BEING ABOUT Introduction: Cognitive theory and working intuition
This is work done in one community but motivated by a question that originates in another. The question is, is there a way of talking about mind that can make sense of the ways an artist knows and comes to know, and the means by which an artist brings others into knowing states?
The question does not come up among cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind. An artist's sense of the details of working process are thought anomalous in these contexts, something we'll get to when we have understood normal cognition.
My own experience has been that if I hold my question in contexts where it is not being asked, I have an immediate test of theoretical plausibility. Artists are only more self-conscious about cognitive facts that are normal. Cognitive theory that works for artists will work for an improved sense of the normal.
What is meant by a theory that works for artists has to be said carefully. Theory is also an art. The theory-maker, like any essayist, sets up a form that structures the reader. Structured the way this theorist structures me, can I ask my own questions? Organized by this writer, am I having a conversation that gives those questions energy? Do I have more coherence and reach, do I know more?
Coming from art
Someone coming to epistemology from art has a distinct but nonstandard sense of what can be known and what knowing is like. Artists are impressed with perception: its subtlety, its speed, its scope, its contextual flexibility. They know it is possible to develop sensing capabilities in unusual ways. They are more than ordinarily aware of differences in perceptual ability.
An experimental artist works with cognition directly, because work with materials is always, at the same time, work with the cognitive effects of arrangements of those materials. Because it is so hard to make anything good, artists are also unusually aware of the working process: what it is like to not know, to begin to know, and then to struggle to know more. Since the quality of the work depends on the quality of the state that makes it, artists have to be unusually aware of the quality of their own and other people's cognitive states. Consequently they may have a vivid sense of cognitive self-management and cognitive self-construction. And artists have cognitive heroes; they measure themselves against extraordinary people whose abilities to perceive, imagine, integrate, and innovate are their paradigm instances of knowing.
To someone coming from the arts, cognitive theorists often have seemed to be speaking from toy worlds; their examples and explanations have issued from a sense of human cognition so hedged or thin or unreflective it does not make contact with the nuance and virtuosity of knowing as it is experienced in art. It has for instance been impossible for an artist to imagine anything about the working process in frameworks that speak about knowing as automated manipulation of inner sentences. Surely such theories do not make contact with the theorist's sense of the nuance and virtuosity of theory-making either.
What artists need to know about knowing
Questions about knowing lie close to the bone; I want to know what I am. I also want to know how I am different from and similar to other people.
Artists tell me what I am by making something I can use. At its best the event of art is about cognitive fit; there is delight when the fit is particular enough. I know myself in this novel, in this painting. I know myself most exactly when I can just stretch to it.
Since in this most intimate sense it is artists who tell me what people are, what is there for an artist to want from cognitive theory? Can a better theory, when we have one, have something specific to give to the makers of the complex cognitive artifacts that tell us the best and most of what we are? Of course: what any theory of materials gives a practitioner, what the theory of gardening gives gardeners.
An epistemology useful to artists would mention the kinds of evidence they have, and it would support styles of knowing that have been mute because unacknowledged. Other people who want to know (real people: non-philosophers, or philosophers on their days off, when they are reading novels) would recognize themselves in this sort of theory too.
An epistemology worth making must be able to relate how knowing is done to what knowing is like.
There are urgent puzzles about sorts of knowing that have been called intuition because we don't have names for them, don't know how to think about them, and are not all equally able to use them.
There is something about recognition knowledge. People can see something, read something they have never thought before, and instantly assent. Recognition goes beyond what people know they know. It's as if what is read or heard falls into place. But what can that mean?
Recognition can be vague. It can have to do with a phrase, a photo, a moment's event. One feels: there is something about that. Days or years later the other kind of knowledge arrives: that's what it was. But how is it possible to know and not know at the same time? If I know enough to feel the significance of something, why don't I also know what it is?
Decisions are made in the process of creating something: the film cut has to go just there. Sometimes I can tell you why, but sometimes I can't. There can be great conviction: this is what I must do. I'm tracking something, I don't know what it is, but this is my direction. Or there can be a mysterious dependency, as if another being is present, invisible and speechless but decisive; it lets you know what it thinks and you take it or leave it.
There is something about state specificity and state shift. At times we know we're different. We fall in love or into depression. We go into hyperdrive to finish something difficult. Twilight sleep. In any of these states we remember ourselves in other times we were in that state; falling asleep, I remember a dream. A particular state has specific abilities. When I fall in love there's an emotional easy grace. In the writing state I have more speed than in the writing preparation state.
