March 28, 2013

Communicationally necessary separation of objective and subjective perspectives (in rECS) (1/3)

I began writing the situated relationships between the concepts (mentioned in my previous post) and realised something terribly important. Even in the simplified taxonomy, I haven't separated out subjective from objective, and I found out just how important that is when writing about the specific relationships. They exist in different realms (akin to the ontological and epistemological issues I have been writing about), also, communicating subjective relationships will depend on the specific organism and its umwelt (Louise Barrett). I have, for now, had human activity in mind, in an effort to keep it simple. This will guide the way I henceforth communicate about relationships in rECS where necessary to specify, unless someone has a good reason not to...

Objectively, here, refers to a mind-independent, theoretical perspective. I am not concerned here on how we come in contact, how we experience the world, but rather on the relationships between the concepts in how they affect each other, separated from how they are experienced (or might be experienced). It is not to do with separating ontology from epistemology, but there are surface similarities. For example, talking about Realisation and Actualisation, in an objective perspective you cannot have Actualisation without Realisation (I have written otherwise in other places, and should be revised on the basis of not separating objective and subjective perspectives clearly). This is so because Realisation is defined as perception of affordances, and, you cannot interact, act on, Actualise, affordances without perceiving them. The same goes for Limitations, which may be present and affect Actualisation, but not necessarily be experienced.

But. In a subjective perspective, here defined as experiential, i.e. how we experience the world. We can Actualise affordances without "paying attention" or consciously or deliberately perceive, we just act. An example can be very quick decisions, we need not experience the Realisation of the acted on affordances. Again, in a theoretical sense, an objective perspective, it is clear that we have to have Realisation (perception of) on some level, whatever level that is, for us to be able to Actualise the intersituational-affordances-relationships. Reflexive behaviour could exemplify this, since they are usually experientially Realised after one begins Actualising, after the affordances have been Actualised or not at all.

Thus, it is important to create two separate taxonomies for experiential, subjective, relationships (which will become mostly an empirical endeavour to sort out experimentally) and another for theoretical, objective, relationships. The theoretical perspective will necessarily incorporate more aspects, more relationships and be truer to dynamic systems theory than the experiential perspective. This is explained by the examples above and by that what we experience is dependent on our senses, which obviously are "limited" (put in quotation marks because I do not wish to support the view that we ought to be ideal agents, should be measured on the basis of ideals or are heading that way through evolution, since this imposes a frame-of-reference error. We are humans, and have developed under the pressures of our environment, and this is what we are, nothing more and nothing less).

If I find the time to explicate those taxonomies is another question...

March 25, 2013

Simplified taxonomy of modified rECS (5/5)

Well well, this is how far I've come in trying to visualise the whole tree of concepts in the modified version of rECS (Chemero), with additions from Golonka & Wilson and myself.

Starting out in the bottom right, with energy array and physical properties, it is worth mentioning that an energy array also could be said to be physical properties since we are talking about for example visually, light particles/waves. They are separated due to their function.

Energy array + Physical properties give rise to Structure.

Structure, non-perceived, is not information.

Structure + Perception give rise to Information.

Information give rise to Affordances of the object/agent and the Limitations.

Limitations + Affordances can be Realised and/or Actualised.

Affordances can be Realised and/or Actualised (without the need of perceiving Limitations).

Affordances can be Realised which can give rise to Actualisation.

Affordances can be Actualised giving rise to Realisation.

These are not static one-way relationships, change in one, changes the others down to Perception. Practically, there should be arrows from Affordances, Realisation, Actualisation, Limitations, Information and Perception, to each other.. My MS Paint skills need a bit of retouching for that to happen. I am on my way of separating out all the concepts one by one and link them to their implicated and or necessary concepts. This is meant as a simple overview.

Watch this space as I will try and post a new blog post each day (roughly) for each concept.

March 22, 2013

Temporary conclusion on affordance definitions (my head will explode if I don't give this a rest for a while). (4/5)

I've been entirely engulfed by ontology, epistemology and affordances the past days. My head is about to explode. But I've reached a temporary conclusion. A conclusion that is generally applicable, follow most of the "traditional" ideas from ecological cog, embodied cog and rECS. They depart in some aspects, but I believe them to be necessary to live up to the philosophical demands.

