Introduction to making sense of non-sense

Recently we submitted the final manuscript of an edited collection for publication in Palgrave Macmillan’s series New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science.

Cappuccio, M. and Froese, T. (Eds.) (forthcoming). Enactive Cognition at the Edge of Sense-Making: Making Sense of Non-Sense. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

The book is scheduled to appear at the end of this year / beginning of next year. Here is the blurb:

The enactive approach is a growing movement in cognitive science that replaces the classical computer metaphor of the mind with an emphasis on biological embodiment and social interaction as the sources of our goals and concerns. Mind is viewed as an activity of making sense in embodied interaction with our world. However, if mind is essentially a concrete activity of sense-making, then how do we account for the more typically human forms of cognition, including those involving the abstract and the patently nonsensical? To address this crucial challenge this collection brings together new contributions from the sciences of the mind that draw on a wide variety of disciplines, including psychopathology, phenomenology, primatology, gender studies, quantum physics, immune biology, anthropology, philosophy of mind, and linguistics. This book is required reading for anyone who is interested in how the latest scientific insights are changing how we think about the human mind and its limits.

I’ve made the introduction to the book (including the table of contents) available here:

Cappuccio, M. and Froese, T. (forthcoming). Introduction to making sense of non-sense. In M. Cappuccio, & T. Froese (Eds.). Enactive Cognition at the Edge of Sense-Making: Making Sense of Non-Sense. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.



  1. September 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Dear Tom,
    It is a pleasure to read that “enactivism revolves around animal processes of meaning formation”. This renewed focus of enaction on sense making is good news. Your 2012 paper already (“From adaptive behavior to human cognition: a review of Enaction”) stated the paradigm of enaction as having “a unique foundation in the notion of sense-making”. This looks as a positive move from previous positions where the enactive approach was starting with the concept of autonomy in embodied systems (your 2011 paper “The enactive approach Theoretical sketches from cell to society”).
    You know my interest with an evolutionary approach to the modeling of meaning generation ( If the paradigm of enaction moves toward a unique foundation in the notion of sense making, I would hope that enactivism will also move toward accepting the concept of “meaningful representations” (which are constraint satisfaction driven, close to action-oriented ones).

    • Tom Froese said,

      September 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Dear Christophe,
      Many thanks for your comment. Many people are indeed hoping that enactivism will eventually see the light and return into the comforting embrace of representationalism. The notion of sense-making comes dangerously close to doing so, which is why Hutto and Myin in their recent book distance themselves from what they call “autopoietic enactivism” (see my review of their book). I think they are overreacting, but neither do I want to base the science of meaning on representations.

      For me representations only have one well-defined meaning, namely in the social domain where there is an explicit understanding that one thing (a symbol, an image, a word, etc.) represents another thing (an object, an event, an experience). As far as I can tell, we don’t need this kind of notion at the sub-personal level. Instead we directly integrate phenomenology and biology within a systems framework (see, e.g., how I apply this reasoning to the social cognition debate).

      Perhaps this is just a terminological issue, or perhaps there are in fact some deeper differences that need to be excavated. In any case, I think the enactive middle way is quite an exciting way of avoiding the extremes of representationalism and nihilism.

      All the best,

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