sim, sobre o sistema como objeto de investigação. p.146
  • Uma característica importante da lógica recursiva é a autoreferencialidade. A auto-referencialidade favorece a autonomia do sistema vivo, pois rompe com o determinismo do meio ambiente, gerando um outro tipo de relação: uma relação recursiva que garante a dinâmica das interações entre o todo e as partes, gerando autonomia, como expresso na autopoiésis (Maturana & Varela, 1995). p.146
  • Quando nos movimentamos, há uma circularidade entre os acontecimentos do meio ambiente e os acontecimentos no próprio corpo, ocorrendo aprendizagem, ou seja, uma nova interpretação desses acontecimentos. De certa forma, esses movimentos tornam-se “automáticos”, ou seja, tão logo os tenhamos aprendido, não precisamos mais “pensar sobre eles” para os executarmos. p.146
  • O corpo sabe! No entanto, não podemos realizar dois movimentos idênticos, pois, mesmo sem nos darmos conta, o nosso corpo e sua estrutura perceptiva (sensório-motora) estão o tempo todo se reorganizando ou se auto-organizando, gerando sempre novas interpretações para o movimento, novas emergências, micro processos. No macro, aos olhos do observador, parece não haver novidades, mas no micro há sempre novas emergências, tudo se renova constantemente. p.146
  • O exemplo acima demonstra que sentir e compreender constituem-se em um mesmo ato de significação, possíveis pela nossa condição corpórea e pelo acontecimento do gesto, cuja estesia inaugura a possibilidade de uma racionalidade que emerge do corpo e de seus sentidos biológicos, afetivos, sociais, históricos. Essa compreensão é significativa para redimensionar o fenômeno do conhecimento, relacionando-o à experiência vivida, ao corpo e aos sentidos. p.147
  • No movimento dos corpos, podemos fazer a leitura, com lentes sensíveis dos aspectos visíveis e invisíveis do Ser, do conhecimento e da cultura. As significações que surgem, o sentido, são, em última instância, significações vividas e não da ordem do eu penso. p.147
  • Aquilo a que chamamos idéia está necessariamente ligado a um ato de expressão, é um objeto da cultura, um meio de expressão e de comunicação e, portanto, uma produção da subjetividade. p.147
  • A experiência do corpo configura um conhecimento sensível sobre o mundo expresso, emblematicamente, pela estesia dos gestos, das relações amorosas, dos afetos, da palavra dita e da linguagem poética, entre outras possibilidades da experiência existencial. A estesia é uma comunicação marcada pelos sentidos que a sensorialidade e a historicidade criam, numa síntese sempre provisória, numa dialética existencial que move um corpo humano em direção a outro. p.147
  • Para o filósofo (Merleau-Ponty), o caminho do mundo sensível ao mundo da expressão caracteriza-se como uma trajetória perceptiva, na qual a motricidade e as funções simbólicas não estão separadas pelo entendimento, mas entrelaçadas na reversibilidade dos sentidos, na dimensão estética. p.147
  • O mundo fenomenológico é o mundo dos sentidos e a filosofia coloca-se como realização não da verdade, mas de possibilidades de verdades. Nesse sentido, a filosofia da percepção anunciada por Merleau-Ponty desdobra diante de nós a tarefa de compreender o corpo como sensível exemplar na construção de saberes e na produção de subjetividades. p.147

Texto naíntegra

SHEETS-JOHNSTONE (2014) – On the origin, nature, and genesis of habit

SHEETS-JOHNSTONE, Maxine. On the origin, nature, and genesis of habit. Phenomenology and Mind, n.6, p.96-116, 2014.

  • Brushing one’s teeth, tying a shoelace or knot, hammering a nail and not one’s thumb, writing one’s name, walking down stairs — each is a distinctive qualitative dynamic, a sequence of movements that has a distinctive beginning, a distinctive contour with distinctive intensity changes, for example, and a distinctive end. Each is a dynamic pattern of movement. We are born with none of these dynamic patterns, which is to say that they are not ready-made or innate in any sense. Each is learned. p.97
  • There is a lesson to be learned from this existential truth, namely, that whatever habits we develop in what we do and the way we do things, they exist because we learn the dynamics that constitute them, whether by trial and error, by assiduous practice, by resting and taking up the challenge again at a later time, or whatever. The mode of one’s learning may vary, but the formation of a habit in each instance is basically an enlargement of one’s kinetic repertoire, which is to say that one can form a habit only by learning a new dynamic pattern of movement. p.97
  • Infants indeed initiate their own learning by first of all learning their bodies and learning to move themselves (Sheets-Johnstone 1999a/expanded 2nd ed. 2011). p.97
  • Infants learn quite by themselves to reach effectively, to grasp objects effectively, to walk, to feed themselves, and ultimately, to talk and thereby exceed their classification as infants. Habits of mind proceed in concert with these habit formed and -informed accomplishments, most basically in expectations, i.e., in if/then relationships, of which more presently. p.97
  • Across the spectrum of human cultures, that is, in the most basic ontological sense that includes every human, habits are indeed a matter of having made the strange familiar. That familiarity becomes ingrained in what Husserl terms the psychophysical unity of animate organisms and their ways of living in the world. In more precise terms, habits develop by bringing what was out of reach and/or beyond understanding effectively and efficiently into the realm of the familiar and into what are basically synergies of meaningful movement that run off by themselves. Habits are indeed grounded from the beginning in movement, that is, in the primal animation of animate organisms that gives rise to sensings and sense-makings that evolve into synergies of meaningful movement and habits of mind. p.97-98
  • In the course of their learning their bodies and learning to move themselves effectively and efficiently, infants form certain ways of “doing” that generate an ever-expanding repertoire of “I cans” (Sheets-Johnstone 1999a/ expanded 2nd ed. 2011, Chapter 5). We might recall in this context Husserl’s and Landgrebe’s emphasis on the fact that “I move” precedes “I do” and “I can” (Husserl 1989, p. 273; Landgrebe 1977, pp. 107-108). Certain ways of “doing” are indeed constituted in and by certain qualitatively inflected movement dynamics that inform an infant’s “I cans,” dynamics that create particular spatio-temporal-energic patterns. Just as infants nurse in distinctive ways and kick their legs in distinctive ways, so they ultimately learn to walk in distinctive ways, which is to say that the qualitative dynamics of one infant’s movements are different from that of another. Ways of moving are indeed individualized. Moreover qualitatively inflected movement dynamics feed into a certain style, of which more later. What is of immediate moment here is that self-generated dynamics are the foundation of developmentally achieved habits. p.98
  • What Merleau-Ponty terms “natural signs,” including “the realm of instinct,” are part of the heritage of humans, Merleau-Ponty’s dismissal of them to the contrary. As noted in that discussion, “When Merleau-Ponty writes that ‘in man there is no natural sign’, and that ‘[i]t would be legitimate to speak of “natural signs” only if the anatomical organization of our body produced a correspondence between specific gestures and given “states of mind”’ (Merleau-Ponty 1962, pp. 188-189), he is surprisingly oblivious of the dynamic congruity that binds movement and emotions, the kinetic and the affective (Sheets-Johnstone 1999b/2009). p.99
  • There is a basic dimension of instincts, however, that warrants attention. In their pristine mode, i.e., before being possibly transformed by learnings of one kind and another, instincts are properly analyzed as self-organizing dynamics that flow forth experientially in spontaneous movement dispositions, thus basically, not just the spontaneous movement disposition of a fetus to move its thumb toward its mouth and not toward its ear or navel, for example, but the spontaneous disposition to move in and of itself in the first place, including movement of the neuromuscular system itself as it forms in utero. Such movement is not “action” nor is it “behavior.” It is the phenomenon of movement pure and simple — a phenomenon that in truth is not so simple when analyzed phenomenologically in descriptive experiential terms, that is, as a phenomenon in its own right. Indeed, this pure and simple phenomenon is incredibly complex, far more complex than the terms ‘action’ or ‘behavior’ suggest when they are implicitly and largely unwittingly used in its place, as in talk and writings of “action in perception” (Nöe 2004). Along similar lines, neither does “embodied movement” come close to a recognition of the phenomenological complexity of movement, even as in an attempt to abbreviate Husserl’s consistent specification of the two-fold articulation of perception and movement (Husserl 1989) by stating, “Our embodied movement participates in seeing, touching, hearing, etc., thereby informing our perceptual grasp on the world” (Gallagher and Zahavi 2012, p. 109). p.100
  • In effect, what I freely choose to do and do again that leaves a natural disposition or instinct behind is itself a habit: my freely formed movement itself in virtue of its repeated patterning is in a basic sense habitual. p.101
  • This existential reality is of moment for it indicates a substantively significant cognitive dimension in the formation of habits and in habits themselves. In more explicit terms, the intertwining of habit and free motivation and movement implicitly suggests habitual patterns of mind– habitual ways of valuing and of thinking. Given the fact that “consciousness of the world . . . is in constant motion” (Husserl 1970, p. 109), these habitual ways can hardly be ignored. p.102
  • Insofar as these relationships are foundational– “if I close my eyes, it is dark”; “if I move my lips and tongue in certain ways, I make and hear certain sounds”–it is not surprising that the relationships are foundational to everyday human habits, such as closing one’s eyes to go to sleep or when a light is too bright, and saying the words “No” and “Yes.” Just such kinesthetically felt and cognized experiences ground the faculty that Husserl identifies as the “I-can of the subject” (Husserl 1989, p. 13), a faculty that engenders a repertoire of abilities and possibilities that are indeed in many everyday instances habitual. More finely put in phenomenological terms, tactile-kinesthetic awarenesses and their invariants are realized in basic if/then relationships that we spontaneously discover in infancy in learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves. Tactile-kinesthetic awarenesses are thus a central aspect of animation, a tactile-kinesthetic built-in of life, a vital dimension in the formation of habits. p.102
  • In other words, habits of mind are also spurred by happenings and by particular valuings and thoughts that follow in response to those happenings that become standard. Though they are open to possible variations according to circumstance, they retain their basic dynamic: the bodily-felt dynamic of apprehension, for example, or of suspicion, and so on. p.102
  • “Each person nourishes his immortality in the ideology of self-perpetuation to which he gives his allegiance; this gives his life the only abiding significance it can have. No wonder men go into a rage over the fine points of belief: if your adversary wins the argument about truth, you die. Your immortality system has been shown to be fallible, your life becomes fallible” (Becker 1975, p. 64). p.103
  • The blinders of habit are clearly not limited to scientists, but include those whose “allegiance” deters them from considering findings, perspectives, or ideas different from, or inimical to their own. p.103
  • Concerns about a morphology of mind notwithstanding, the above discussion and examples indicate that habits of mind may be and commonly are formed coincident with kinetic habits, and from the beginning in learning one’s body and learning to move oneself. The full-scale realities of habit are indeed psycho-physical in nature and develop in concert with experience. They are at once cognitively, affectively, and kinetically dynamic: they flow forth with varying intensities, amplitudes, and perseverations in each of these dimensions of animate life and at the same time as a singular whole in the habit itself. p.104
  • “the unity of man encompasses these two components not as two realities externally linked with one another but instead as most intimately interwoven and in a certain way mutually penetrating (as is in fact established)” (Husserl 1989, p. 100). p.104
  • We are indeed freely-motivated and freely-moving (e.g., Husserl 2001, p. 283). These dual facts of human life are obviously of pivotal importance to our understandings of habit. Supposing we are sufficiently attuned to our affective/tactile-kinesthetic bodies, we can, for example, choose to change our habit of turning only toward certain things and not others, or of finding interest in only certain things and not others, or of doing only certain things and not others. These dual facts of human life are of pivotal importance as well to understandings of habit and its relation to style. p.105
  • A veritable phenomenological analysis of what is going on “in most actions” shows something quite different. It shows that, whether a matter of walking or eating or dressing ourselves or drying ourselves after a shower, or whether a matter of myriad other everyday “actions, the dexterity, the precision, the fluidity, and so on, that are necessary to the “action” running off are engrained in kinesthetic memory in the form of an ongoing qualitative dynamic that is spontaneously inflected and modulated according to circumstance, an ongoing qualitative dynamic that was learned and cultivated in earlier years and is now so dynamically familiar that it runs off by itself. In short, whatever the everyday adult actions, their dynamic familiarity is anchored in the tactile-kinesthetic body and thus in kinesthetic memory. p.107
  • It is indeed not that the body “tries to stay out of our way,” but that in learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves, we have amassed an incredibly varied and vast repertoire of I cans. To overlook ontogeny is thus to fail to ask oneself basic questions concerning one’s adult knowledge and in turn foil foundational elucidations of habit. It should be added that neither does Merleau-Ponty asks himself ontogenetic questions, basically genetic phenomenology questions, nor does he, in his discussion of habit, provide answers to the question of how habits come to be formed. p.107
  • Further still, doing phenomenological justice to “habitual or practiced movements” means realizing that movement is not a matter of body parts having “changed position in space.” By its very nature, movement is neither positional nor is it simply spatial. Movement is a phenomenon in its own right, a spatiotemporal- energic phenomenon that is clearly distinguishable in essential ways from objects in motion, which do change position in space. p.108-09
  • Moreover kinesthesia can hardly be ignored since it, along with tactility, is the first sensory modality to develop neurologically in utero (Windle 1971) and, barring accidents, is there for life. p.109
  • As Stern states, “In order for the infant to have any formed sense of self, there must ultimately be some organization that is sensed as a reference point. The first such organization concerns the body: its coherence, its actions, its inner feeling states, and the memory of all these” (Stern 1985, p. 46; see also Sheets-Johnstone 1999c). Though not specified as such, these invariants all rest on  the tactile-kinesthetic body (Sheets-Johnstone 1999b/expanded 2nd ed. 2011). The description of each dimension indeed validates the primacy of movement and the tactile-kinesthetic body. p.110
  • Surely it is essential for phenomenologists to attempt a regressive inquiry, to take an ontogenetic perspective and carry out a constructive phenomenology. Habits are a fundamental dimension of human life. Indeed, we could not readily live without them. If everything were new at each turn, if all familiarity was erased and strangeness was ever-present, life as we know it would be impossible. p.112
  • What we notice in another person’s style are precisely just such aspects of another person’s comportment—the ways in which he or she typically relates to his or her surrounding world, thus not only the way in which a person “behaves,” i.e., his or her typical kinetic qualitative dynamics, but the things the person typically values, his or her typical lines of thought, what he or she typically notices, and so on. p.112
  • There is a certain familiarity about the person that is simply there, evidenced in the dynamics of his or her comportment across our history with them, hence dynamics that we have experienced before and have now come to expect. It should be noted that we do not anticipate ourselves in the way we anticipate others. As indicated above, we are commonly less aware of our own qualitative dynamics than we are of the qualitative dynamics of others unless we have attuned ourselves to our own movement. p.113
  • When we begin not with an adultist perspective and speculative entities to explain various phenomena, but with a veritable reconstructive or constructive phenomenology that allows one to “get back” to those nonlinguistic days in which we learned our bodies and learned to move ourselves and in the process formed nonlinguistic corporeal concepts in concert with synergies of meaningful movement, we approach veritable understandings of mind. We find that those synergies of meaningful movement are orchestrated not by an embodied mind but by a mindful body, alive to and cognizant to its surrounding world and developing fundamental abilities to move effectively and efficiently within it from infancy and in fact from in utero onward. p.113

