Part II: Constitution

Dr. Beate Krickel

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The debate on situated cognition concerns the question whether cognition is a feature of only the brain, or rather a feature of a larger system consisting of the brain, but also other parts of the body (Embodiment), features of the external environment (Extendedness), or active interactions between the organism and the social and physical environment (Enactedness). These three E-statements essentially make claims about what constitutes cognition: cognition is constituted by features external to the brain. Opponents of the situated cognition framework reject this constitution claim: cognition is a feature of the brain, while the body, the external environment, and actions merely provide causal inputs to the brain, and thus, are not parts of the cognitive system. Hence, much depends on what is meant by “constitution” in the context of the situated cognition framework and how this relation differs from causation.

To approach this question, I will look into the new mechanistic literature, analyze how the distinction between causation and constitution is drawn there, and whether it can be applied to the debate on situated cognition. This strategy will profit from my earlier works on mechanistic constitution and will start with David Kaplan’s ideas on the application of the mutual manipulability criterion to the E-claims. My approach to mechanistic constitution has already been applied to the enactivist notion of constitution by Shaun Gallagher.