Anyone can shift state. People do it without thinking. Change the subject. Get a coffee. There are also skilled deliberate ways of getting into the harder creative states: to do what I want to do, I have to get into exactly that state, and this is what I have to do to get there. But what is a state? And how is it possible, in one state, to remember another state well enough to do what's needed to invoke it?
There are questions about self-formation. What is the young person's obscure stubborn instinct, that refuses experiences other people find harmless and persists in experiences other people find dangerous? Making themselves something they have never seen: how do they know how?
Maybe this is related: what is the child's interest in fairytales and myths? How can anyone with so little experience have so strong a sense of symbolic force? What is symbolic force?
There's also the question of pleasure. Why do we find certain natural phenomena beautiful or interesting? What is the reason for the sorts of visual pleasure given by dynamic flows such as wind waves in long grass, currents of loose snow driven along a road, or the complex curdling of water vapour into clouds? Why is there such easy pleasure in color? Why does one form give pleasure and another, just a couple of hair's-breadths different, not? Why is hair's-breadths unpleasant to read, even silently? Why is there pleasure in remembering or imagining almost anything?
Asking this sort of question leads swiftly to another depth of question. There can be a desperate sense of responsibility about art: a sense of having to make decisions without enough information. To be responsible as a maker, what I really need to know is this: what is a person? What can a person be? What is a person supposed to be?
What is the best a person can be? (Can I be that? Have I been that? Have I found anything new, that other people could like to be? Could I show it to them or give it to them? Could I explain it? Defend it?)
If I am working outside common knowledge, and if I don't altogether know what I'm doing, I need to know whether the unconscious can be trusted. Is it alright to give other people something I made that I do not understand myself? Could I harm them without meaning to? Seduce them? Mislead them?
What are the consequences of being misled or lied to? Are they that we build ourselves as self-contradictory structures? Are we self-contradictory structures from the first?
Like others, I am both damaged and gifted. It seems that if I know what a person is, I will also know what damage is and what unusual capability is. I will know the difference. I will know whether unusual capabilities that are made by damage are dangerous to other people. I will know what to trust in myself and others.
These are not questions being asked in contemporary philosophy of mind or in any of the contemporary cognitive sciences. They are embarrassing questions in those contexts. But here is a question we may be nearly ready for -- how would those questions read if we had a completed brain science?
A locally delayed Renaissance
We are only part way through a very slow transition between theist beliefs about knowing and a new biological understanding of its means.
Aristotle two and a half millennia ago drafted a natural philosophy that included cognitive order as one kind of physical order. For Aristotle self-organization is the touchstone of the vital. Psuche is vital capability, Aristotle says (Wilkes 1992), and vital capability is given by the organization -- by the organized motion -- of living bodies. Psuche is thus the totality of the abilities of a living thing to initiate change or motion of and for itself. Abilities we think of as cognitive are like digestion and locomotion in being aspects of the self-structuring of a body.
That was a good beginning, but without a developed biology there was not much more to be said along those lines. In the long meantime of the Christian centuries, the locus of cognitive ability was taken to be mind or soul, both thought of as distinct from the body.
Christian theism is animistic, which is to say it believes in sentient loci loosely associated with bodies, the way a dryad can be thought to lurk in or near a tree, the state of mind of the dryad having not much to do with the structure of the tree or its placement in the grove.
To the theist, body is an artifact, made the way human artifacts are made: decided, designed, assembled, and then maintained, ignored, attended, remade or destroyed by a creator himself thought of as powerfully cognitive without physical means.
The Renaissance was a rebirth of only a part of classical natural science. Many things about bodies were now of interest, and could now be understood, but there had been no significant development of an understanding of cognitive ability. The beginnings of neural biology were five hundred years in the future, so psuche, intelligence, went on being thought in animist terms by even as confident an observer as Leonardo.
Three hundred years later Romantic artists such as Wordsworth and Coleridge were paying careful attention to their own working process, and were attempting general theories of mind based on these observations. But the scientific psychology of their day was an atomic associationism based on a Newtonian vision of attraction between elementary particles, too mechanist a picture to suggest much about the complexity, the autonomy, the emotional and intellectual integration, of the processes that rarely but remarkably gave them a poem. Having no basis for explanation they groped for metaphors that can now be seen as predicting changes in physical theory that would be necessary before it could be used to think about neural systems. Coleridge considering the growth of a plant or a standing vortex in a stream (1957 I, 495) saw things that looked the way it felt to be a mind.