Texto na íntegra

SHEETS-JOHNSTONE (2014) – Animation: analyses, elaborations, and implications.

SHEETS-JOHNSTONE, Maxine. Animation: analyses, elaborations, and implications. Husserl Sutudies, v.30, n.3, p.247-268, 2014.

 

  • This article highlights a neglected, if not wholly overlooked, topic in phenomenology, a topic central to Husserl’s writings on animate organism, namely, animation.  P.247
  • The article furthermore highlights Husserl’s pointed recognition of ‘‘the problem of movement,’’ movement being an essential dimension of animation if not definitive of animation itself. p.247
  • What indeed is livingly present in the experience of movement, whether our own movement and the movement of other animate beings, or the movement of leaves, clouds, and so on? What distinguishes kinesthetic from kinetic experiences of movement? How are movement and time related? Just what is the problem of movement and how do we address it? In what way is movement pertinent to receptivity and responsivity?
  • To be animate is to have the capacity to move oneself and to experience the spatiotemporal-energic dynamics of one’s movement. An animate organism is thus not just a living organism but a moving organism, an organism that feels the dynamic flow of its movement: its direction and amplitude, its intensity, its duration and speed. Moreover it feels an affective impulsion to move in the first place, and that affective character informs the flow of its movement throughout—every step, turn, or pause along the way. Animate organisms are moved to move and kinesthetically experience in felt bodily ways the particular qualitative dynamics of their movement: a slow, hobbling walk; a striding, forceful rush forward; a dawdling, circular strolling about; and so on. p.248
  • Primal sensibility, however, is first and foremost not a primal sensibility of the world; it is a primal sensibility of one’s living body, which is to say one’s animate organism. In effect, primal sensibility rests on the ground of primal animation, the foundational reality of being a moving being, and a moving being from fetal development onward, including being an affectively moving being (Johnstone 2012). p.248
  • We are kinesthetically attuned to our own movement, to its inherent qualitative dynamics, which is to say that we are alive, in a felt bodily sense, to the temporal, spatial, and energic qualities that give our movement its overall defining character — its vigorous explosiveness as in kicking, its sustained expansiveness as in stretching, and so on. p.248
  • Animate organisms are thus at bottom gifted not simply with primal sensibility but with primal animation, which is ‘‘simply there,’’ and there from the beginnings of life in utero. One might even say that animate organisms are developmentally and ever after made of movement and endowed with movement, inside and out. p.248
  • An animate body is indeed movement through and through, movement that with respect to some animate organisms is on ehalf of learning their body and learning to move themselves to begin with. Such learning is foundational to their exploring the world and coming to know it, to satisfying hunger, to escaping a predator, to procreation, and so on. p.249
  • In this context too, we can point out that, however neglected, there is no doubt but that Husserl explicitly recognized the foundational significance of movement in his combined epistemological-ontological insight that ‘‘I move’’ precedes ‘‘I do’’ and ‘‘I can’’ (Hua IV, pp. 261/273; see also Hua IV, pp. 259/271). Landgrebe appears to be the single phenomenologist who has taken this insight seriously or at least realized its fundamental, indeed essential significance (Landgrebe 1977, pp. 107–108; 1981, Chaps. 1 and 2). In the context of describing the significance of ‘‘I move,’’ i.e., this ‘‘prelinguistic acquaintance with oneself as the center of a spontaneous ability to move,’’ Landgrebe writes, ‘‘kinaesthetic motions, without which there can be no constitution of time, are the most fundamental dimension of transcendental subjectivity, the genuinely original sphere, so that even the body (Leib), as functioning body, is not just something constituted but is itself constituting as the transcendental condition of the possibility of each higher level of consciousness and of its reflexive character’’ (Landgrebe 1977, p. 108; italics added). As indicated above, movement is the ground floor of learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves effectively and efficiently in the world, in effect of achieving a repertoire of ‘‘I cans’’ in the first place (Sheets-Johnstone 2011a, Chap. 5). It should in fact be noted that any kind of ‘‘action’’ or ‘‘activity’’ involves movement: by its very nature, any sotermed ‘‘action’’ or ‘‘activity’’-–be it kicking a ball, shopping for bread, reading a book, or writing a letter–is not only by nature constituted in and through movement but could not be conceived as a packaged unit of some kind short of movement. Moreover we might point out in this context that kinesthesia, the sense modality that gives us an immediate and direct experience of our own movement, is insuppressible. In the context of examining ‘‘conscious knowledge about one’s actions’’ and experimental research that might address the question of such knowledge, including experimental research dealing with pathologically afflicted individuals, psychologist Marc Jeannerod affirms, ‘‘There are no reliable methods for suppressing kinesthetic information arising during the execution of a movement’’ (Jeannerod 2006, p. 56). ‘‘Information’’ terminology aside, especially in the context not of position or posture but of movement, Jeannerod’s declarative finding speaks reams about the foundational ongoing reality and significance of kinesthesia, reams that should certainly lead phenomenologists to take kinesthesia seriously and the challenge of elucidating its insuppressible living dynamics of signal importance. (2 – Clearly—and particularly in light of the insuppressibility of kinesthesia—we do not have to wait until something untoward occurs that awakens us into awareness and deters us from continuing on our way. On the contrary, precisely because movement is a dynamic happening and because the dynamics of our everyday movement have become habitual and are within our repertoire of what Husserl terms our ‘‘I cans,’’ we can consult them at any time. In short, and as I have elsewhere shown (Sheets-Johnstone 2011a), any time we care to pay attention to our own movement, there it is. Furthermore, we all learned our bodies and learned to move ourselves as infants and young children (ibid.). From this pan-human ontological perspective, the idea of starting with ‘‘action’’ is actually adultist; movement obviously comes first. There would indeed be no action if movement were not present from the first day and before, present and there to be honed and perfected. In learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves by attending to our own movement, we forged an untold number of dynamic patterns that became habitual. Familiar dynamics—tying a knot, brushing one’s teeth, buttering one’s toast, writing one’s name, pulling weeds, sweeping, typing, playing a Bach prelude, and so on—are woven into our bodies and played out along the lines of our bodies. They are kinesthetic/kinetic melodies in both a neurological and experiential sense (Luria 1966, 1973). When we turn attention to these familiar dynamics, to our own coordination dynamics (Kelso 1995; Kelso and Engstrøm 2006), we recognize kinesthetic melodies; they bear the stamp of our own qualitatively felt movement patterns, our own familiar synergies of meaningful movement (Sheets-Johnstone 2009a, b). p.249-50
  • In short, if we ask where the ‘‘skilled-ego,’’ the ‘‘practical subject,’’ and our ‘‘I cans’’ come from, there can be no doubt but that they come from primal animation and its spontaneous experienced existential reality: ‘‘I move.’’ Indeed, ‘‘movement forms the I that moves before the I that moves forms movement’’ (Sheets-Johnstone 2011a, p. 119). p.250
  • ‘‘Nature is a principle of motion and change. […] We must therefore see that we understand what motion is; for if it were unknown, nature too would be unknown’’ (Aristotle, Physics 200b:12–14). p.251
  • On the contrary, they are informed or in the process of being informed by nonlinguistic corporeal concepts from fetal development onward. When lips open and close at eleven weeks, a fetus can feel their movement and hence begin to distinguish open and closed. Such experiences of the felt tactile-kinesthetic body are the bedrock of corporeal concepts and undergird later linguistic formulations. Moreover, postnatally an infant determines how tightly it must clasp a particular block or glass so that it does not drop, and hence develops a concept of weight—the heaviness or lightness of things–and a correlated concept of effort, how it must modulate the tensional quality of its movement to accommodate a particular weight. Furthermore, in nursing or being bottle-fed, an infant feels the softness and pliability of a nipple, and by its tongue movements, feels the hardness of its gums, the moistness of its lips, and so on. At a later age, it discovers the kinesthetically felt temporal and energic difference between pushing a toy away and flinging it or knocking it away, as well as the kinesthetically felt tensional difference between holding a doll and letting it drop and the kinesthetically felt spatial difference between reaching for a toy that is close and one that is further away. Just such discriminating experiences are the generative source of corporeal concepts, concepts that themselves are the foundation of concepts later formulated in language (Sheets-Johnstone 1990). Further still, in such experiences as these, infants and young children not only learn their bodies and learn to move themselves; they discover in exacting ways their capacity to make things happen. Such kinesthetic/kinetic discoveries are the cornerstone of their sense of agency. (3 – ‘‘Agency’’ is actually an adultist term that fails to take Husserl’s insight into the origin of ‘‘I cans’’ into account, namely, that ‘‘I move’’ precedes ‘‘I do,’’ and ‘‘I can.’’ Agency as a repertoire of I cans (and na ever-expanding or possibly expanding repertoire of I cans) is basically a matter of ‘‘making things happen’’: I can pull that toy toward me; I can close my mouth, turn my head, and refuse the spoon filled with food that someone is trying to put in my mouth. Moreover from infancy onward, we experience spontaneous dispositions to move: when something is put into one’s mouth, or when one puts something oneself into one’s mouth, one does not just let it sit there.) p.251
  • In sum, our first relation to a surrounding world is in and through movement. p.252
  • I cannot and do not govern what I do not know and I do not come into the world knowing. I come into the world moving and with a capacity to learn, and my first learning consists in learning my body and learning to move myself, learning in ways that promote moving effectively and efficiently in my surrounding world. What undergirds our foundational learning is indeed primal animation, what dynamic systems theorists—specifically, coordination dynamics researchers—term an intrinsic dynamics (Kelso 1995), the intrinsic dynamics of animate organisms. Just as such animation or dynamics undergird our learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves, so they undergird our correlative build-up of kinesthetic learnings into ‘‘I cans’’ with respect to our surrounding world, a world that includes other animate beings and objects, thus in general terms, both other entities that move and entities that are still, entities that, like tables, chairs, towels, and soap, are still unless I or other animate beings move them. In sum, my first relation to the world is kinesthetic/kinetic: I move toward, I turn away, I suck, I kick, I make inchoate reaching movements, and so on. Moreover I babble and cry and discover myself as a sound-maker. Indeed, though etymology decrees otherwise, infants are not prelinguistic; language is post-kinetic (Sheets-Johnstone 2010a, 2011a, b). p.252
  • The living present is a matter of movement, and self-movement is a matter not of sensations but of dynamics. p.252
  • Habitualities are synergies of meaningful movement that precisely flow forth without our having to monitor them in a focused way (Sheets-Johnstone 2009a, 2010b, 2011a, b, 2012a, b).
  • The background or root soil is clearly animation, a kinesthetically-felt body whose familiar movement dynamics are felt as they run off in all comportments, felt not commonly in focal ways but along a conscious gradient of awareness in everyday life. The familiar felt awareness of our movement as we reach for a glass, jog down a path, sit down, or jump up from a chair, is similarly a dynamic kinesthetically felt experience through and through. In each instance, it is indeed a matter not of localized ‘‘kinesthetic sensations’’ but of a familiar whole body kinesthetically experienced dynamic. Accordingly, our vast repertoire of I cans — dynamic patterns of movement or coordination dynamics that we have learned—is not an amalgam of localized movement sensations, even ‘‘so-called ‘movement sensations’’’(Hua XXXI, pp. 13/50), but a repertoire of familiar kinesthetic flows that constitute a particular qualitative spatio-temporal-energic dynamic that we feel as such, a particular qualitative spatio-temporal-energic dynamic that is itself precisely a qualitative variation on a particular theme—reaching, stooping, sitting, and so on–depending on the particular situation or circumstance in which we find ourselves. p.253
  • Without movement, there would be no befores and afters, or in terms of internal time consciousness, no protentions and retentions. Without movement, the world and all in it would be stilled. Indeed, the end of time and spatial stillness are of a piece. p.254
  • In short, movement is integral to time and time is integral to movement. p.254
  • ‘‘During the perception of motion, there takes place, moment by moment, a ‘comprehension-as-now’; constituted therein is the now actual phase of the motion itself. p.254
  • Time and movement are clearly inherently related, even structurally of a piece, but unlike the qualitative dynamics of our own movement, we do not feel time. (6) We feel only movement, our own animation, or we perceive the animation, the qualitative kinetic dynamics, of other bodies. p.255