Affordances, need to be, or to be grounded in, [perceived]* physical properties. The reason I have is that there is no other possible way to define it without departing from realism. Please prove me wrong, I am staring myself blind at this.

Epistemologically, affordances are perceptible through information.

Information, [any] structure of [any] energy array (brilliantly defined by Sabrina Golonka)

Epistemologically, sensory modalities discriminate between and within structures.

Perception, "the apprehension of [information] where 1) the structure is specific to an event or property in the world, 2) where the meaning of the structure (for that organism in that task) is about that event or property (i.e., a dog's bark is about the event of a barking dog), and 3) where the meaning of the structure must be learned (or, more correctly, where an organism must learn how to coordinate action with respect to this structure)." (stolen again from Sabrina Golonka).

Realisation, perception of affordances.

Epistemologically, perceiving information and coming to an understanding (need not be conscious, obviously... as if there is a black and white divide of conscious and non-conscious...) of some/all/the situationally relevant agent/objects' affordances.

Actualisation, agent/object(s) affordance(s) interaction with agent/object(s) affordance(s).

Epistemologically, bodily movement between and/or within agents/objects affordances and can be either compatible (by the agent(s) affordances or by extension, like using a stick or something) or not (like lifting the earth, the earth does not lend itself to be lift-able).

Constraints, boundaries of realisation and actualisation.

Epistemologically, restrict compatibility of affordances between and/or within agent(s)/object(s). The knee does not afford the leg to bend backwards. A local constraint that has consequences for bodily movement in the global environment. Being dynamically coupled to environment/objects/other agents, constraints vary depending on the current situationally available affordances.

*Edit 25/3

March 21, 2013

Ontological meanderings for the definition of affordance. (3/5)

Ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist.

Proposed rule: An ontological definition of affordances cannot include, in full or in part, a relationship between two entities, if we wish to adhere to a realist account of said concept.

Reason: Relationships imply mono-dependence or co-dependence.

Reasoning: An ontological definition of a concept including a relationship, implicates 'mono- or co-dependence' with 'what exists'.

Premise A1: If either entity is dependent on the other, and
Premise A2: dependence is required for existence,
Conclusion A: then, there will be situations where either will not exist.

Premise B1: If both entities are dependent on each other, and
Premise B2: dependence is required for existence,
Conclusion B: then there will be situations where neither will exist.

Consequence: If affordances are in full or in part defined ontologically as a relationship, then affordances will align itself with idealism, since we will have situations where one or both entities do not exist.

March 20, 2013

Ontological and epistemological definitions of affordances (as per previous post). (2/5)

The ontology of affordances (based on my previous post), then, defines affordances as physical properties inherent to the object/agent that may be acted upon only by other compatible objects/agents.

The specific affordance to-be-explained is derived from the specific physical properties with the object/agent and they are necessarily constrained/restricted by both the body of the object/agent and the physical properties of the environment. For example, our legs are able to move in some ways but not others, we are restricted in the movement of our legs by a) the physical properties of the make-up of our leg (the knee puts the most obvious restriction) and b) the physical properties of the make-up of the environment in which it is currently in (living in a gas allows relatively free movement of the leg -compared to living in water, for example, but gravity will "restrict" -probably more accurate to say control here- us in one sense, whereas, say direct physical constraint -someone holding your feet down- restricts us in another sense). Here, thus, it should be obvious to see that Physics, Chemistry and Biology are necessarily implicated as the basis upon which determines what is a restriction and what is a constraint.

The most important part; defining affordances minimalistically ontologically, avoids many of the ontological consequences faced when defining affordances as relationships (by leading to some form of idealism), although, as I will argue, affordances within objects/agents depend on each other epistemologically. I believe this is also the consequence by using the definitions of realisation and actualisation for the epistemological reliance of affordances.

