Enacting Environments: From Umwelts to Institutions

In Karyn Lai (ed.), Knowers and Knowledge in East-West Philosophy: Epistemology Extended. Springer Nature. pp. 159-189 (2021)
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What we know is enabled and constrained by what we are. Extended and enactive approaches to cognitive science explore the ways in which our embodiment enables us to relate to the world. On these accounts, rather than being merely represented in the brain, the world and our activity in it plays an on-going role in our perceptual and cognitive processes. In this chapter I outline some of the key influences on extended and enactive philosophy and cognitive science in order to generate a sense of the conceptual space in which this research is going on. I focus on the concepts of sense-making, Umwelts, affordances, cultural niches, epistemic actions, environmental scaffolding, and mental institutions. Despite differences in focus and detail these influences share an underlying world-view; that cognition is relational and world-involving. This way of thinking has clear resonances with dominant approaches in non-Western philosophy. The purpose of this chapter is thus to generate in the reader a sense of this shared extended-enactive world-view in order to open up a space for communication between approaches.

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Mog Stapleton
University of Edinburgh


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