  • We might ask, then, why what Husserl describes as the flow and streaming present of inner time-consciousness is not recognized as fundamentally descriptive of movement and in fact of the nature of animate life—the very nature of animate organisms. The question is pointedly and critically entailed in taking seriously the fact that ‘‘consciousness of the world […] is in constant motion’’ and that ‘‘we are constantly active on the basis of our passive having of the world.’’ Moreover the moment we delve into just what constitutes ‘‘active,’’ or ‘‘action’’—that is, the moment we begin to question just what these common terms mean and ask ourselves precisely in what they consist—we come face to face with movement, thus inevitably with our understanding of movement or lack thereof, and thus face to face with the ‘‘problem of movement,’’ ‘‘the enigma of motion.’’ p.255
  • (note 7: Distinguishing between proprioception and kinesthesia is as phenomenologically essential as distinguishing between sensations and dynamics. In short, to say that ‘‘I have a proprioceptive sense of whether I am sitting or standing, stretching or contracting my muscles and to claim that ‘‘these postural and positional senses of where and how the body is … are what phenomenologists call a ‘pre-reflective sense of myself as embodied’’’ (Gallagher and Zahavi 2012, p. 155) are a phenomenological overreach in each instance. p.256
  • In particular, the inherent and originary temporality of movement and its developmental habitualities are not a series of ‘‘befores’’ and ‘‘afters’’ in relation to a ‘‘now’’, but precisely and invariantly a ‘‘streaming present,’’ a ‘‘flow,’’ as in reaching for and picking up a toy or glass, throwing or kicking a ball, walking down the street or down the stairs, sawing a piece of wood, and so on. p.257
  • In effect, we can qualitatively vary temporal aspects of our movement because all such aspects are qualitative to begin with and are experienced as such. We see thus that movement creates its own time. By the same token, it creates its own space and force. In effect, movement does not simply take place in space and in time; it creates a certain temporality, spatiality, and force in the very way it flows forth, in the way it ‘‘runs off.’’ p.258
  • In short, when we listen to our ‘‘internal movement consciousness’’, we find a distinctively felt temporal flow or streaming present that is constituted in the very process of its being created. p.258
  • The distinction between kinesthetic and kinetic experiences is absolutely essential both to understandings of the individual nature of kinesthetic experience, and within that individual experience the difference between a felt qualitative dynamic and a perceived quasi-objectified dynamic, and to understandings of the difference between those kinesthetic experiences and kinetic experiences of the movement of others, whether those others are objects such as an airplane or a leaf, or whether they are other individuals, that is, living beings, forms of animate life, animate organisms.
  • To begin with, what I kinesthetically experience in a felt bodily sense is a firsthand — or first-body — felt qualitative dynamic experience of movement itself. I feel the dynamics of my movement, ‘‘my’’ not in the sense of ownership (cf. Gallagher 2005; Gallagher and Zahavi 2012), but in the sense of ‘‘I move,’’ without the ‘‘I’’ being in any way substantively part of the immediate and direct experience, let alone reflectively constructed or inserted into that experience. p.258-59
  • In fact, the moment I put an ‘‘I’’ or an ‘‘ownership’’ into the experience, I am perceiving the movement, not feeling its dynamics pure and simple. p.259
  • the pure and simple dynamics that run off in kinesthetic experience are commonly familiar dynamics. They undergird our ‘‘elusively flowing life’’ in a way akin to a sub-melodic presence. (11) They are indeed most commonly synergies of meaningful movement, synergies so familiar they run off without direct attention. Yet any time we care to pay attention to them, there they are, which is to say we pre-reflectively feel their unfolding dynamics (Sheets-Johnstone 2011a, 2012c).
  • What I kinesthetically experience in a perceived bodily sense are not uncommonly the spatio-temporal-energic realities of self-movement in terms of their ‘‘out-thereness,’’ realities in space and in time, such as the precise arc through which I am now moving my arm in perfecting my tennis serve and the exact timing of my throwing the ball in the air in relation to that arc, and energetic realities such as the degree of force I am now exerting in executing the serving movement and in throwing the ball in the air. As might be apparent, perceiving one’s movement kinesthetically is common when one is learning a new skill or perfecting its execution. Perceptual awarenesses of one’s movement, however, are evident too in those instances when one decides to change the manner in which one is moving, as, for example, when one decides to slow down or to move more energetically. p.259
  • I am not moving through a form; the form is moving through me. p.260
  • Perceptual awarenesses of movement exist not only in various circumstances pertaining to one’s own movement alone but in the broader context of oneself among others, i.e., oneself in a social and objective surrounding world. These perceptual awarenesses are commonly if not regularly geared toward tempering one’s movement to accord (as Husserl might well say) ‘‘harmoniously’’ with the ‘‘thereness’’ of objects and persons in that world, whether those persons and objects are moving or still. p.260
  • What may indeed be properly described as moving in concert with others in an everyday sense—and in an aesthetic sense as well, as in performing in an orchestral concert, an opera, a dance concert, or a theater play—rests on our pre-reflective awareness of the foundational qualitative dynamics of movement and their variational possibilities, in more precise terms, on the inherent tensional, linear, areal, and projectional qualities of movement, any movement, our own or that of others (see Sheets- Johnstone 1966/1979, 1980, Sheets-Johnstone 1999/2011). Attention to these foundational dynamics and in particular a brief specification of their qualitative nature are requisite prior to exemplifying the phenomenon of moving in concert with others. p.260
  • More than this, any particular movement has a certain spatial and energic quality as well, thus a certain overall kinetic dynamic that can be analyzed phenomenologically in terms of its intensity, directional thrust, amplitude, and the manner in which it unfolds. In other words, any movement can be analyzed in detail in terms of its tensional, linear, areal, and projectional qualities. p.260
  • While we may possibly note the degree to which a person moves to the side of a tight and narrow path as we near each other, for example, we are not so much gauging the person’s movement quantitatively as we are engaged in the dynamic flow of his or her movement, its qualitative dispositions, propensities, inclinations, and transitions that move him or her toward the side. This qualitative form of engagement is present in our interpersonal relations with infants and young children, relations that are fundamentally not just animated but dynamically interanimate in qualitativelyinflected ways. p.262
  • In his descriptions of affect attunement, infant psychiatrist and clinical psychologist Daniel N. Stern has written meticulously of these interanimate dynamics (Stern 1985). His descriptions unequivocally if implicitly validate the fact that movement is our mother tongue, a tongue that allows us from the very beginning to communicate nonlinguistically by way of the qualitative dynamics of movement. We might further note that a qualitative engagement is clearly dominant in personal aesthetic performances in music, dance, and theater where, as mentioned earlier, one is attentive both to the perceived qualitative kinetic dynamics of the music, the dance, or the movement of other actors and to one’s own kinesthetically felt qualitative dynamics. p.262
  • When we focus attention directly on our natural kinetic awareness of movement in our surrounding world—whoever or whatever the moving others in that world — we necessarily experience a dynamic world in which the foundational qualitative dynamics of movement are of singular moment. Their fundamental spatio-temporalenergic nature is indeed at the heart of our experience, both kinesthetically and kinetically. It is because we are gifted with this dual awareness of movement that we are able to move in harmony with others. We have a common language that we commonly speak quite fluently. In effect, because we perceive the kinetic qualitative dynamics of other persons and kinesthetically feel the qualitative dynamics of our own movement, we are able to move in concert with others. p.262
  • Movement is similarly integral to tactility whenever or wherever it is a question of moving in concert, thus not only in lifts in the context of a dance, for example, but in love-making and in riding a horse. In all such tactile instances of moving in concert, one’s own movement and the movement of another being unfold in dynamic harmony with one another, and this because both oneself and the other are mutually attuned to the tactile-kinesthetic and tactile-kinetic dynamics of movement. p.263
  • The import of recognizing the foundational qualitative dynamics of movement, whatever the movement might be and whoever the moving individuals might be, of recognizing the fundamental difference between kinesthetic and kinetic experiences of those dynamics, and of recognizing the sensu communis nature of movement with respect to moving in concert—all are of particular note with respect to terms such as ‘‘interkinesthesia (Behnke 2008),’’ ‘‘enkinesthesia’’ (Stuart 2012), and ‘‘kinesthetic exchanges’’ (Rothfield 2005). Phenomenologically and empirically there are no such phenomena; the terms are misguided neologisms or labels. Although kinesthesia is a pan-human sensory modality and one that in fact cannot be suppressed (Jeannerod 2006), kinesthesia is a wholly individual experiential modality. p.263
  • The basis of these shared experiences warrants specification, which is to say that what makes movement a sensu communis warrants fine-grained phenomenological examination. Such examination shows that moving in concert is not just a natural interpersonal movement phenomenon, but one in which the visually perceived movement of another conjoins with one’s kinesthetically felt movement. p.263
  • Moving in concert with others is thus clearly a phenomenon that is both kinetic and kinesthetic and in which what is kinesthetic may be perceived as well as felt. p.264
  • In sum, both the kinesthetic and kinetic dynamic realities and possibilities of movement are integral to moving in concert with other beings. One might almost be tempted to say that the harmony of the world hangs in the balance. (12 – It might be noted that appeals to tactility in particular on behalf of grounding intersubjectivity in the exteriority of one’s own body overlook completely the phenomenological realities of movement (e.g., Zahavi 1999, p.169). Kinesthetic perceptions are notably three-dimensional, not only as when one is learning to walk and to throw efficiently but as when one is learning to make surgical incisions and to drive. Kinesthetic perception is equally integral to understanding foundational forms of ‘‘bodily awareness’’ that ground ‘‘our ability to encounter an Other with an internal manifestation of alterity’’ (1999, p. 169). It is indeed unnecessary to opine that ‘‘When my left hand touches my right, I am experiencing myself in a manner that anticipates both the way in which an Other would experience me and the way in which I would experience an Other’’ (1999, p. 169). In short, when movement is consistently passed over by tactility and examples of touching (e.g., 1999, p. 105), a kind of functionalism obtains, a functionalism that in the end instrumentalizes the body and conceals its kinesthetic melodies (Luria 1966, 1973), obliterating the qualitative dynamics that undergird, structure, and sustain its movement.) p.264
  • The world one puts together is in conjunction with the body one is—the body one has learned and learned to move. The two go together. In effect, that ‘‘I govern’’ at all is only because I have learned my body and learned to move myself in effective and efficient ways. p.264
  • ‘‘being-in-movement’’ (Bewegtheit) ‘‘cannot be understood in terms of motion as change of place’’ (Husserl 1997, p. 413. p.265
  • Were it not for our being animate organisms, for being bodies (not merely having bodies), we would obviously be inanimate if not stillborn. Bodies are not just little go-carts for minds any more than brains are ready-made oracles at Delphi (the place to go for solutions to any puzzle about humans). All the original putting together from egg and sperm onward eventuates in mindful bodies capable of creating synergies of meaningful movement on their own behalf and on behalf of their progeny. The qualitative dynamics of movement are the basis of their forming synergies of meaningful movement. In the everyday world, these synergies commonly run off without focused attention, but only because they are inscribed in kinesthetic memory and run off on the basis of that memory (Sheets-Johnstone 2003, 2009b, Chap. X, 2012d). In contrast, we are aware when a synergy of meaningful movement ‘‘goes wrong’’ because we have a pre-reflective awareness of its familiar dynamics, familiar dynamics that we once learned and that are no longer present. What these experiential realities show is that consciousness is not a onedimensional faculty but runs along a gradient of awarenesses. Habitualities that run off with pre-reflective attention were originally learned patterns of movement — patterns such as tying a shoelace, buttoning a shirt, and so on—and moreover not simply learned patterns of movement in relation to objects in the world, but learned patterns of movement tout court, such as turning over in one’s crib, reaching and grasping, walking, running, skipping, throwing, and even speaking. Consciousness is indeed ‘‘in constant motion’’ as a whole-body, tactile-kinesthetically-grounded phenomenon linked foundationally and essentially to our ‘‘being-in-movement,’’ which is to say to our being animate organisms. p.266

NOË (2000) – Experience and experiment in art

richard-serra-snake-1994-97

NOË, Alva. Experience and experiment in art. Journal of Consciousness Studies, v.7, n.8–9, p.123–35, 2000.