Two and a half centuries later we have neuroscience able to conceive of cortical structures evolved and developed with the self-organizing precision of plant tissue, and we have an appreciation of the dynamics of standing waves of electromagnetic activity in the brain. The new natural philosophy that sees the universe as complexly self organizing gives us the possibility of going on from Aristotle and beginning to understand in detail what it might mean to say that mind is an aspect of the motion of living bodies.
We are not through the transition, however. We still speak badly about knowing. Our philosophies of perception, language, science, and mathematics, like our philosophies of art, do not make contact with what it is like to know by these means. Our manner of speaking in philosophy of mind, our metaphors, remain deeply theist and animistic. Neuroscience is very incomplete. Institutions and individuals go on having reasons to maintain dualist ideologies praising 'the mind's transcendence' of the 'tyrannies of matter', as if there could be minds by means other than matter. We are Cartesian materialists, Dennett says (1991, 107).
One of the tasks of the long span of time between Aristotle's draft of a natural philosophy of mind and our take on that project was the development of psuche itself. We have built huge cultural resources for discovering our own cognitive abilities, extending them within our lifetimes, and recording the results of our work. There has been cognitive excellence without good theories of cognition.
Why does forwarding this transition matter? Because we have bad theory that does not support our working process or the value of the work. Without an integrated theory of world and mind, we have been at a loss particularly in our understanding of perception. When we misconceive perception we misconceive everything else.
There are two projects interwoven here. The first is a revision of dualist remnants in the ways we talk about mental function, and an effort to see how we could understand perceiving, imagining and representing if we think them as embodied. The second is a description of the recent neuroscience of spatial function.
The two projects are related in this way: the central notion in any philosophy of mind has to be an account of aboutness or intentionality. Current philosophy of mind retains a traditional notion of inner representations as the locus of aboutness in a cognitive being. When we allow ourselves to be impressed by the particulars of spatial function, it is obvious that this manner of speaking has delayed the transition between dualist/theist beliefs about knowing and a new biological understanding of its means.
The notion of inner representation has been a deeply persistent structuring metaphor, and as such it cannot be attacked directly. My contribution to the new theory in construction works against it by building a sense of how knowing is actually done; a later section of the work describes our use of public representations in a way that makes it clear why the metaphor doesn't work.
We are becoming more able to do without the inner representation metaphor because there have been shifts in the way material systems are understood. Complex systems theory disposes us to think in terms of the self-organization of reactive materials within a system, and of dynamic coupling across systems.
These shifts are implicit in two aspects of a material description of how knowing is done, which together support an understanding of knowing as relational structure. The first is that we are more able to think of cognitive organisms as embedded in their environments. The second is that we are more able to think of causal complexity within an organism.
If cognitive creatures are thought of as embedded biological systems (van Gelder and Port 1995), knowing or aboutness is understood as necessarily embodied, necessarily situated, necessarily in contact with background conditions that can include other organisms.
Organisms are about their environments by structural means that include their entire bodies, not just their nervous systems. They come to be about something particular by being oriented toward it, and then structurally modified in ways that are relevant to it. Complexity in neural systems is related to the embodied and embedded nature of cognition in that spatially extended many-part bodies require complexly covarying structural changes to meet complex environmental conditions.
Complex systems thinking makes it possible also to understand cognitively relevant events within the cortex as multiply caused, integrating the effects of many events at other locations, and as multifunctional, influencing many other events. In a widely distributed recurrently connected network, it is hard to think of any particular structural feature as 'the representation'.
The over-all frame of this work is a sequenced redescription of perceiving, imagining, representing, and thinking that follows from these two emphases, on cognition as spatially engaged and on neural response as complex integration.
Because Cartesian philosophy is creationist rather than evolutionary, it can think of perception and reason as separate faculties, the first less reliable than the second. Creationist epistemologies can think of the more impressive kinds of knowing as implanted in humans by an agency outside the world, but an evolutionary epistemology must understand every kind of knowing in terms of physical structures selected when they passed practical tests.
A biologically anchored epistemology would take perception as the most rather than the least secure of the kinds of cognitive being. Responsive structure that sets up adequate behavior in an environment must be the evolutionary core of styles of scientific and mathematical knowing developed later.