Realisation and actualisation is the, how we come in contact with, how we gain knowledge of, what affordances do. What we do. How we do them. Since (if I've got this right) (radical) embodied cognitive science posits that, consciousness, cognition, memory (and many other representationalist terms) are not properties of the brain -but things we do- then I think it appropriate to the central ideas of rECS. I use "radical Embodied Cognitive Science" instead of embodied cognition due to the well argued taxonomy that Chemero presents in his book. Radical does not get a capitol letter however, to make the point that the theory is not radical in and of itself (like Chemero argues) but is merely a distinction from Embodied Cognition. This distinction seems to me necessary because of Chemero's arguments.

Affordances rely on the mechanisms of realisation and actualisation.

Realisation is to do with what Wilson & Golonka discusses on their blog, that which is perceptible necessarily contains information, if I understood it correctly (energy array etc., their definition is brilliant and me rewriting it would not do it justice, it also serves my purposes well).

Actualisation is to do with the coupling, when we act on the perceived affordances.

Objects exist when we are not there to perceive them; realisation, but not actualisation. It should be obvious that once we have perceived an object and some of its affordances, the realisation is retained by virtue of the compatible affordances of both the affordances of the object and the affordances of the agent. As of yet however, I believe the affordances of the agent are necessary (we can realise the affordance we need in an object in order to actualise the affordance perceived of our body).

Failing when doing; I don't see this as an issue, why would it be? This type of reasoning belongs to Evil Philosopher type arguments, in that, because we "get it wrong" then it somehow reflects on the actual mechanism of perception and/or action. I do not believe this is so. Direct perception gives us the information that we are able to perceive and act upon, but in my mind there has to be a perturbance or something not yet perceived to disrupt our ability to actually carry out, actualise, affordances. And, objections like that seem to assume that we are perfect beings. As I see it, our sensory modalities are limited, we are not the pinnacle of "creation", we will get things "wrong" -but like all other philosophy of mind objections it doesn't have a bearing on ontology, solely epistemology. We evolved to perceive to survive and reproduce, not to gain a perfect perception of the environment. And that's ok. Doesn't have a bearing on affordances since they are defined ontologically without the requirement of being accurate.

Ontology; Affordances, thus, are not defined as realisation and actualisation, but as (simplified here) physical properties reflected by Wilson & Golonka's definition of information.
Epistemology; Affordances rely on the mechanisms of realisation and actualisation. All three are necessarily constrained by physical properties of themselves individually as well as each other. Objects and agents can be realisable but not actualisable, both in presence and in absence of each other; actualisable only in presence of each other.

March 19, 2013

On the definition of affordances. (1/5)

This is most definitely a work under progress. These thoughts came from criticising Anthony Chemero's "Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, ch. 7 "Affordances etc." and concludes with the (in)famously ambiguous quote from Gibson on what affordances are defined as.

If affordances are defined as the relation between (or, the relation between is a part of the definition). Then an object need not exist if an agent is not perceiving it. It can, but it needn't. This will incorporate idealism in full or in part and this is unsatisfactory.

If affordances are defined as the individual ability of an agent and the property of an object, then neither are necessarily coupled. Also unsatisfactory.

However, if abilities and properties are given a compatibility value (a, metaphorical, mathematical/numerical range), which, if in perception of each other are [also] within each others' range and can thus be combined/actualised/realised. Then, if this is what we wish to call an affordance, is inherent individually in the object and the agent (and thus exist without the presence of each other) but can only be actualised in presence of each other (or by other agents/objects within the same range). Thus, an affordance is neither solely subjective, nor objective, at the same point in time. Or both, if you will. (I hope I got at least a chuckle from this rephrasing of Gibson.)

This view is compatible with evolutionary aspects, ecological aspects but is not selectionist [things Chemero makes a good point of what we should want]. In short and simple, there are many, albeit finite, number of affordances and those that have been directly linked to survival and reproduction (which are temporally and situationally dependent, although this specific aspect falls under biology to explore/have explored) have thus determined our phylogenetic development.