  • The central thought of this paper is that art can make a needed contribution to the study of perceptual consciousness. The work of some artists can teach us about perceptual consciousness by furnishing us with the opportunity to have a special kind of reflective experience. In this way, art can be a tool for phenomenological investigation. p.123
  • experience as a mode of interactive engagement with the environment p.124
  • What matters is not how the world is, but how it presents itself to us in experience. p.124
  • For to capture in a picture how the world presents itself to us in experience — to make a picture of how things truly appear — is just to make a picture of that which is experienced, of that which appears, namely the world. The subject matter of art-making, then, is not experience itself, but the experienced world, and so art must direct itself to the world.  p.124
  • When we try to make perceptual experience itself the object of our reflection, we tend to see through it (so to speak) to the objects of experience. We encounter what is seen, not the qualities of the seeing itself.  p.124
  • To describe experience is to describe the experienced world. And so experience is, in this sense, transparent. p.125
  • The transparency of experience, it should be clear, poses a problem for any attempt to make perceptual experience itself the object of investigation in the way that has interested philosophers. But it is important to recognize that this problem of transparency arises no less for the empirical (psychological, neuroscientific) study of consciousness.  p.126
  • The puzzle of the transparency of experience results from thinking of experiences as like inner pictures and from thinking of reflection on experience as like turning one’s gaze inward to those pictures. But this is a false characterization of experience. In experience we are aware not of inner pictures, but of the things around us in the environment.  p.126
  • Consider an example from touch that illustrates this established problematic.(6) Suppose you hold a bottle in your hands with your eyes shut. You feel it. You have the feeling of the presence of the whole bottle even though you only make finger-to-bottle contact at a few points. The standard account of this phenomenon proposes that the brain takes the little information it receives (at the isolated points of contact) and uses it to build up an internal model of the bottle (one capable of supporting the experience).
  • But consider: this positing of a process of construction of an internal representation may be an unnecessary shuffle. For the bottle is right there, in your hands, to be probed as occasion arises. Why should the brain build models of the environment if the environment is present and so can serve as its own model, as an external but accessible repository for information (as has been argued by Brooks, 1991; O’Regan, 1992)? p.127
  • The basis, then, of the feeling of perceptual presence of the bottle is just this skill-based confidence that you can acquire the information at will by probing the world (O’Regan, 1992; O’Regan and Noë, under review). p.128
  • The upshot of this discussion is that perceptual experience, in whatever sensory modality, is a temporally extended process of exploration of the environment on the part of an embodied animal. This is the key that unlocks the puzzle of transparency and so the problem of phenomenology. If perceptual experience is in fact a temporally extended process, then to investigate experience we need to turn our gaze not inward, but rather to the activity itself in which this temporally extended process consists, to the things we do as we explore the world. p.128
  • I now propose that to study some works of art is to undertake precisely this sort of investigation. The study of such works of art can serve as a model of how to study experience and can also reveal how art can be, in the sense of Irwin’s quote given at the outset, not only concerned with the making of objects, but more significantly with the investigation of perceptual consciousness. p.128
  • What I shall argue is that Serra’s work (and also the work of these other artists) enables us to catch ourselves in the act of perceiving and can allow us thus to catch hold of the fact that experience is not a passive interior state, but a mode of active engagement with the world. p.128
  • The process of exploring the piece is a process of exploring the place. It is likewise a process by which we come to understand how experience can be, in this way, a form of openness to the environment. In light of the foregoing discussion of perceptual experience as a mode of active exploration of the world, it should be clear that the process of exploring the art work (and thus the environment in which it is situated), is at once a process of exploring one’s experience of the world. And the knowledge one thus attains is knowledge of the character of one’s experience. p.132
  • Perceptual experience is transparent to the world precisely  because experience is an activity of engagement with the world. To attend to the exploration of the world is thus to attend to the quality of experience. p.132-33
  • Dance improvisation is a first-person phenomenological investigation.

 

Artigo na íntegra

Prof. Harry Heft – The ecological approach to perception & action

The ecological approach to perception & action
Prof. Harry Heft, Psychology, Denison University

Presentation at the Enaction School conference series in 2010 at Mary Immaculate College, Ireland.

http://www.enactionschool.com

Prof. Heft deftly leads an audience through the arguments needed to understand the key insights and principles behind direct realism (aka ecological realism) and the ecological approach to perception as developed by Gibson and colleagues. Many important issues to the ecological approach are addressed and include the distinction between sensation and perception, information and relations, optic flow, and the importance of action for revealing the information for perception. Importantly, Heft develops the idea of information as fundamentally relational rather than “out there” (an oft-repeated misunderstanding).

Ecological psychology refers to the theoretical approach and research program in perceptual psychology developed by James J. Gibson beginning in the late 1950s and most fully articulated by the 1970s. The empirical discoveries and conceptual insights that led to the ecological approach to perception were proposed to address recurring shortcomings in the conventional formulation of perception that held sway in philosophy and then psychology for centuries. Any explanation of perceiving must offer an account of why individuals experience the world as it appears. The traditional view adopts a mechanistic “causal theory” of perception, which claims that physical energies (e.g., light) are imposed on the sensory receptors of a passive perceiver, giving rise to elementary, discrete sensations. From this starting point, nonperceptual processes (e.g., memory, inference) intervene to organize the neural products of sensation into the forms and patterns that constitute the perceived environment. For this reason, experience of the environment is assumed to be indirect. What one experiences immediately is not the environment itself but rather a mental construction of it built upon limited sensory stimulation—a position called indirect realism. In contrast, the ecological approach to perception attempts to provide grounds for direct realism. Research and theory within this tradition provide both empirical support and theoretical grounds for the long dismissed claim that the environment is directly perceived without mediation from nonperceptual processes.

The approach begins with a dual focus on (a) the nature of the environment to be perceived (the econiche to which organisms have adapted) and (b) the perception-action processes that have developed through phylogenesis and ontogenesis to facilitate the detection of the environment’s functionally significant properties (affordances).

In the case of vision, ecological psychology offers a rich account of the available higher-order, informational structures at an ecological level of analysis that are available to be perceived by individuals. Perception-action processes operate in the context of an information-rich environment; and while individuals may differ with regard to which information they detect, perceiving can be lawfully tied to specifiable information from an interpersonally shared world. Complementing this program is Eleanor Gibson’s ecological approach to perceptual learning and development. Following on the heels of the work of the Gibsons, psychological scientists have been explicating this approach over the ensuing decades, designing research to test its claims and developing the program in new ways. Recent decades has seen extensions of Gibson’s ecological psychology writings in several directions. Some have broadened ecological psychology’s foundations by examining it more fully in the light of biological, evolutionary thinking and sociocultural processes. Rich connections have also been drawn between ecological psychology and dynamical systems models of explanation, especially in the domain of developmental processes. Notably, Neo-Gibsonians at the Connecticut school of ecological psychology have been working fruitfully to formalize several theoretical aspects of ecological psychology, in part, by drawing on considerations of motor dynamics and the thermodynamics of physical systems.
from:
Heft, H., & Richardson, M. (2013). “Ecological Psychology.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology. Ed. Dana S Dunn. New York: Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com

Life and movement

How does the study of evolution, coordination dynamics, sports, social interactions, and aesthetics help us understand movement and life? In this roundtable, we will explore: movement and objects as distinctively different “things” to study; coordination dynamics and intrinsic dynamics and tendencies; kinesthesia; the evolution of social coordination; how, in the living company of others, we are both challenged and supported; and the value of nurturing and pursuing a moving life with all its risks and challenges.
A well-balanced round-table discussion organised by the amazing 82-year old philosopher Prof. Sheets-Johnstone in which Prof. Kelso gets things moving around with an example of infant perception-action coordination. Wide-reaching discussion of movement follows, especially on the “motion in emotion”, and how a proper understanding of synergy might help with that.

The Helix Center for Interdisciplinary Investigation
of the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute

Friday, October 26th, 2013

Linnda Caporael
Jesús Ilundáin-Agurruza
J. A. Scott Kelso
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

SHEETS-JOHNSTONE (2009) – Animation: the fundamental, essential, and properly descriptive concept

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SHEETS-JOHNSTONE, Maxine. Animation: the fundamental, essential, and properly descriptive concept. Continental Philosophy Review, v.42, n.3, p.375-400, 2009.

  • Everything living is animated. Flowers turn toward the sun; pill bugs curl into spheres; lambs rise on untried legs, finding their way into patterned coordinations. The phenomenon of movement testifies to animation as the foundational dimension of the living. p.375
  • Animation encapsulates what is fundamental to life, the vibrant and spirited way living creatures come into the world and the vibrant and spirited way that is gone when they die; it engenders dynamics, the essence of life in all its varied and vital kinetic contours; it articulates in an exacting linguistic sense the living wholeness of animate forms and is thus properly descriptive of life itself. What is fundamental is that we are indeed animate forms of life, and as such, are necessarily and from the beginning subjects of a world, an Umwelt in von Uexku¨ll’s sense. The dynamics essential to our progressive sense-makings of ourselves and of the world are intrinsic to and inherent in our primal animation and in our being the particular animate forms we are. p.376

Basic realities of affectivity

  • Affectivity is a staple of life. In the most rudimentary sense, it is what motivates creatures to approach or avoid. In this sense, it is one aspect of what is biologically specified as a defining feature of life, namely, ‘responsivity’(Curtis, 1975) a feature affectively characterizable as interest or aversion, hence as movement toward or away from something in the environment. (Schneirla, 1959). As empirically and phenomenologically shown elsewhere, there is a dynamic congruency of affectivity and movement in the everyday lives of animate forms.(Sheets-Johnstone, 1999a, 2006). p.376
  • In the ordinary course of everyday human life, the affective and the kinetic are clearly dynamically congruent; emotion and movement coincide. If they did not normally coincide, there would be no possibility of feigning by kinetically enacting emotional dynamics. The word enacting is precisely correct in this instance, for it is a matter of putting something into a form of a specified kind, in this instance, a kinetic form, which means going through the motions of X, that is, putting a non-felt feeling into a performance, as in, for example, shaking hands with, and smiling at someone whom one actually detests. Grammatically, the word ‘enact’, as the etymology of its prefix indicates, means ‘‘to bring [something] into a certain condition or state,’’ precisely as in the word’s common usage: ‘to make into a law’. p.377
  • (note 10) Varela et al. (1991). The word enaction as defined originally by Varela, Thompson, and Rosch reads: ‘‘We propose as a name the term enactive to emphasize the growing conviction that cognition is not the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind on the basis of a history of the variety of actions that a being in the world performs’’ (Ibid., p. 9). p.377
  • Indeed, the affective quiverings, tensions, lightnesses, shudderings, pressures, constrictions, extensions, heavinesses, and so on, that one feels in a thoroughly corporeal sense in anger, anticipation, compassion, worry, and shame, for example, are ongoing dynamic affective happenings. Hence, whatever the dynamic stirrings and informings, they are qualitatively distinct, which means they have a formally recognizable bodily-felt character. p.379
  • In sum, we are first and foremost animate beings who, in being animate, are alive to our animateness, which is to say that whatever affects us moves through us, permeating the whole of our being and moving us to move in ways dynamically congruent with the ongoing stirrings and commotions we feel. It might be noted that such understandings of our foundational animation anchor concepts such as pre-reflective self-awareness in the dynamic realities of kinesthesia and the affective/tactile-kinesthetic body. p.379
  • Rather than attending to the emotionally caught up corps engage´ as in the studies above, Thompson’s enactive analysis of emotion is skewed by being set exclusively within the framework of protentions, relying thus heavily on the notion of a movement disposition—‘‘the welling up of an impulse,’’ a ‘‘readiness to action.’’ (Thompson, 2007, pp. 361, 363–364) While that perspective approximates to the fact that emotions move us to move, it does not, as indicated above, elucidate the fact that emotions are themselves dynamic, moving through us in subtle and complex ways. p.380

