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Rotman Dialogues are events based on a specific book or reading, that are facilitated by Institute graduate students. Conducted much as an author-meets-critics event, these informal discussions begin with a brief introduction by the author, followed by questions from the one or two graduate students chairing the session. Finally, the dialogue is opened up to everyone in attendance. Some events will be held in conjunction with graduate seminars, and some will be offered by speakers taking part in the annual Rotman Speakers Series. These events are open to all members of the campus community.


Reading: Enactivism, pragmatism…behaviorism?

Author: Louise Barrett

Commentators: Jon Bowen & Madeleine Brodbeck


Shaun Gallagher applies enactivist thinking to a staggeringly wide range of topics in philosophy of mind and cognitive science, even venturing into the realms of biological anthropology. One prominent point Gallagher makes that the holistic approach of enactivism makes it less amenable to scientific investigation than the cognitivist framework it seeks to replace, and should be seen as a ‘‘phi- losophy of nature’’ rather than a scientific research program. Gallagher also gives truth to the saying that ‘‘if you want new ideas, read old books’’, showing how the insights of the American pragmatists, particularly Dewey and Mead, offer a variety of resources and tools that can be brought to bear on modern day enactivism. Here, I suggest that the adoption of enactivist thinking would undermine the assumptions of certain scientific positions, requiring their abandonment, rather than simply making it more difficult to conduct research within an enactivist framework. I then discuss how Mead’s work has been used previously as a ‘‘pragmatist intervention’’ to help resolve problems in a related 4E endeavour, Gibson’s ecological psychology, and make a case for the inclusion of radical behaviorism as another pragmatist resource for 4E cognition. I conclude with a plea for further enactivist intervention in studies of comparative cognition.

Author Profile:

Louise Barrett is a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Lethbridge. Her research interests lie in the field of comparative psychology and social cognition. At present, her research centres on the cognitive adaptations and learning strategies underpinning group-living, cooperative behaviours and parental investment strategies in human and non-human primates, pursued using the theoretical framework of embodied and extended cognition.


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