Is Empiricism Empirically False? Lessons from Early Nervous Systems

Biosemiotics 10 (2):229-245 (2017)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Recent work on skin-brain thesis suggests the possibility of empirical evidence that empiricism is false. It implies that early animals need no traditional sensory receptors to be engaged in cognitive activity. The neural structure required to coordinate extensive sheets of contractile tissue for motility provides the starting point for a new multicellular organized form of sensing. Moving a body by muscle contraction provides the basis for a multicellular organization that is sensitive to external surface structure at the scale of the animal body. In other words, the nervous system first evolved for action, not for receiving sensory input. Thus, sensory input is not required for minimal cognition; only action is. The whole body of an organism, in particular its highly specific animal sensorimotor organization, reflects the bodily and environmental spatiotemporal structure. The skin-brain thesis suggests that, in contrast to empiricist claims that cognition is constituted by sensory systems, cognition may be also constituted by action-oriented feedback mechanisms. Instead of positing the reflex arc as the elementary building block of nervous systems, it proposes that endogenous motor activity is crucial for cognitive processes. In the paper, I discuss the issue whether the skin-brain thesis and its supporting evidence can be really used to overthrow the main tenet of empiricism empirically, by pointing out to cognizing agents that fail to have any sensory apparatus.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2017-09-25
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.Quine, Willard V. O.

View all 40 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
64 ( #32,243 of 43,016 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
21 ( #27,223 of 43,016 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.