An enactive-developmental systems framing of cognizing systems

Biology and Philosophy 37 (4):1-21 (2022)
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Abstract

Organisms live not as discrete entities on which an independent environment acts, but as members of a reproductive lineage in an ongoing series of interactions between that lineage and a dynamic ecological niche. These interactions continuously shape both systems in a reciprocal manner, resulting in the emergence of reliably co-occurring configurations within and between both systems. The enactive approach to cognition describes this relationship as the structural coupling between an organism and its environment; similarly, Developmental Systems Theory emphasizes the reciprocal nature of structurally coupled systems in its analysis of organisms as developmental processes embedded within a developmental system. Through an enactive-developmental systems framing, this paper identifies the organizational features of cognizing systems in order to motivate a picture of how organism and environment co-determine and co-construct one another. I argue that organisms can be characterized as self-organizing, operationally closed, plastic systems ecologically embedded within a developmental system. In virtue of this organizational makeup, organisms actively engage in the modulation and assessment of their coupling with their environment: cognitive strategies that entail contextualized responses to variations across the web of interactions that comprises the developmental system.

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Amanda Corris
Wake Forest University

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