Dynamic Systems Theory and

Situated Cognition

Philosophy 4171, Spring 1996

Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program, Washington University


I. Course Description and Goals

Recent work in Robotics, Developmental Psychology and the theory of Situated Cognition depicts the brain, body and local environment as a unified adaptive system. Workers in these fields are challenging some basic elements of standard Cognitive Science thought and practice, including the role of internal representation and of computational descriptions of inner events. We will critically examine this emerging paradigm, identifying both significant insights and current shortcomings. Students are expected to develop an understanding of the arguments advanced in these debates and to develop defensible stances on the various questions discussed.

II. Course Requirements

Students are expected to be prepared to discuss the material assigned for each seminar session. This is not a lecture course, and students should not assume that the assigned material will be presented exegetically in class. Rather, it will serve as the basis for discussion. Each student will be responsible for leading two class discussions. In this role, the student is not simply to summarize the reading, but to focus discussion and raise questions. (25% of grade).

Students should develop a short paper (approximately 5 pages) from the first of these class discussions, which should be handed in by mid-semester (25%).

The major product for the course is a 10/12 page paper based on a topic of the student's choosing related to the content of the course (50%).

III. Outline of Seminar Sessions

Note: This is a tentative outline. Changes may be made during the course of the semester if they are deemed appropriate.

Readings are to be found either in a course reader or in photocopies of A. Clark's book manuscript Being There, both of which are available through the philosophy department. In addition to the materials identified below, a great deal of new literature is appearing regularly, much of which is available on the World Wide Web. Please supply appropriate additional URLs which you discover to us.

January 17: Where We've Been, and Why We've Been There.

An introductory talk by Bill Bechtel

January 24: Situated Robotics.

Clark, A. (in press). Being There. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Chapter 1.

Beer, R. (1995). The Dynamics of Adaptive Behavior: A Research Program (manuscript).

January 31: Evolving Robots and Genetic Algorithms.

Nolfi, Migliano, and Parisi (1994). How to Evolve Autonomous Robots, in R. A. Brooks and P. Maes, eds., Artificial Life IV. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mitchell, M. and Forest, S. (1994?). Genetic Algorithms and Artificial Life. Artificial Life.

Mitchell, M., Crutchfield, J. P., and Hraber, P. T. (1994?), Dynamics, computation, and the "edge of chaos": A re-examination. In G. Cowan, P. Pines, and D. Melzner (eds.), Integrative themes. Santa Fe Institute Studies in the Sciences of Complexity. Volume 19. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

NB: Melanie Mitchell will be presenting a PNP colloquium on February 1.

February 7: Dynamic Systems.

Kelso, J. A. S. (1995). Dynamic Patterns. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Chapters 1 and 2.

Franklin, S. (1995) Artificial Minds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, Chapter 12.

Febuary 14: Connectionism and Dynamical Systems.

Plaut, D. C. and McClelland, J. L. (1993). Generalization with componential attractors: Word and nonword reading in an attractor network. Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 824-829.

Freeman, W. J. (1991). The physiology of perception. Scientific American, 264, no. 2, 78-85.

Happel, B. L. M. and Murre, J. M. J. (1995). Evolving complex dynamics in modular interactive networks. (Manuscript)

February 21: Developmental Psychology.

Clark, A. Being There, Chapter 2.

Thelen, E. (1995). Time Scale Dynamics and the Development of an Embodied Cognition. In Port and T. van Gelder, Mind as motion Explorations in the dynamics of cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

February 28: Collective & De-Centralized Phenomena.

Resnick, M. (1994). Learning About Life. Aritifical Life, 1, 229-141.

Clark, A. Being There, Chapter 4.

March 13: Evolution and Self-Organization.

Kauffman, S. (1991). Antichaos and adaptation. Scientific American, 265, 2, 78-84.

Dennett, D. (1995). Darwin's Dangerous Idea. New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 220-227.

March 20: Emergence & Explanation.

Bechtel and Richardson (1993). Discovering Complexity. Princeton, Princeton University Press, Chapter 9.

Clark, A. Being There, Chapter 7.

March 27: Epistemic Action.

Kirsh, D. & Maglio, P. (1994). On Distinguishing Epistemic from Pragmatic Action. Cognitive Science, 18, 513-549

Clark, A. Being There, Chapter 3.

April 3: Extended Media & Socio-Technical Emergence.

Hutchins, E. (1995), How the Cockpit Remembers its Speed. Cognitive Science, 19, 265-88.

Bechtel, W. (1996). What should a connectionist philosophy of science look like? In R. M. McCauley, eds., The Churchlands and their critics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

April 10: Representation and Situated Action.

Vera, A. H. and Simon, H. A. (1993). Situated action: A symbolic interpretation. Cognitive Science, 17, 7-48.

Greeno, J. G. and Moore, J. L. (1993). Situativity and symbols: Response to Vera and Simon. Cognitive Science, 17, 49-59.

Agre, P. E. (1993). The symbolic worldview: Reply to Vera and Simon. Cognitive Science, 17, 61-69.

Suchman, L. (1993). Response to Vera and Simon's situated action: A symbolic interpretation. Cognitive Science, 17, 71-75.

Vera, A. H. and Simon, H. A. (1993). Situated action: Reply to reviewers. Cognitive Science, 17, 77-86.

April 17: Representation in the Brain.

Posner, M. & Rothbart, M. (1994). Constructing Neuronal Theories of the Mind. In C. Koch and J. L. Davis, eds., Large-Scale Neuronal Theories of the brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 183-199.

Clark, A. Being There, Chapter 7.

April 24: Anti-Representationalism.

Van Gelder, T. (19945). What Might Cognition be if Not Computation? Journal of Philosophy, 92, 345-381.

Clark, A. Being There, Chapter 8.

Bechtel, W. TBA