I suggest following terminology (although I have to admit that I am slightly confused by all the existing definitions and so reserve myself for the mistake of reifying someone else's definition. Should this be the case, I apologize and will credit you accordingly)

Actualised: object/agent in a physically coupled, mutual, dynamic relationship that is temporally bound. (Temporally bound refers to that actualizations of affordances do not last forever, in the most extreme case, we die, but, the temporal aspect is necessary, for development, evolution and dynamicism more generally. Although it can be argued that someone else can keep actualizing what I did before death, this is still another instance, another coupling, that can be simultaneous to my coupling. This thus also holds for collective behaviour.)

Realised: object/agent in a perceptually coupled, mutual, dynamic relationship. (Perceptually bound, spatially bound, geographically bound. Referring to the necessary perception of the object and its affordances and (but not necessarily) the agents affordances and the compatibility range of both. Basically, we need direct perception, and perception at all to be able to realise that there are objects at all etc..)

Both these terms are necessarily physically bound, both by their individual physical properties (body of the agent and shape, density etc. of the object) and the physical constraints of the environment (gravity, exemplifying a more so global constraint, and situationally specific things for example social norms, etc.).
This, allows us realisations in absence of the relevant object but actualizations only in presence. It also allows us to avoid Evil Philosopher arguments, examples of cases when we don't actualise although we can and failing an attempted actualization.

Arriving at the terribly mundane conclusion that we can interact with things when they are there and they are retained when we are not. To be continued... ...probably in my master thesis...

March 16, 2013

Reading list for Embodied Cognition

[Edit 19/7 2013: I am getting quite a lot of traffic to this post, so I thought I'd point you to my thesis reference list instead as this post is a bit messy and incomplete.]

I am collecting my readings on Mendeley, in a group called Embodied Cognition (should be the only one so far..). I figured I needed somewhere to collect all readings I go through, however, since I have yet to find a way to add books to the group, and thought I may as well put them here in case anyone else has any utility for it. Will update the post as I've read articles/books etc. Also, please feel free to comment with additional readings that you've found valuable in understanding EC.

(in the order I read them)

Added on 14/3 2013
Larry Shapiro - The embodied cognition research program (article)
Louise Barrett - Beyond the brain (book)
Alva Noë - Out of our heads (book)
Wilson & Golonka's blog (all entries)
Wilson & Golonka - Embodied cognition is not what you think it is (article)
Tim van Gelder - What might cognition be if not computation (article)
Montagne, Laurent, Durey & Bootsma - Movement reversals in ball catching (article)
Pfeifer & Bongard - How the body shapes the way we think (book)
Gerd Gigerenzer - Rationality for mortals (book)

Added on 16/3 2013
Haller & Krauss - Misinterpretations of significance (article)
Ziliak & McCloskey - The cult of statistical significance (article)

Added on 19/3 2013
Anthony Chemero - Radical embodied cognitive science (book)

Added on 8/4 2013
Semin & Smith - Embodied grounding (book)
Gibson - The ecological approach to visual perception (book)

In progress;
Pan, Bingham & Bingham - Embodied memory: Effective and stable perception... (article)
Holmes & Heath - Goal-directed grasping: The dimensional properties of an object... (article)
Mann, Dicks, Cañal-Bruland & van der Kamp - Neurophysiological studies may provide... (article)
Gray, Sims, Fu & Schoelles - The soft constraints hypothesis: A rational analysis approach... (article)
Hayhoe & Ballard - Eye movements in natural behavior (article)
Hayhoe - Vision using routines: A functional account of vision (article)