The recent evidence is that every sort of knowing necessarily and centrally involves structures formed in perception and action, for the purposes of perception and action. What we see in positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging is that when we think, imagine, speak and reason, sensory and motor cortex lights up. Reasoning and planning are important cognitive accomplishments, but they are also aspects of a more general ability to perceive and act.
My description of the neuroscience of spatial function is centered on what is being called the where system, a widely distributed functional network anchored in the parietal lobe. Named in contrast to the what system anchored in the temporal lobe, the where system is critical to the spatial directedness that is the core of intentionality in both its perceptual and its simulational modes. More recent forms of representation-guided aboutness can be seen as built around this basic core.
Order of parts
Part I, Cognitive bodies, describes organism aboutness as structural adaptation. The first chapter in this section, Aboutness, begins with effective structure as built in physical interaction with environments, in evolutionary time and in the epigenetic time of development and maturation. Chapter 2, Wide nets, considers cortical aspects of this structural aboutness.
The biologically-based theory of mind that is in construction needs a careful distinction between contact and discoupled function; in Part II, Presence and simulation, I lay out a revised form of the perception-imagining distinction. Perceptual presence must be understood to include action inherently; we are about what we are with by being oriented to it and then structurally attuned to it in other ways. And simulation is not seen as the function of a separate faculty or module, since the neural evidence is that we borrow the organization, speed and stability of perception/action circuits to be as if in reference to absent or nonexistent objects, events and circumstances.
The first chapter in Part II (Chapter 3, Perceiving) describes basic forms of structural relation to existing environmental conditions. Sensory response at the cortical level is described as widely distributed and causally complex in ways calibrated both to environmental conditions and to action requirements. Chapter 4, Where, what and how, describes the progressive integration of perception and action in broad areas of frontal and parietal association cortex that coordinate perception for purposes of action and action for purposes of perception. Both chapters describe orientational or task axes as essential to every sort of environmental engagement.
Chapter 5, Simulation, takes on some of the difficulties of talking about cognitive autonomy. In simulational aboutness, we are able to be configured as if we were responding to something we are not with -- but always and only by means of structures that are parts of our real immediate aboutness. Simulational aboutness is always only part of what is happening; an imagining body continues to be somewhere actual, and to be partly in touch with where it is. We perceive and imagine at the same time.
Part III, Representing and thinking, shows how traces of spatial orientation remain in the least connected of cognitive functions, the fictions and abstractions enabled by representational practices. It is in fact only from a basic core of evolved perception/action competencies that the beyond-evolved reconstructions of these competencies can develop.
Representing practices are forms of social action, by which people direct one another's attention and behavior. Technologies for cultural record allow this sort of social action to be delayed, sometimes for thousands of years.
A relation between presence and simulation is the particular genius of representation. Representational media are ways of using perceptual entrainment to simulational effect. We use representational objects and events by perceiving them, but usually we are perceiving them in order to imagine something else: a sentence we are hearing now can organize us as if we are seeing something at another time and place. The materiality of representational artifacts, and the mnemonic design of social practices such as speech, support forms of complex simulation we could not sustain without them. Thus supported we are able to be structurally about the world in quite abstract and fine-grained and time-displaced ways.
There are four chapters in Part III. Chapter 6, Representing, claims that although representational effect depends crucially on cultural practices and on the physical form of representational artifacts, the locus of representational effect is not the cultural practice or the representational object, but the cognitive bodies restructured by contact with those practices and artifacts. Books and pictures are not about: people are.
Once able to use representational objects and events to support simulation, we have also been able to imagine the presence of those representational artifacts themselves. We imagine hearing sentences or looking at diagrams to support more complicated kinds of reasoning and imagining. Private uses of perceived and imagined representations support the complex mixtures of perception and simulation that we call thinking.
Taking it a step further, representational media, whether perceived or imagined, can also be used metaphorically; we may think by evoking simulational structure primarily relevant to topics other than the topic we are wanting to think about. Chapter 7, Representational effects, describes metaphor and abstraction as cognitive effects enabled by representing practices.
Chapter 8, Representing and the IPL, describes a cortical area that appears to organize representational uses of the rest of the cortex. The fact that this newest development of the where system forms at a junction of visual and auditory cortices with areas coordinating precise movements of hand and mouth, suggests that basic spatial orientation in the form of task axes is also central to representational aboutness.