Primal animation

  • What is missing in Thompson’s account of ‘‘enactive emotion’’ is the basic reality of animation that defines the organism as a whole and that, in defining the whole organism, is the conceptual portal to understanding the dynamics of experience from top to bottom and bottom to top, i.e., in the full sense of animate being. Indeed, the ‘‘primordial dynamism’’ that Thompson takes as the defining nature of ‘‘emotion and valence’’ rests on animation. p.381
  • Patocˇka states, ‘‘Our primary experience of ourselves is … an experience of the primordial dynamism that manifests itself in our awareness of our existence as a moving, active being.’’ (Patocka, 1998 [1968–1969], p. 40). p.381
  • Primal animation, a descriptive term coined and used prior to the discovery of ‘‘primordial dynamism’’ in the writings of Patocka and Thompson, concretely links our sense of aliveness to movement, to kinesthesia and to our tactile-kinesthetic bodies. The descriptive term resonates along the lines of ‘‘primordial dynamism’’ but with the following significant differences: unlike Patocˇka’s ‘‘primordial dynamism,’’ which, ‘‘as we experience it, characterizes the spatiality of our physical presence,’’ (Patocka, 1998 [1968–1969], p. 41) primal animation derives most fundamentally from movement and is thus not simply a spatial but a spatiotemporal-energic phenomenon; analogously, unlike Thompson’s ‘‘primordial dynamism,’’ which is limned exclusively as a temporal phenomenon, notably, a matter of temporal protentions epitomized in emotion as a ‘‘readiness to action,’’ (Thompson, 2007, p 361) primal animation is a spatio-temporal-energic whole, a kinetic liveliness originally in the service of learning our bodies and learning to move ourselves in face of a surrounding world. (Sheets-Johnstone, 1999b, Chap. 5). p.382
  • That we come into the world moving means we are cognitively attuned in a sense making manner discovering ourselves and our surrounding world in and through our affective/tactile-kinesthetic bodies from the very beginning. p.382
  • Primal animation brings with it the most primitive form of consciousness, which is consciousness of one’s own movement, hence ‘‘kinesthetic consciousness.’’ This form of consciousness develops in the womb. Indeed, tactility and kinesthesia are neurologically the primary senses to develop. In a broader sense, this consciousness is a ‘‘kinetic consciousness.’’ It includes a developing consciousness of one’s movement as a three-dimensional happening ‘‘in space’’ and is intimately tied to a basic responsivity to movement in one’s surrounding world, most importantly to a distinction between the animate and the inanimate. p.383
  • Primal animation is furthermore the conceptual corollary of what Scott Kelso fittingly describes as ‘‘intrinsic dynamics,’’ dynamics that define ‘‘coordination tendencies,’’ including both subtending older patterns or habits and spontaneously arising patterns that arise in the formation of a new skill. These tendencies and the patterns themselves are intrinsic in the double sense of defining coordination dynamics at the level of both brain and behavior. p.383
  • A related question naturally arises regarding the thesis that pre-reflective selfawareness requires a nervous system, a thesis bolstered by Thompson’s earlier claim set forth in the context of specifying ‘‘the enactive approach’’ in cognitive science, namely, that ‘‘[t]he nervous system … creates meaning.’’ (53) The idea that meaning is created by the nervous system is rather odd. Oddness aside, we may surely affirm that intact living subjects, not nervous systems, create meaning, and in this context point out that a bacterium is a living subject. It initiates a change in direction because it finds the current environment unsuitable or ‘‘noxious.’’ (54) It is thus not simply counterintuitive but self-contradictory to say that a bacterium is unaware of itself turning away and making a directional change since the turning and change come about through its own self-movement. The lack of a nervous system does not therefore preclude meaning, neither in the sense of ‘‘creating’’ meaning nor in the sense of meaningful movement. (55) Indeed, evolutionary forms of life are living subjects of particular Umwelts, and as such create synergies of meaningful movement, (56) synergies that assure their survival. p.384
  • Of import in this context are the observations of renown physiological psychologist Roger Sperry: not only is the brain an organ of and for coordinated movement,62 but the function of consciousness or subjective experience is coordinated movement.63 The significance of self-movement and the consciousness of self-movement through the entire evolutionary spectrum of self-moving forms of life can hardly be ignored. In short, ‘‘animation of the body’’ is of singular moment to sentience, feeling alive, and consciousness, however much it conflicts with Thompson’s notion of ‘‘immanent purposiveness.’’ p.385
  • The empirical realities of animation are of moment in both an individual and evolutionary sense, and this because the realities naturally engender life, time, and affectivity as well as movement. These four dimensions are not just intimately linked but intermeshed, interwoven one with the other such that any one is not present without the others. (64) The concept of animation, a concept that derives from the realities of animation, is thus understandably a corrective to theoretical-linguistic band-aids, not just the band-aid of ‘‘enactive,’’ as in the awkward notions of ‘‘enactive emotion’’ and ‘‘enactive evolution’’ (65) and the band-aid of ‘‘embodiment,’’ but the band-aid of ‘‘embedding’’ in order that a subject, notably a human, is connected to a ‘‘world.’’ p.386
  • Humans alone, notably modern, present-day ones, languish, ensnared in a subject/world divide. It is no wonder that cognitive scientists and philosophers strive to alleviate their suffering by eradicating the dichotomy. In truth, the problem is one of their own making, a fabrication of thought, making necessary, in today’s cognitive science language, an ‘‘embedding’’ of ‘‘the subject’’ in ‘‘the world,’’ or in the language of some existentialist philosophers, a ‘‘chiasm’’ or intertwining of subject and world. (67) Animation is a corrective to such ‘‘embeddings’’ and ‘‘chiasmatic’’ solutions: it is the mot juste that properly describes living creatures as living and thus necessarily, that is, naturally, in the full sense of nature, links them inseparably to and within a spatio-temporal world distinctive to their ways of living, i.e., to an Umwelt. (68) It bears notice too that animation is of distinctive moment with respect to what is commonly termed ‘‘background consciousness.’’ Any form of life that moves itself—any animate form—knows itself to be moving not because there is a self in the verbal locution but because there is a kinetic consciousness of some kind, a consciousness subserving movement, hence not out of grammatical necessity, but out of biological necessity. Thus if ‘‘homeodynamic regulation of the body’’ is an indication of ‘‘background consciousness,’’69 then surely the motility of bacteria qualifies as ‘‘background consciousness,’’ and this in spite of the fact that background consciousness is aligned with ‘‘dynamic neural activity.’’70 Background consciousness’’ is indeed a perplexing locution, a linguistic camouflage of something needing explicit elucidation by way of empirical facts of life. p.386-87
  • In effect, the affective/tactile-kinesthetic body, the felt body, can hardly be ignored since it is precisely the experiential foundation of ‘‘the fundamental phenomenon of sentience,’’ ‘‘the feeling of being alive,’’ and hence definitive of ‘‘primal’’ or ‘‘core’’ consciousness.’’ In turn, and contrary to Thompson, all sensory modalities cannot be excluded in an elucidation of sentience, ‘‘primal,’’ ‘‘core,’’ or ‘‘background’’ consciousness: kinesthesia and proprioception are foundational from the beginning of life onward. p.387-88
  • Each recent piece of research confirms the need to look at the foundational phenomenon of animation and to wean ourselves away not only from the brain as if it were the oracle at Delphi, but away from a separation of brain from body as if the morphology of nature categorically and axiologically divided us into an elevated top and an inelegant bottom, away too, we might note, from a categorical separation of faculties such that one has virtually to plead the case for a non-separation of cognition and emotion, (Thompson, 2007, p. 371) and finally, away too from a separation of a philosophy of the organism from a philosophy of mind as if one could sever nature, creating a division between living and sentience and hence between living and sensemaking. (Ibid., pp. 236–237; see also Sheets-Johnstone, 2008, Chaps. V and VIII). Indeed, so long as one is wedded to the notion that the human mind–body or body–body problem (Hanna and Thompson, 2003 and Thompson, 2007).) will be solved when we can scientifically determine that ‘‘there is something it is like to be that body,’’ i.e., that body ‘‘whose organizational dynamic processes can become constitutive of a subjective point of view,’’ (Thompson, 2007, p. 237; see also Zahavi, 1999, 2000, 2005) one will remain closed to the dynamic realities of animation that, as indicated earlier, constitute the all-inclusive and spontaneously arising affective, tactile-kinesthetic, sense-making, subject/world nature of human life. p.389
  • Each experience is what it is. The challenge is not to determine scientifically ‘‘what it is like to be that body.’’ The challenge is to language experience, which, to begin with, quintessentially requires phenomenological attention to experience and a concomitant recognition of the fact that language is not experience. p.390
  • That we are first and foremost animate organisms is a truth Husserl consistently recognized. The truth merits highlighting if not accentuating. In his lifelong studies of sense-making—of constitution, be-souling, meaning-bestowing, sedimentations, horizons, protentions, retentions, and more—Husserl wrote not about active—or enactive—organisms; he wrote not about embodied organisms; he wrote not about embedded organisms; he wrote throughout about animate organisms.91 Animation is the ground floor of our being alive in all its affective, perceptual, cognitional, and imaginative guises, stages, practices, and surrounding worlds. In other words, animation grounds the full range of those intricate and varying dynamics that constitute and span the multiple dimensions of our livingness. Moreover it bears emphasizing that animate organisms are subjects of a world. Indeed, animate organisms, being subjects, are never without a surrounding world. p.390
  • In short, Husserl is at pains to underscore the fact that living bodies—animate organisms—are not entities in a vacuum but are kinetically, affectively, thematically— experientially—anchored to and engaged in meaningful ways in a surrounding world, i.e., engaged in synergies of meaningful movement that support their survival. p.391
  • The basic question that needs to be asked is: How is it that ‘doings’ become familiar? The answer is clearly rooted in dynamics, in the qualitative tactile-kinesthetically felt kinetic dynamics of hammering, of brushing one’s teeth, of sweeping, of typing, of playing a Bach prelude, and so on. Familiar dynamics are woven into our bodies and are played out along the lines of our bodies; they are kinesthetic/kinetic melodies in both a neurological and experiential sense. A melody to begin with is a qualitative phenomenon, qualitative in virtue of its spatio-temporal-energic character. p.393
  • When melody is a matter of movement in Luria’s sense—when the melody is being played by oneself, whether a matter of writing one’s name, playing the flute, dancing, brushing one’s teeth, ice skating, or running with the ball—creation and constitution of the kinesthetic/kinetic melody are phenomenologically concurrent. p.393
  • Motors have nothing to do with experience or with animate organisms. The qualitative affective-kinetic dynamics of grief that fold the body inward in spatially contorted and rhythmically writhing ways contrast strikingly with the qualitative affectivekinetic dynamics of joy, for example, that spatially expand the body outward and infuse it in a lightness and buoyancy that are spatially and temporally open-ended. p.395
  • A motorology furthermore precludes recognition of experienced corporeal-kinetic intentionalities that correlate with neurological corporeal-kinetic patternings. Such intentionalities are appropriately specified not in terms of sensorimotor processes but in terms of sensory-kinetic realities. p.396
  • Clearly, kinesthesia and the broader term ‘proprioception’ cannot be transmogrified into forms of ‘action’ or ‘embodiment’, or into a motorology and in any way retain their essential phenomenological qualities, qualities foundational to animate life. Indeed, tactile-kinesthetic invariants ground our basic speciesspecific human repertoire of movement possibilities and undergird our affective social understandings. A first step toward capturing these essential qualities and invariants is recognition of sensory-kinetic bodies, not sensorimotor ones. p.396
  • In sum, actually lived through experiences of emotion and movement that are dynamic through and through and whose dynamics resonate in bodily-felt spatiotemporal-energic experiences warrant full and assiduous attention and languaging. To bring this language to the fore is correlatively to bring a descriptively refined acuity to ‘‘emotion experience’’ such that the dynamics of affect and movement and their congruency that is present from the beginning of human life is manifestly evident. An enactivist approach, in passing over this history, is adultist. It takes familiarity for granted, the familiarity that allows ‘transparency’—a term that might well be qualified as the adult luxury of an ‘‘unreflected absorption’’ in the world—to be realized. We are not born with a ready-made transparency either of ourselves or of the world: we learn our bodies and learn to move ourselves.  In the course of this learning we become familiar with ourselves as animate beings in a surrounding world. We explore ourselves and the world about us and build up habits on the basis of our growing familiarities. We develop a repertoire of ‘I cans’. ‘Transparency’ is not only not a ready-made but is grounded through and through in experience, which itself is grounded in both our evolutionary heritage to explore and make sense of the world and in the actual explorations and discoveries we all made as infants. p.397
  • In contrast, animate beings come ready-made for living and for being described in their livingness without the need of lexical qualifiers or revivifications. They are already in and of the world because they are animate and animated: they are already living, and being already living, are already making sense of themselves and of the world in which they find themselves and of which they are a part. p.397

BARANDIARAN; DI PAOLO & ROHDE (2009) – Defining Agency. individuality, normativity, asymmetry and spatio-temporality in action

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BARANDIARAN, Xabier. DI PAOLO, Ezequiel. & ROHDE, Marieke. Defining Agency. individuality, normativity, asymmetry and spatio-temporality in action. Journal of Adaptive Behavior,  (Special Issue on Agency), v.10, p.1-13, 2009.

