E-Intentionality: “The role of scientific knowledge in Wheeler’s Reconstructing the Cognitive World”

Note: This seminar happened already!

The role of scientific knowledge in Wheeler’s Reconstructing the Cognitive World
Tom Froese
4:30 p.m. 11 May 2006

Wheeler (2005) begins his book with two explicit assumptions:

1. that physicalism is true, and
2. that whenever there is an inconsistency between philosophy and natural science, it is philosophy which has to give way.

The aim of this talk is to show that assumption 1) violates assumption 2) when considered from a consistent Heideggerian framework.

The first task Wheeler sets himself is to demonstrate that orthodox cognitive science is generally Cartesian in character, which in my opinion he does successfully. He then wants to show that, in contrast, more recent developments in cognitive science (such as the dynamical systems approach and evolutionary robotics) are generally Heideggerian in character.

I outline some of the difficulties that Wheeler is facing with this second task, and trace them to his characterization of scientific knowledge as observer-independent and context-free (thus providing the foundation for his first assumption). This view of science has fundamentally Cartesian consequences, and I provide some examples of Heideggerian cognitive science which shows that it therefore fails to satisfy Wheeler’s own second assumption. Finally, I will briefly outline a characterization of scientific knowledge (Maturana 1988) which avoids these difficulties, and therefore paves the way for a more consistent Heideggerian paradigm in cognitive science.


Maturana, H. R. (1988), “Reality: The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a Compelling Argument”, The Irish Journal of Psychology, 9(1), pp. 25-82

Wheeler, M. (2005), Reconstructing the Cognitive World: The Next Step, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

The original e-intentionality page with this seminar’s abstract, slides and podcast can be found here.


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