Sunday 21 February 2016

How Worried Are You By The Symbol Grounding Problem?

Imagine you're a mental representation. You are a computational symbol system, and your job is to contain knowledge that is about the world and that can help your organism interact with that world (Newell, 1980). The 'aboutness' thing is the most important part of you - you are an intentional system, which means you have content that is meaningful.

So where did your content come from? (I'd like to know your thoughts, so please help by answering the questions at the end!)

Friday 5 February 2016

On "The poverty of embodied cognition" (Goldinger et al, in press)

A new paper in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review (Goldinger, Papesh, Barnhart, Hansen & Hout, 2015) has taken a swing at the field of embodied cognition, claiming that it is vague, trivial and unable to add anything scientific to the investigation of cognition.
...our goal is to zoom out from specific empirical debates, asking instead what EC offers to cognitive science in general. To preview, we argue that EC is theoretically vacuous with respect to nearly all cognitive phenomena. EC proponents selectively focus on a subset of domains that work, while ignoring nearly all the bedrock findings that define cognitive science. We also argue that the principles of EC are often (1) co-opted from other sources, such as evolution; (2) vague, such that model building is not feasible; (3) trivially true, offering little new insight; and, occasionally, (4) nonsensical. 
My basic take is a) I actually agree with a lot of the criticisms in the context of the kinds of 'embodied' cognition we critique for similar reasons, but b) there is nothing new to any of these critiques, none of them are compulsory failings of the field and nothing about them makes embodiment an intrinsically empty notion.