 

  • We identify three conditions that a system must meet in order to be considered as a genuine agent: a) a system must define its own individuality, b) it must be the active source of activity in its environment (interactional asymmetry) and c) it must regulate this activity in relation to certain norms (normativity).
  • On this basis, we define agency as an autonomous organization that adaptively regulates its coupling with its environment and contributes to sustaining itself as a consequence. We find that spatiality and temporality are the two fundamental domains in which agency spans at different scales. p.1
  • The concept of agency plays a central role in contemporary cognitive science as a conceptual currency across different sub-disciplines (specially in embodied, situated and dynamical approaches—Brooks 1991, Beer 1995, Pfeifer & Scheier 1999). It owes this central role to its capacity to capture the notion of a behaving system while avoiding the endless discussions around alternative foundational terms such as “representations”, “intentions”, “cognitive subject”, “conscious being” or “mind”. While an insect-like robot already seems to be a minimal instance of agency, the concept is open enough to also cover humans or even collective organizations. p.1
  • Despite the difficulty to provide a clear and precise answer to these questions, a loose or metaphorical concept of agency has helped to re-conceptualize cognitive systems as inherently situated while grounding intelligent capacities on behavior-generating mechanisms (as opposed to abstract symbolic algorithms). p.1
  • Russell and Norvig in their classical AI handbook (1995: 33) propose that “an agent is anything that can be viewed as perceiving its environment through sensors and acting upon that environment through effectors”. Maes (1994), on the other hand defines an agent as “a system that tries to fulfill a set of goals in a complex, dynamic environment”; Beer (1995) considers an agent “any embodied system [that pursues] internal or external goals by its own actions while in continuous long-term interaction with the environment in which it is situated”, while Smithers (1995: 97) states that “agent systems are systems that can initiate, sustain, and maintain an ongoing and continuous interaction with their environment as an essential part of their normal functioning”. After an extensive review of different definitions of agency (including some of those previously mentioned), Franklin and Graesser (1996) conclude that “an autonomous agent is a system situated within and a part of an environment that senses that environment and acts on it, over time, in pursuit of its own agenda and so as to effect what it senses in the future”. Kauffman (2000) has defined an agent as a system that “can act on its own behalf in an environment”. Following his work, Ruiz-Mirazo and Moreno defend that minimal autonomous agents are those chemical systems capable of actively constraining their boundary conditions for self-maintenance (Ruiz-Mirazo & Moreno 2000). In a parallel manner, Christensen & Hooker (2000) state that “[a]gents are entities which engage in normatively constrained, goal-directed, interaction with their environment” (p.133). p.2
  • Abstracting away from the particularities of the above definitions we can generalize that agency involves, at least, a system doing something by itself according to certain goals or norms within a specific environment. p.2
  • From this description, three different though interrelated aspects of agency follow immediately: (i) there is a system as a distinguishable entity that is different from its environment, (ii) this system is doing something by itself in that environment and (iii) it does so according to a certain goal or norm. A generative definition of agency has to account, at least, for these three requirements. p.2

Individuality

  • First of all, in order for a system to be an agent, there must be a distinction between the system and its environment. This we shall call the individuality condition. The identity of an agent as an individual distinguishable from its environment is often taken for granted or seen as trivially irrelevant. Any characterization of agency is then limited to the establishment of the kind of relationship (representational, informational, intentional, adaptive, etc.) between a pre-given “agent” and its world. However, neither a specific environment nor agentive relations with this environment can exist without the constitution of an agent as na individuated system. p.2
  • A concept of agency that cannot account for the way in which an agent defines itself as an individual requires another agent (the observer) to perform the system-environment distinction. If then we have to justify the identity of this observer agent by means of another one and so on, we enter an infinite explanatory regress. In contrast, an entity capable of distinguishing itself as an individual in the absence of an observer, like Jonas proposes for the case of living organisms, does not suffer from this problem (1 – This remark applies to agents once they are in full enjoyment of their agential character. But it does not preclude the possibility that the ontogeny and evolution of different forms of agency is not itself highly dependent on links to a community of other agents and environmental factors. A self-defined identity does not happen in a vacuum and is inevitably tied to a web of necessary relations to develop and survive.) p.3
  • Therefore, the first condition for the appearance of agency is the presence of a system capable of defining its own identity as an individual and thus distinguishing itself from its surroundings; in doing so, it defines an environment in which it carries out its actions. p.3

Interactional Asymmetry

  • Once an individual is in place, exchanges of matter and energy are inevitable at some level; the system is coupled to its environment. However, the concept of agency is intuitively associated with that of action, not mere system-environment coupling or exchange. An agent is a system that does something as opposed to other natural entities to which we attribute no specific actions except metaphorically (e.g., “The sun rises”). In other words, an agent is a source of activity, not merely a passive sufferer of the effects of external forces. Similarly, an agent is not driven to act by internal, sub-systemic modules, which subordinates the system to the triggering or isolated functioning of a local mechanism. In a sense yet to be properly disclosed, an agent as a whole drives itself, breaking the symmetry of its coupling with the environment so as to modulate it from within. We call this condition interactional asymmetry. p.3
  • One way to understand interactional asymmetry in terms of the causal origin of action events is to consider, as others have done, an agent as responsible for managing and gathering the energy resources for action. For this line of thinking, the asymmetry requirement is expressed in terms of the capacity of the system to constrain energy flows to sustain coordinated processes that are in turn re-used by the system in a circular manner (Kauffman 2000, Ruiz-Mirazo & Moreno 2000). p.3
  • However, being a source of activity does not imply trying to constantly avert the effect of environmental forces through the investment of internally channeled energy, but often, on the contrary, being able to “surf” these effects in a specific direction. p.3
  • An agent is a system that systematically and repeatedly modulates its structural coupling with the environment. We therefore define interactional asymmetry as the condition describing a system as capable of engaging in some modulations of the coupling and doing so at certain times, but not necessarily always (and, for extreme cases, just capable of halting a coupling). p.4

