Phenomenal worlds and nervous system activity

In Proceedings of the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society (2009)
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The epistemological situation of a single cell is considered. In chemotaxis, the relation between perception and action is found to be lawful and bidirectional. Consideration of the perception/action relation allows a characterization of the phe- nomenal world of the cell. This phenomenal world is grounded in perceptual distinctions that are relevant to the sustained vi- ability of the cell. Moving up the phylogenetic chain, this lawfulness, and its relation to the phenomenal world of ex- perience, is found to be essentially unchanged in multicellular organisms. Nervous systems add some innovation, in allow- ing distal responses and the non-linear combination of infor- mation, but from cell to human, the differentiation of the phe- nomenal world is found to arise from the lawfulness of the perception/action relation, which in turn reflects the biologi- cal constitution of the organism, and not a pre-given objec- tive world. This recognition suggests that rather than looking within the nervous system for representations of pre-given, ex- ternal, entities, one might do better to explore the fit between the function of the nervous system and the phenomenal, mean- ingful, world encountered by the organism in experience.
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