Russel and Norvig 1995   (article)
Pfeifer and Scheier 1991   (article)
Pfeifer and Scheier 1999   (article)
O’Regan and Noë 2001   (article)
McFarland and Bisser 1993   (article)
Monteliore and Noble 1989   (article)
Thompson 1996   (article)
Bird and Layzell 2002   (article)
Schelling 1969   (article)
Epstein and Axtell 1996 (article)
Bo{r/v}et & Pfeifer 2005   (article)
Bartlett 1932   (article)
Ashby 1956   (article)
Freeman 1991   (article)
Clancy 1997   (article)
Neath and Suprenant 2003 (article)
Dewey, ?. (1896). ?   (article)
Titchener, ?. (1895). ?   (article)
Kahneman and Tversky, 1996   (article)
Gilovich, Griffin and Kahneman, 2002,   (article)
Tversky and Kahneman, 1986   (article)
Wason and Johnson-Laird 1972   (article)
Thriver 2002   (article)
Cosmides 1989   (article)
Wundt 1912, 1973   (article)
Shaffer and McBeath, 2002   (article)
Fillenbaum, 1977   (article)
Sweetser 1990   (article)
Sher and McKenzie, 2006   (article)
Shaffer, 2004   (article)
Fodor and Pylyshyn   (article)
Chomsky   (article)
Kuhn 1962   (article)
Feyerabend 1963, 1965   (article)
Titchener, 1895   (article)
Titchener and Lange   (article)
Dewey, 1896   (article)
Fodor, 1981   (article)
Gibson, 1979   (article)
Barwise and Perry, 1981, 1983   (article)
Brooks (1991, 1999)   (article)
Clark (2001)   (article)
Thelen and Smith, 1994   (article)
Thelen 1995   (article)
Kirsh and Maglio 1994   (article)
Clark 1997   (article)
Adams and Aizawa (2008)   (article)
Beer 2003   (article)
van Rooii, Bongers & Haselages (2002)   (article)
Markman and Dietrich 2000a   (article)
Markman and Dietrich 2000b   (article)
Dietrich and Markman 2003   (article)
Grush, 1997,   (article)
Grush, 2004,   (article)
Turvey, 1981   (article)
Michaels and Carello, 1981,   (article)
Heft 1989   (article)
Heft 2001   (article)
Turvey 1992   (article)
Michaels 2000   (article)
Read 1996   (article)
Dennett 1998   (article)
Cosmelli, Lachaux and Thompson 2007   (article)
Thompson and Varela 2001   (article)
Bickle, 2003,   (article)
Churchland, Neurophilosophy, (book)
Thelen and Smith 1994 (article)
Pfeifer and Scheier 1999 (article)
Edelman 1987  (article)
Searle 1980  (article)
Schwanen and Plugel 1991  (article)
Barsalou 1999  (article)
Glenberg 1997 (article)
van Orden, Holden and Turvey 2005 (article)
Montessori 1967 (article)

Only read articles available on Mendeley. Books available on loan, from me, if you fancy a visit to Lund, Sweden, otherwise they're available in bookstores online.

March 7, 2013

Exploding boxes and affordances

If I have understood this correctly, there is an issue with two boxes being identical but only one having a specific affordance -in this case being "pick-up-able" or "touch-able". Both boxes, to us, are perceived to have the affordance but this is not the case. Therefore, we can't rely on perception to decide which affordances are available to us.

I am not sure this makes sense. The central point of the masses of words beneath is, does it not assume us to be constant naive explorers of the world? And is this a fair assumption? (Now you don't have to read all the details, you're welcome.)

It strikes me however that, the consequence of trying to explore a possible affordance, gives information on which affordances are available to us. Because we are explorers/seekers, we navigate our environment and find out what is, and isn't. We rely on perception to do so. Is ice walk-on-able? Sometimes. How do we go about finding out? We poke the ice infront of us with a stick, indirectly finding out if the ice is walk-on-able. So we use secondary mechanisms to find out if something has an affordance, if it is not directly perceptible to us, but this relies on that we have seen evidence of it not being able to be relied on by direct perception of our environment. The assumption in the issue may be that we are constant naive explorers, which we aren't.

Is it not true that both boxes still persist in holding the affordance, only that, in one case we end up exploded and the other we don't? A big enough box provides the affordance of sitting, regardless of what the consequence of sitting on it is?

It seems to me that this is a classic case of philosophy of mind issues -where we can't rely on direct perception to perceive what is "actually out there". For all its worth, if we are to be assumed to be naive explorers, I posit that we will always sit on the exploding chair, touch the exploding box, walk on what is perceived as a solid and rigid surface and so on -because the visual properties, surface and rigidity and so on, lend us to perceive the existence of such an affordance.