Normativity

  • When considering agency we presuppose that the interaction is not random or arbitrary but makes some “sense” for the agent itself. Agents have goals or norms according to which they are acting, providing a sort of reference condition, so that the interactive modulation is carried out in relation to this condition (2 – We shall use the terms “norm” and “goal” interchangeably. Despite the notion of “norm” is generally applied to a procedure or a limit condition that must be respected whereas that of “goal” refers to specific reference states (get to position X, grasp object Y, attain result Z), for minimal cases both terms might be treated equivalently since both capture a necessary or desired condition that a process must achieve. Explicit distinctions between norms, rules, goals, intentions, desires, plans, etc. would demand reference to more elaborate forms of agency that remain out of the scope of this paper.) p.5
  • We can only make sense of norms as the result of a specific set of conditions that both enable and demand a system to distinguish between different physical outcomes of its coupling with the environment. Normativity is an essential component of agency, even if its presence can be stronger or weaker, as a degree of improvement, of increasing/decreasing adequacy, of gradual functional achievement, etc. This is the case independently of whether norms are linked directly or indirectly to vital requirements (the self-maintenance of the agent’s biological infrastructure) or are acquired and embodied in other self-sustained forms of life (psychological, cultural, etc.). Again, it is insufficient that we, as observers, make judgments on behalf of the agent about the “adequacy” of its behavior in relation to some of our own norms, standards or goals (epistemic, artistic, ethical, functional or otherwise). p.5
  • The first thing to note is that the three requirements are necessary conditions for agency but none of them is sufficient on its own (neither any two of them without the third). Yet, not all of them stand in the same relationship to each other. The individuality condition appears as a precondition for the other two. Neither asymmetry nor normativity would make much sense in the lack of an individualized system to which these properties can be attributed. p.6
  • The picture that comes out of this tradition is that the required minimal living organization is that of a far-from-thermodynamic- equilibrium system, a metabolic network of chemical reactions that produces and repairs itself, including the generation of a membrane that encapsulates the reaction network while actively regulating matter and energy exchanges with the environment. From this point of view, organisms are integrated and active systems that must continuously interact with their environment to self-generate and maintain their own dissipative organization. This minimal (or proto-cellular) living organization comes to capture the essence of life, for even complex multicellular organisms ultimately respond to the same logic of networked self-regeneration and self-regulation through its openness to the environment. These minimal models already provide a first empirically addressable sense of individuality and normativity without having to invoke abstract mentalistic entities such as “propositional beliefs” and “motivations” or without having to reduce the phenomenology of agency to the “selfishness” of a replicating molecule (Dawkins 1976). p.6-7
  • The satisfaction of the individuality condition is almost straightforward: the very organization of a living system is self-asserting, by continuously regenerating itself and its boundary, living systems are demarcating themselves from their surrounding as unified and integrated systems. In doing so they also carve an environment out of an undifferentiated surrounding: the organization of the system (the way in which components processes are nested with each other building up a whole) determines which environmental features are “relevant” to it, i.e., which chemical components in the environment can affect it or are needed for its continued existence. In this way, the environment is not just what lies outside the system as demarcated from the observer’s point of view but is specified by the system through the set of boundary conditions that affect it. p.7
  • In turn, this is where living individuality naturally leads to normativity: component reactions must occur in a certain manner in order for the very system to keep going, environmental conditions are good or bad for the continuation of the system, the system can fail to regain stability after a perturbation, etc. This normative dimension is not arbitrarily imposed from the outside by a designer or external agent that monitors the functioning of the system and judges according to her interests. It is the very organization of the system that defines a set of constraints and boundary conditions under which it can survive (Christensen & Bickhard 2002, Barandiaran 2007, 2008 and Mossio et al. 2009). In this sense, living systems are subject to a permanent precariousness (Di Paolo 2009) that is compensated by its active organization. This precariousness implies that whatever the organism is doing (i.e. whatever its factual functioning is) there is something that it ought to do; not for an external observer but for itself, for the continuation of its very existence.  p.7
  • The permanent need for external matter and energy and the fragility of living systems, sooner or latter, leads to interactional asymmetry: any organism must actively seek for energy gradients and regulate its relation with the environment in order to compensate or avoid potentially destructive perturbations. So, over the most minimal metabolic network endowed with a membrane, even very simple life forms posses adaptive mechanisms that operate detecting and regulating internal and interactive processes. p.7
  • an agent is an autonomous organization capable of adaptively regulating its coupling with the environment according to the norms established by its own viability conditions. p.8
  • It is the deep circularity and entanglement between networked processes, the self-maintaining conditions they generate and the interactions that the system establishes with the environment what makes agents so challenging to model and understand. p.8
  • Our definition of autonomy (much in the line of Varela 1979) can be applied to other domains. For instance, networked interdependent processes can be chemical reactions, molecular structures, physiological structures (like tissues or organs), neurodynamic patterns at the large scale, sensorimotor loops, social habits, etc. This way, agency does not have to be subordinated to biological/metabolic organization but can appear at different scales responding to a variety of autonomous pro-cesses. p.8-9
  • What remains central to our definition is that for any agentive engagement of a system with its environment its identity must be jeopardized at the proper level and that the interaction must involve a process of compensation for deviations from a norm that is generated from within (both, the norm and the compensation). It is in this sense that the interaction becomes meaningful for the agent, that the agent makes sense of a situation: actions are guided by the need to compensate the threatening deviation from a norm and environmental processes are integrated into the interaction as relevant for the achievement of such compensation. We call this process sense-making (Di Paolo, 2005, Thompson 2004) for what would otherwise be a mere event or occurrence becomes valued. The threat must not be interpreted exclusively in terms a direct challenge to the continuation of the agent. It can take the form of a tension or imbalance that, without directly challenging the identity of the system, still provokes an involvement of the whole system in its attempt to counteract the imbalance with the effect that more direct threats are consequently averted. p.9
  • While capturing those features that are essential to minimal forms of agency, the definition remains open to further conditions, interdependencies, hierarchies of modulation, forms of coupling, etc. that might account for more complex types of agency. Similarly, we should not expect natural agents to operate at a single level of organization. Most will involve different scales of autonomy (metabolic, immune, neuro-dynamic, social, etc.) forming nested hierarchies of adaptive regulation (like metabolic monitoring mechanisms modulating behavioral responses or neuro-dynamically induced psychosomatic disorders in the immune system). But leaving aside the sophisticated cases that involve different scales of autonomy it is fundamentally through the spatial and temporal dimensions that agency expands in complexity. p.9
  • Agency is inherently a temporally and spatially extended process. When we say so, we mean not only that the processes described have an essential temporal or spatial extension in the eye of the observer, but also that an agent’s own perspective has temporal and spatial structure and that this depends on its form of agency. p.9
  • The time span of the interdependencies between such processes and their precariousness (their extinction outside the organization that sustains them) is also crucial to understand the self-maintenance of the system and its margin to compensate decay and perturbations. In addition, different rhythms, temporal scales and phenomena of synchronization and co-variation might be found at the core of constitutive processes (Buzsáki 2006). Secondly we also notice that the adaptive modulation of a coupling makes agency unfold temporally: in order for a system to regulate itself there must be some buffering or distance between the immediate perturbation and the possibility of compensating for it. p.9
  • There is also a sense in which spatiality turns out to be relevant for many forms of agency (certainly for living systems), that is, the spatial or topological properties of the processes that constitute the autonomous organization of the system and also its coupling. On the one hand constitutive processes (and interdependent relationships between them) might crucially rely on spatial aspects; for instance the formation of spatially structured patterns in self-organized processes such as convection flows (Hanczyc et al. 2007). p.9
  • A sensorimotor coupling is, primarily, a coupling between a geometrical space and a dynamical system. This implies, first of all, that behavior cannot be taken to be exclusively the result of extracting statistical properties or patterns from a string of predefined sensory inputs and the production of an adequate response output. Situatedness provides much more complex and flexible possibilities for action. p.9
  • Poincaré (1895) has argued that the Euclidean geometrical properties of an agent’s world are due to its sensorimotor situatedness in a spatial environment and to its capacity to enact invariant properties (such as continuity of space, dimensionality or homogeneity) through sensorimotor structuring of its experience (like active visual tracking, reversibility of perceptions and invariance of shape upon movement around an object). Even when he was not directly concerned with the nature of agency Poincaré conceptualized spatial properties as arising from the possibilities and regularities of bodily actions. Motility in a spatial environment equips an agent with the possibility to cope recurrently with the perturbations it encounters and to span them onto a domain of interactions and flexible sensorimotor correlations. With such a way of recurrent modulation, an agent has the possibility to restore situations at will, exploiting the structural invariants of the sensorimotor coupling with the environment that it thus creates. Therefore, the challenge is to reconstruct the spatio-temporal dimensions of the environment of the agent not from the point of view of the observer scientist or the modeler, but from the frame of reference of the agent itself. p.10
  • Some insects, mammals and birds clearly exploit not just the orderly, but also the metric properties of their couplings with the environment. Their rich sensorimotor inventory, afforded by the nervous system’s fast and flexible way of linking sensors and actuators, allows them to further increase the degree of mediacy between the surface effect of the stimulus and its meaning for the system by adding another layer of abstraction to its perspective on the spatio-temporality of its coupling with the environment. This transition in spatio-temporality coincides with a transition in agency. p.10
  • The reality of our embodied behavior shows, by contrast, that our interactions with the world in the vertical dimension are strongly influenced by the vestibular sense (due to gravity), which makes them very different from our interaction with the world in the horizontal plane (e.g., Gibson 1952). Similarly, we make an explicit spatial analogy of time as an arrow in thinking and language (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 2003, Rohde 2008). Such symbolic spatio-temporality, that lumps together a diverse set of sensorimotor couplings with the world pushes the stimulus and its meaning even further apart. p.10
  • Other questions have to do with the relationship of co-dependence between system and environment. Although a first approximation to the problem required distinguishing the system from its environment, agency (especially when considering recurrent sensorimotor situatedness) leads to a deep entanglement of an agent with its environment. Yet, despite its “being-in-theworld” an agent does selectively couple with environmental features asymmetrically integrating them on its behavioral organization. A number of questions follow: How does niche construction (for example) relate to agency? Should those environmental features that recurrently depend on the agent be considered as part of the agent? What is the status of tools as mediators between agents and environments? p.11
  • And yet, despite the fact that our definition is, admittedly, not yet complete there are concrete and practical consequences that can be extracted for the study of adaptive behavior: a) mere sensorimotor coupling on its own is too weak a condition for agency, modulation of interactions need also be considered; b) systems that only satisfy constraints or norms imposed from outside (e.g. optimization according to an externally fixed function) should not be treated as models of agency; and, c) the identity of an agent cannot be divorced from its behavior, therefore, some kind of feedback between the agent’s behavior and the selfmaintenance of its organization should be included in our models (i.e. the agent must “benefit” or “suffer” the consequences of its action in a manner that is relevant for its continued activity). Finally, it must be stressed that models of agency can explore different aspects of our definition without the system fully satisfying the three requirements. p.11
  • The adaptive regulation of behavior needs not be exclusively subordinated to the viability constraints imposed from biological “survival conditions”. Instead, it can be equally governed by the need to maintain neuro-dynamic and behavioral organization in terms of self-maintenance of habits, coherence of behavior, “psycho-dynamic” stability, etc. (Di Paolo 2003, Barandiaran & Moreno 2006, Barandiaran & Di Paolo 2008). p.12

 

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FROESE & DI PAOLO (2011) – The enactive approach: theoretical sketches from cell to society

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FROESE, Tom. DI PAOLO, Ezequiel A. The enactive approach: theoretical sketches from cell to society. Pragmatics & Cognition v.19, n.1, p.1-36, 2011.

 

  • The framework of the enactive approach is centered on a core set of ideas, such as autonomy, sense-making, emergence, embodiment, and experience. p.1
  • A new operational definition of social interaction is proposed which not only emphasizes the cognitive agency of the individuals and the irreducibility of the interaction process itself, but also the need for jointly co-regulated action. It is suggested that this revised conception of ‘socio-cognitive interaction’ may provide the necessary middle ground from which to understand the confluence of biological and cultural values in personal action. p.1
  • Of course, the enactive approach is still a very young research program, and certainly no claims of relative completeness can yet be made. p.2
  • The enactive approach was initially conceived as an embodied and phenomenologically informed alternative to mainstream cognitive science (Varela et al. 1991). p.2
  • What is meaning and where does it come from? What defines cognition? What is the relationship between life and mind? What defines agency? What is special about social forms of interaction? What is the role of culture for human consciousness? p.2
  • In other words, it is because the enactive approach starts with the concept of autonomy in embodied systems that it can speak about the non-mysterious emergence of non-reducible domains of activity, which are typically associated with qualitative shifts in experience. This  re-enchantment of the concrete (Varela 1995) is the common denominator of the enactive approach, and it does not matter whether this approach is employed to investigate social, individual, or sub-individual phenomena. p.3
  • Even a discussion of the biological foundations of minimal agency cannot ignore how it is possible for metabolic values to give rise to detrimental but selfsustaining behavioral patterns (habits), or the way in which arbitrary socio-cultural norms can shape our metabolic constitution (Di Paolo 2009c). p.3
  • The term ‘agency’ refers to the ability of an autonomous system to achieve adaptation not only via internal re-organization, but also by adaptive regulation of its sensorimotor interactions. p.4
  • The notion of agency is introduced as the most basic form of autonomous existence that can become part of a multi-agent system, namely a system in which the relational dynamics of inter-individual interactions can themselves take on an autonomous organization. p.5
  • adaptive autonomy is the minimal form of life, and that living is essentially a process of sense-making. p.5

