Minds and Machines

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 331–355 | Cite as

“Cognition” and Dynamical Cognitive Science

  • Luis H. Favela
  • Jonathan Martin


Several philosophers have expressed concerns with some recent uses of the term ‘cognition’. Underlying a number of these concerns are claims that cognition is only located in the brain and that no compelling case has been made to use ‘cognition’ in any way other than as a cause of behavior that is representational in nature. These concerns center on two primary misapprehensions: First, that some adherents of dynamical cognitive science (DCS) think DCS implies the thesis of extended cognition and the rejection of representation, and second, that cognition is mistakenly equated with behavior. We make three points in response to these claims: First, there is no thoroughly entrenched conception of cognition as distinct from behavior that is being illegitimately disregarded. Second, we present Shapiro’s (Minds Mach 23: 353–375, 2013) exposition of dynamical systems theory as revealing a misunderstanding of the way that dynamical models are used in explanations of cognition and related phenomena. Accordingly, a proper conception of DCS’s methods facilitates an appreciation of extended cognition as a legitimate phenomenon of scientific investigation. Finally, we demonstrate that practicing cognitive scientists and psychologists are far more pluralistic in the phenomena they apply ‘cognition’ to than is suggested by some. At the heart of our disagreement with these concerned folks is that although we think it likely that some cognitive phenomena are representational, non-extended, and only in-between the ears, we also think there are good conceptual and empirical reasons to believe that many cognitive phenomena are non-representational, extended, and not confined to the brain.


Cognition Dynamical systems theory Extended cognition Pluralism Representation 



We would like to first thank the current Editor in Chief of Minds and Machines, Mariarosaria Taddeo, and former Editor in Chief, Gregory Wheeler, for their support of this project at various points of the submission and review process. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their very detailed, thorough, and helpful comments. We are very grateful to Tony Chemero for helpful discussions and detailed comments on previous versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.Cognitive Sciences ProgramUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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