Situatedness and Embodiment of Computational Systems

Entropy 19 (4):162 (2017)
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In this paper, the role of the environment and physical embodiment of computational systems for explanatory purposes will be analyzed. In particular, the focus will be on cognitive computational systems, understood in terms of mechanisms that manipulate semantic information. It will be argued that the role of the environment has long been appreciated, in particular in the work of Herbert A. Simon, which has inspired the mechanistic view on explanation. From Simon’s perspective, the embodied view on cognition seems natural but it is nowhere near as critical as its proponents suggest. The only point of difference between Simon and embodied cognition is the significance of body-based off-line cognition; however, it will be argued that it is notoriously over-appreciated in the current debate. The new mechanistic view on explanation suggests that even if it is critical to situate a mechanism in its environment and study its physical composition, or realization, it is also stressed that not all detail counts, and that some bodily features of cognitive systems should be left out from explanations.

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Marcin Miłkowski
Polish Academy of Sciences


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