In this introduction I began by saying the cognitive professional's accounts of knowing do not make contact with an artist's sense of what knowing is like. In Chapter 9, Kantian stories, I take up the question that has been playing in the background since this first chapter. Does my sort of cognitive theory make contact with what perceiving, imagining, and representing are like? I offer sample stories from four high cultural contexts: computer music, natural language, perspective drawings, and mathematical notation, which all can be seen as representation-supported uses of the where system's basic spatial capabilities.
A brief conclusion, Constructing persons as knowledge, considers a cognitive ecology implied by this new epistemology.
If the effective site of a representing practice is not so much the representational object as it is the person being structured by that practice, it changes how we think of theories themselves, and of models, languages, and entire disciplines like philosophy or mathematics. They are not shared or public objects so much as technologies for the creation of structure in people.
The bodily structures that are our means of knowing will be partly genetic, but they will also be custom-built by our encounters and behaviors among human artifacts. Since any form of knowing is built onto an evolved core of material competence, the project common to science and art -- and to philosophy and every other cultural enterprise -- may be seen as the construction of persons.
In cognitive theory the question of method is reflexive in two ways: the way we talk about knowing should be consistent with the methods that are driving the project itself, and secondly, the way we present our theory should be in agreement with what we are saying about how knowing is done.
How is theoretical knowing constructed, and how should theory be presented to other people?
In an artist's way of working, knowing is more like taste than like argument. You see what's what, or feel it, or in some more abstract back-room fashion you sense it. The way you come to know more is by building sophisticated capability: by working with materials or by struggling with what other people have done.
What is presented here has been made by means mentioned earlier: by state shift, by tracking pleasure and displeasure, by obscure sorts of self-collaboration that are like divination by entrails, and by recognition in the midst of reading and writing. (In reading, one instantly feels the rightness of new moves in other people's work; in writing, one twigs in the midst of materials that have been sorted and resorted -- one suddenly sees how it has to go.)
There is also critical reworking, which has to do with resisting rather than accepting other people's formulations. Certain qualities of irritation are an infallible sign. Tracking an irritation, what is usually found is a structuring metaphor. With any theorist, classical or contemporary, the figures tell us how something is actually being thought. Finding these metaphors, we find the engine that is running the discourse. This means we can use them diagnostically. Noticing the figures, we can see what it was someone was intuiting, recognizing, feeling correctly. We can also see the source of pathologies, ways the figure generates inferences that are inappropriate.
Since this work is itself an instance of representational action, what does my way of imagining cognition imply about how to present it to other people?
Don't argue; demonstrate fit.
A theory in development is a tissue of contested claims, none of which can be defended apart from its fit with the rest. Given this somewhat inchoate interdependence -- which seems itself to be evidence that the work is being done by a self-organizing whole whose parts co-evolve -- close reasoning does not seem to be the thing.
In an art context argumentation has no special cognitive virtue. It's not a way to discover, build capability, or even to demonstrate. It's just people writing or talking from whatever cognitive organization they've managed to be, or else it's transparently a kind of combat. Good things do come up in arguments; something may be said in such a way that other people are able to think it more clearly. But clarity is not inherently the result of argumentation as a method. Like any sort of discourse, argumentation is an attempt to organize others to know what you know. Often it is not possible. If others already know what you know, inarticulately, perhaps, you may be able to evoke that knowing by speaking from it. If they do not, what you evoke will be whatever they do know, which may be very different.
The preface of Stuart Kauffman's 1993 work on self organization and selection in evolution describes evolutionary biology as itself a co-evolving whole: " ... one senses that a transformation to deeper understanding is pressing upward in some as yet poorly articulated form." Cognitive theory, like evolutionary biology, is changing fast and in many ways at once. It is changing in me at the same time as it is changing in other people. It is in the process of gelling, but it has not gelled yet. Theory-making in this sort of time is like making a bed full of puppies. Each small breakthrough disorders some of what has been done already, each change suggests more changes. Reading other people's take on the field, and writing with them in mind, are ways of finding how it is going to go, furthering the gel.
All of this is a familiar sort of struggle and pleasure. The fact is that theory is (one place) where art is happening at the moment.
But then, if close reasoning is not the thing, what does an artist know about being on the right track? There is confirmation by energy: start thinking a certain way and you become a structure that generates. There is also confirmation by fit: by coherence, by range. Being on the right track means that your way of thinking works in many domains; you find support in many sources; you're able to understand many people; you anticipate many empirical results. Absence of energy, range and fit are also significant. The ways we have been talking about mind have made it hard to understand inability. If we understand that representational forms work by setting up structure in us, and that we generate public representations from structure already active in us, we can see that certain kinds of language can set us up to be incoherent with ourselves -- set us up, in fact, so knowledge is disabled.
