Escaping from the Cartesian mind-set: Heidegger and artificial life

  • Michael Wheeler
1. Foundations and Epistemology
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 929)


In this paper, I propose a neo-Heideggerian framework for A-Life. Following an explanation of some key Heideggerian ideas, I endorse the view that persistent problems in orthodox cognitive science result from a commitment to a Cartesian subject-object divide. Heidegger rejects the primacy of the subject-object dichotomy; and I set about the task of showing how, by adopting a Heideggerian view, A-Life can avoid the problems that have plagued cognitive science. This requires that we extend the standard Heideggerian framework by introducing the notion of a biological background, a set of evolutionary determined practices which structure the norms of animal worlds. I argue that optimality/ESS models in behavioural ecology provide a set of tools for identifying these norms, and, to secure this idea, I defend a form of adaptationism against enactivist worries. Finally, I show how A-Life can assist in the process of mapping out biological backgrounds, and how recent dynamical systems approaches in A-Life fit in with the neo-Heideggerian conceptual framework.


adaptationism Cartesian enactivism Heidegger significance subject-object dichotomy 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Wheeler
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Cognitive and Computing SciencesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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