Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 185–204 | Cite as

Breaking explanatory boundaries: flexible borders and plastic minds

  • Michael D. KirchhoffEmail author
  • Russell Meyer


In this paper, we offer reasons to justify the explanatory credentials of dynamical modeling in the context of the metaplasticity thesis, located within a larger grouping of views known as 4E Cognition. Our focus is on showing that dynamicism is consistent with interventionism, and therefore with a difference-making account at the scale of system topologies that makes sui generis explanatory differences to the overall behavior of a cognitive system. In so doing, we provide a general overview of the interventionist approach. We then argue that recent mechanistic attempts at reducing dynamical modeling to a merely descriptive enterprise fail given that the explanatory standard in dynamical modeling can be shown to rest on interventionism. We conclude that dynamical modeling captures features of nested and developmentally plastic cognitive systems that cannot be explained by appeal to underlying mechanisms alone.


Metaplasticity Dynamicism Mechanism Intervention Boundaries Extended cognition Material engagement theory 



Kirchhoff’s work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project “Minds in Skilled Performance” (DP170102987), a John Templeton Foundation grant “Probabilitizing Consciousness: Implications and New Directions”, and by a John Templeton Foundation Academic Cross-Training Fellowship (ID#60708). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. Thanks to Lambros Malafouris for inviting us to take part in this special issue and to two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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