Biological autonomy: Identity, asymmetry, and normativity

  • Arguably the most foundational concept of the entire enactive approach is the notion of autonomy. This notion can be traced back to the seminal work of the Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela who proposed a description of the minimal organization of living systems, called autopoiesis, by reflecting on the metabolic self-production of single-cell organisms (Varela et al. 1974; Maturana and Varela 1987). p.5-6
  • We shall say that autonomous systems are organizationally closed. That is, their organization is characterized by processes such that
  1. the processes are related as a network, so that they recursively depend on each other in the generation and realization of the processes themselves, and
  2. they constitute the system as a unity recognizable in the space (domain) in which the processes exist (Varela 1979: 55). p.6
  • This definition of autonomy as organizational closure applies to living systems, such as single-cell and multi-cellular organisms, but moreover to a whole host of other systems such as the immune system, the nervous system, and even to social systems (Varela 1991). The self-reference inherent in the process of self-production, which forms the core of this definition of autonomy, has important implications: it allows us to talk about the interrelated notions of identity, precariousness, and the enaction of a meaningful world for the autonomous system.  p.6
  • Without the autonomy afforded by organizational closure the system is incapable of defining its own identity as an individual; it remains an externally defined collection of components that we have merely chosen to designate as an ‘agent’ by convention. An autonomous system, on the other hand, is organized in such a way that its activity is both the ‘cause and effect’ of its own autonomous organization; in other words, its activity depends on organizational constraints, which are in turn regenerated by the activity itself. This gives it an essentially self-constituted identity because its own generative activity demarks what is to count as part of the system and what belongs to the environment.
  • In sum, when we are referring to na autonomous system we are referring to a system composed of several processes that actively generate and sustain their systemic identity under precarious conditions. p.7
  • Since autonomous systems bring forth their own identity by actively demarcating the boundary between ‘self ’ and ‘other’ during their ongoing self-production, it follows that they also actively and autonomously determine their domain of possible interactions, i.e., the potential manners in which the system can relate to its environment without ceasing to persist. p.7
  • This process of meaning generation in relation to the concerned perspective of the autonomous system is what is meant by the notion of sense-making (Weber and Varela 2002). It is important to note that the significance which is continuously brought forth by the endogenous activity of the autonomous system is what makes the lived world, as it appears from the perspective of that system, distinct from its physical environment, as it can be distinguished by an external observer (Varela 1997). In sum, sense-making is the enaction of a meaningful world by an autonomous system.(note 3 – Note that the notion of sense-making could serve to formulate a partial response to the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness because it is supposed to account for the lived quality of being-there, i.e., that there is ‘something it is like to be’ that system. Of course, a full response would need more unpacking, including a deeper appreciation of the first-person perspective (e.g., Hanna and Thompson 2003). Still, what should be clear already is that in this respect the enactive approach differs significantly from a mere sensorimotor approach: the former begins with an account of meaningful situatedness in terms of the enacted world as a totality, whereas the latter is only concerned with establishing why there is a differentiation in perceptual quality according to sensorimotor contingencies. It is doubtful, however, whether the concept of worldhood can be recovered from this latter position because a mere summation of distinct qualities does not by itself constitute a meaningful totality. Of course, the enactive approach must still explain how such a totality, once brought into existence, could become differentiated.) p.7
  • The enactive approach to autonomy and sense-making entails that meaning is not to be found in the external environment or in the internal dynamics of the system. Instead, meaning is an aspect of the relational domain established between the two. It depends on the specific mode of co-determination that each autonomous system realizes with its environment, and accordingly different modes of structural coupling will give rise to different meanings. However, it is important to note that the claim that meaning is grounded in such relations does not entail that meaning can be reduced to those relational phenomena. p.7
  • in order for an autopoietic system to actively improve its current situation, it must (i) be capable of determining how the ongoing structural changes are shaping its trajectory within the viability set, and (ii) have the capacity to regulate the conditions of this trajectory appropriately. These two criteria are provided by the property of adaptivity. Similar to the case of robustness, the notion of adaptivity also implies that the autonomous system can tolerate a range of internal and external perturbations. p.8-9
  • The adaptive regulation is an achievement of the autonomous system’s internally generated activity rather than merely something that is simply undergone by it. It is therefore appropriate to consider adaptive autonomy as the most basic form of life, and sense-making as the most basic process of living (Thompson 2004). A living being does not only determine its own possible domain of interactions, as is the case for any kind of autonomous system, it also actualizes this domain of possibilities in a meaningful manner by means of adaptive behavior. p.9
  • Barandiaran, Di Paolo, and Rohde (2009) identify three conditions that a system must meet in order to be considered as a genuine agent: (i) a system must define its own individuality (identity), (ii) it must be the active source of activity in relation to its environment (interaction asymmetry), and (iii) it must regulate this activity in relation to certain norms (normativity). Accordingly, they put forward a definition of agency which holds that an agent is an autonomous system that adaptively regulates its interaction with its environment and thereby makes a necessary contribution to sustaining itself under precarious conditions. How does agency differ from adaptive autonomy? p.9-10
  • It is only when the mechanisms of regulation operate by modulating structural coupling, such that adaptation is achieved through recursive interactions with the environment (interactive adaptivity), that we speak of adaptive agency. p.10
  • In the case of a solitary embodied agent the sensory stimulation of the agent is largely determined by its own structure and movements, thus giving rise to a closed sensorimotor loop. This closed loop makes it possible for the agent to engage in sensorimotor coordination so as to structure its own perceptual space (see Pfeifer and Scheier 1999: 377–434). However, in the case where two adaptive agents share an environment, one agent’s movements can affect that environment in such a way that this results in changes of sensory stimulation for the other agent, and vice versa. Moreover, when these changes in stimulation for one agent in turn lead to changes in its movement that change the stimulation for the other agent, and so forth in a way that recursively sustains this mutual interaction, the emergent result is a special configuration of coordinated behavior. More precisely, the inter-individual interaction process itself can now be characterized as being na autonomous structure in the relational domain that is constituted by the interacting agents (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007). p.11-12
  • In fact, since the theoretical framework of the enactive approach is an extension of general systems theory, its insights are not limited to the concrete domain from which they were originally derived. Even some properties of thesocial interaction between human beings can be accounted for in terms of a multiagent system. p.14
  • multi-agent systems can be a potent source of interactive scaffolding. p.16
  • A simple multi-agent system might not provide as much scaffolding as a well developed social interaction, yet the effects of either kind of interaction process are similarly irreducible to individual capacities alone, and either can significantly shape an individual’s behavioral domain (De Jaegher and Froese 2009). p.16
  • The operational definition of multi-agent system has provided us with a general systemic way of characterizing interactions between adaptive agents that result in the emergence of autonomous structures in their own right. Moreover, a multiagent system can radically alter the behavioral domains of the interactors in terms of its own normativity, either in accordance with or despite of the goals of those individuals. However, in many contexts as it stands the notion of a multi-agent interaction is too broad to capture what is specific about social interactions. p.16
  • The meaning of sense-making and adaptive behavior is strictly related to the viability range of the autonomous identity by which they are enacted. This limits the adaptive organism’s normativity to self-related values that are based on the individual’s metabolic requirements alone. However, in order to make sense of another agent as another agent it is a necessary for there to be a capacity of sense-making based on non-metabolic other-related values: the presence of the other agent must be perceivable as a foreign locus of goal-directed behavior, i.e., as another self with its own self-related values.8 The necessary conditions for adaptive agency are by themselves not sufficient to accomplish such a decentralization of significance. p.16-17
  • failure to regulate a social interaction does not necessarily imply a direct failure of self-maintenance and metabolic self-production. The values governing the unfolding of social interactions preserve a relative independence with regard to the norms of physical realization and regeneration. However, for an adaptive agent the constitution of relatively independent norms for social purposes is impossible because its capacity for regulating its interactions is, while partially decoupled from constructive processes, still too closely tied to its own metabolic existence. To be sure, the realization of the norms that are constitutive of its regulatory activity can be constrained by the autonomous dynamics of a multi-agent system, but they cannot be simply transformed into specifically social norms because their success is largely determined by basic energetic and material needs. p.17
  • in our bodies there are several such partially decoupled systems, the most famous being the immune system and the nervous system. Both of themare involved in making self-other distinctions in their own way (Varela 1991). But it is the nervous system which is of special interest to us here, because it governs the sensorimotor interactions which are essential for social interaction. Moreover, the nervous system also enables the emergence of autonomous dynamics that are relatively decoupled from metabolic processes such that the regulation of sensorimotor behavior is freed from the strict confines of self-related normativity and can instead be about something other. We argue that this kind of other-related ‘aboutness’ or mentality is a prerequisite to sociality: only a cognitive agent can be a social agent. p.17
  • Ultimately, the process of cognition must be flexible enough so that it can be shaped into abstract thought, the phenomenon which has been the target of investigation by the mainstream cognitive sciences. p.18
  • Barandiaran and Moreno (2006, 2008) who have been refining the biological foundations of the enactive approach so as to better account for what is unique about cognition. Effectively, they have focused on the relative independence of the operation of the nervous system with regard to the rest of the living body as the basis for the emergence of a novel domain of autonomous structures. They argue that cognition consists in the adaptive preservation of a dynamical network of autonomous sensorimotor structures sustained by continuous interactions with the environment and the body. More precisely:
    • The hierarchical decoupling achieved through the electrochemical functioning of neural interactions and their capacity to establish a highly connected and nonlinear network of interactions provides a dynamic domain with open-ended potentialities, not limited by the possibility of interference with basic metabolic processes (unlike diffusion processes in unicellular systems and plants). It is precisely the open-ended capacity of this high-dimensional domain that opens the door to spatial and temporal self-organization in neural dynamics and generates an extremely rich dynamic domain mediating the interactive cycle, overcoming some limitations of previous sensorimotor control systems (Barandiaran and Moreno 2008: 338).
  • A paradigmatic example of such autonomous structures are habits, which encompass partial aspects of the nervous system, physiological and structural systems of the body, and patterns of behavior and processes in the environment (Di Paolo 2003). p.18
  • Only an agent that is capable of regulating its sensorimotor cycles in this non-metabolic manner can be characterized by a form of cognitive agency. p.18
  • Cognition is the regulated sensorimotor coupling between a cognitive agent and its environment, where the regulation is aimed at aspects of the coupling itself so that it constitutes an emergent autonomous organization in the domains of internal and relational dynamics, without destroying in the process the agency of that agent (though the latter’s scope can be augmented or reduced).  (Barandiaran and Moreno 2008). p.18
  • Nevertheless, the behavioral domain of adaptive agents is severely limited because the regulatory goals are largely determined by metabolic needs, rather than by the activity that is generated via sensorimotor interaction and within the adaptive mechanism itself. Cognition, on the other hand, is based on an almost open-ended domain of potential behavior. It only becomes possible when the bulk of adaptive mechanisms are hierarchically decoupled from the rest of the living body in such a way that novel autonomous structures can arise via recurrent dynamics (cf. Barandiaran and Moreno 2006: 180). p.18
  • Thus, only a cognitive agent can give rise to a social domain that is defined by its own specific normativity. p.18
  • If regulation of social coupling takes place through coordination of movements, and if movements — including utterances — are the tools of sense-making, then our proposal is: social agents can coordinate their sense-making in social encounters. […] This is what we call participatory sense-making: the coordination of intentional activity in interaction, whereby individual sense-making processes are affected and new domains of social sense-making can be generated that were not available to each individual on her own. De Jaegher and Di Paolo (2007: 497) p.21
  • Nevertheless, even though new and otherwise unattainable domains of sense-making can be opened up in this mutually interactive manner, thereby establishing participatory forms of sense-making, they do not necessarily involve any sense of the other agent as such. This is the case, for instance, in bacterial colonies, ecosystems, and even in much of our globalized culture. We can only buy a book online because we are embedded in an extensive multi-agent system, but all the underlying coordination and interaction is actually anonymous and hidden from view. An individual’s interaction with a shopping website is not a social experience. The enaction of social quality in relation to others requires a special form of participatory sense-making, namely social cognition: regulated sensorimotor coordination whereby the other is recognized as such. p.21
  • In essence, in order for the social action to be completed successfully, it requires acceptance from the other agent. p.22
  • The regulation involved in social interaction between cognitive agents is indeed of a special kind: one cognitive agent’s regulation of interaction creates an opening for an action that can only be realized through the complementary regulation of interaction by another. In other words, social interaction between cognitive agents is realized by the coordination of regulation of mutual interaction whereby the success of regulation essentially depends on appropriate coordination. p.23
  • Socio-cognitive interaction is the co-regulated sensorimotor coupling between at least two cognitive agents, whereby the regulation of each agent is aimed at aspects of the mutual coupling itself such that:
  1. A new autonomous organization emerges from the interaction process spanning at least two internal and a shared relational domain of dynamics, and
  2. The cognitive agency of at least two of the individuals is not destroyed in the process (though their scope can be augmented or reduced), and
  3. A cognitive agent’s regulation of sensorimotor coupling is complemented by the coordinated regulation of at least one other cognitive agent. p.23
  • The essential factor is that the unfolding of the sensorimotor interaction is co-regulated, because it is this interactively coordinated regulation of interaction that imbues the situation with a social quality (Froese 2009: 69–70; De Jaegher et al. 2010). p.23
  • In the previous section we have suggested that what used to be the foundational problem of social cognition, i.e., the so-called problem of other minds, can be dissolved once we realize that the ‘self-other’ distinction can crystallize out of the mutual interactions in a multi-agent system. In other words, it turns out that individuation and socialization are essentially two complementary sides of the same developmental coin. One crucial aspect of this proposal, which we have neglected so far, is the constitutive role of culture. p.25
  • An important problem that still remains for the enactive approach is to explain how an agent capable of socio-cognitive interaction is turned into one capable of socio-cultural interaction by being shaped by ‘external’ cultural values. How can we account for the incorporation of heteronomous norms? How does common sense arise out of participatory sense-making? p.27
  • If we want to know how culture can continue to shape our behavior even outside of an immediate social context, then we first need to better understand how an agent involved in a socio-cognitive interaction, faced with the heteronomy of another agent and the heteronomy of the interaction process itself, can undergo a change in behavior that we would call learning. There is also the question of pedagogy which needs to be addressed. One case of socio-cultural interaction that especially deserves further consideration in this regard is the acquisition of language. p.27
  • A final question to consider is whether the constitutive impact of cultural values is not a problem for the enactive approach. Do we not have to provide a biological foundation for these values? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that these values can only exist for certain kinds of sense-making agents, and these agents are biological in that they are alive (autonomous and adaptive). No, in the sense that this is not a reduction of cultural values to their biological conditions of possibility; the socio-cultural domain retains its own relatively independent autonomy. As such, the emergence of the heteronomy of culture is the appearance of another discontinuity in the system of discontinuities which constitutes life, mind, and sociality. More specifically, a coherence of discourse is preserved because the heteronomy of culture turns out to be mutually interdependent with the heteronomy of sociality, and the same conceptual framework of autonomy that forms the foundation of the enactive approach is applicable to both. p.28
  • It is already clear that, like the previous transitions along the ‘life-mind continuity’, a cognitive agent’s entrance into a cultural domain is both enabling and constraining. It is constraining because taking part in shared practices requires the alignment of an individual’s autonomy with a pre-established normativity. But despite this constraining, or rather because of it, there is also an expansion of possibilities. A good example of this is play, the freedom of which lies in a players’ capability to create new meaningful constraints by which it can steer its sensemaking activity and set new laws for itself and others to follow (Di Paolo et al. 2011). Moreover, by inaugurating a historical trace of shared individual and social practices that can go beyond an individual’s lifetime, cultural interaction provides the foundation for cumulatively building on previous more or less viable ways of living. This is important because every increase of autonomy also has the effect of an increase in arbitrariness, which tradition helps us to fill in a meaningful way. p.28
  • In conclusion, this paper has demonstrated that the enactive approach has the potential to constitute one systematic theoretical framework that retains its conceptual continuity from life to mind and from cell to society. p.30
  • (Note 5) Here we have another crucial difference between the enactive approach and the sensorimotor approach: the former attempts to provide operational criteria to distinguish between mere physical change (e.g., your hair moving in the wind), living (e.g., your body regulating internal temperature), and behavior or action (e.g., walking home). Moreover, both living and action are forms of sense-making, so they are inherently meaningful, with their lived quality depending on the particular form of regulation. The sensorimotor approach, on the other hand, lacks a proper definition of action, even despite its insistence on the role of ‘action in perception’ (e.g., Noë 2004). This is a significant shortcoming because this insistence on the role of embodied action is what essentially distinguishes it from Gibson’s ecological sensorimotor approach to perception (Mossio and Taraborelli 2008). p.31

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