So it depends on reliance then. If we rely solely on direct perception (making us constant naive explorers) then objects retain their perceived affordances, regardless of which affordances actually are available to us. If two objects are identical in all perceptible ways, then we can not rely on direct perception to know which affordances are available to us. However. We are not constant naive explorers. We see others interact with objects, get burned on stoves that look like they are turned off. So what do we do? We quickly touch the stove, or look at the knob or hold our hand above the stove.

As for objects, without the involvement of interaction with other things, it is my view that they retain, many, finite number of affordances. These affordances will be available to other objects, but not all affordances to all other objects. Which ones are, will only be realised when another thing, with its own affordances, interact with it, perceive it. With this said, affordances are not the actual relationship between things, it is the fit between one objects affordance and another objects affordance. If they are compatible, then to the specific object, the other object has the specific affordance. They form a relationship, but importantly, both have their affordances retained in the non-presence of each other, if, the affordances are available when interacting with each other.

Example, the structure of DNA contains four characters, only A can bind to B but not C and D and vice versa, in A and Bs absence of each other they both retain the affordance of being able to bind to one other and they both do not have the affordance of binding to C and D. In A and Bs presence of each other they can bind to each other, and thereby realise both of their affordances. In essence, they retain their separate affordances in absence because they can be realised in presence.

No wonder social relationships are so damn important evolutionarily, seeing others being blown up by boxes would surely rule out to me going near any box even similar in visual makeup to the one that exploded!

Ugh.. always feel I lack knowledge when I finish a thought. Either way, these are thoughts associated to and

March 6, 2013

What in the world is the brain necessarily up to?

Some simple reflections on 'necessariness'

How we consciously experience the world is not necessarily a reflection of what the brain is doing. While it is fully possible to assume that the brain does a bunch of things, I find it a better way of going about things to not assume that the brain does more than necessary. Is it possible that we internalize the world and represent it in our mind? Yes. Is it necessarily so? No. What then are the most basic abilities our brain necessarily has in order for us to function successfully in the world? In my perspective, it is necessary for our brain to perceive change in a meaningful way across all sensory modalities, inform each other and produce motor-movement.

·         Change here is defined as whatever is discernible to our senses from something else.

·         Meaningful here is defined as; Experiments where we do not see change, it is often in situations where change would not matter for our safety or well-being. Changing words in a text when someone isn’t looking and other change-blindness experiments, is non-threatening and not a part of the current goal of the situation, thus, non-meaningful. Even in repeating a pattern of coloured blocks, and changing the colour of completed blocks, is non-meaningful in the sense that, in a first person perspective a part turns non-meaningful when it has been completed (but obviously not in an objective sense, where the overarching goal is to create the same pattern of colour for all parts of the picture).

Change is something that could be universal within the brain and wherever our sensory organs connect with the brain, enables cells to activate on change, as well as connect to all other modalities. Detecting change is necessary, because without it we could not navigate through the environment. This all necessarily needs to be connected to motor-movement of our bodies, because without it we couldn’t respond to these changes. Why then aren’t representations necessary? Because of the simple fact that we do not need to internalize the world in order to successfully navigate in it. The Portia spider and Webb’s crickets in Louise Barrett’s Beyond the Brain exemplifies this. Does all of this mean that we don’t internalize the world and create “representations”? No. However, in order for us to conduct science, we need to criticize and reflect upon the assumptions we make about ourselves –even the ones that seem to make sense in regard to conscious experience as well as the concepts standing for invisible inner processing.
I believe it too indulgent to see the brain as an infinitely complex organ, I just do not believe it to be the pinnacle of evolution. We just make far too many mistakes. I also believe that internalizing every single object that exist through our contact with them makes little sense too. The amount of cognitive load that this requires, in terms of representations, computation, memory and other concepts created by traditional cognitive literature, seems to me to be all too overwhelming. While it is true our brain allows us to act in ways afforded to few other animals, we are still animals and we are not too different from other animals either. In my mind then, it is simply more probable that our brain evolved to sufficiently solve navigating our environment in a cost-effective way, rather than overkill with extreme specialisation. Evolution should have selected for the simplest possible way to achieve, shouldn't it?


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