So try for clean language. Since linguistic form structures the reader, work out a manner of speaking that avoids dualist constructions. Evade problems that are artifacts of archaic remnants; watch carefully the effect of any sort of figure -- metaphors, analogies, metonymies, but also illustrations and examples. We are already visualizing mind as we think it. We have for instance inherited a tradition that describes mind as unextended while talking about it always in spatial metaphors.
Here is the central thing: build more accurate visualization of the actual spatiality of cognition.
Imagine cognition happening. Imagine how its done. Imagine embedded systems. Imagine the brain, imagine the body it's in, imagine a creature in the world. Always imagine the background too. Connectionists and dynamicists are helpful, but if you talk about phase spaces understand that these are spatial metaphors, too, not neural envisagings.
There is no way around neuroscience, howsoever foreign, technical, bottomless and in flux. Build ability to imagine complexity. Patiently imagine neural processes that are distributed, recurrent, simultaneously multifunctional, non-discreet. Imagine structures changing over time. Imagine them being built, developing. Remember the time spans behind the moment's function.
The community of the question
This project has constructed itself in the company of many people living and dead whose work sets something right, makes empirical discoveries, adds an aspect, demonstrates a workable tone.
Two books written in the 1980s described scientists whose sense of knowing is like an artist's. One was James Gleick's Chaos (1987), which reported new ways of thinking about systematic change in complex systems. The other was Evelyn Fox Keller's (1983) biography of Barbara McLintock, the corn geneticist who described herself as forming theory within observation by means of an unusual development of eyesight.
Gleick describes dynamicists who were saying they could understand certain nonlinear systems only if they used computers to make images, and that using these images helped them build intuition (1987, 178). McLintock, who won the Nobel prize in 1984, describes her working method as development of an ability to perceive the genetic structures she was tracking. In the field, she knew the plants individually -- the shapes of their leaves, their growth habits, the colors of their kernels. When she looked at tissue slices under her microscope, she began to be able to make out the individual genetic components of a plant. She thought of it as "integrating what you saw" (Keller 1983, 148).
Evelyn Fox Keller called what McLintock did erotic science, because it was science based on contact that re-orders the perceiver. Gleick's dynamicists were thinking of themselves as structures that could develop internal order as a consequence of working with materials.
David Kelley's (1986) and Michaels and Carello writing on James Gibson (1981) changed the way I thought about perception. Gibson's environmental theory of vision (1950, 1966, 1979, 1982) was a decisive refusal of inner images, and Kelley showed how perception need not be taken as perception of percepts or other representational constructs, even if it requires physical means internal to the perceiver.
Having made this shift, I could see that Wittgenstein (1956), Ryle (1949), and Dennett (1991) have been about something similar. Varela (1984) writes explicitly against the inner representation metaphor.
Patricia Churchland's (1986) and Paul Churchland's (1989) are philosopher's introductions to neuroscience, connectionist modeling, and their mutual potential for getting philosophy and psychology unstuck. Connectionist neuroscience imagines the cognitive moment in ways that make immediate suggestions about how perceptual capability could build itself in practice, and how that built ability could amount to implicit theory. The tone of these books is a treat, freely irritable about the old ways and happily taken with the new.
Nobuo Suga's (1988) work on bat sonar, Konishi's (1988) work on owl audition, and connectionist models of these and similar results give a detailed sense of how environmental theory of perception, perceptual neuroscience and connectionist modeling can support each other.
In dualist systems, perception has usually been seen as belonging to the body, and categorization, thought of as a 'higher' function, has been assigned to mind, which was thought of as 'forming' perceptual materials for use in rational processes. Eleanor Rosch (1978) brought evidence that at an evolutionary base level, the scale of objects and activities most relevant to human survival, perception is inherently categorical.
Since human representational practices most often evoke some sort of imagining, I couldn't talk about representational media until I had a theory of simulation. There is a very bulky literature on imagining -- philosophical, psychological, therapeutic, literary, and art historical. Most of it is unhelpfully based on some form of the inner image metaphor. Connectionist neuroscience (as early as Hebb 1949) offers an alternative: imagining as simulational use of perceptual structure. Ronald Finke and Martha Farah were talking about imagining as perceptual simulation in 1985 and 1989, and Gibson in 1979. Marc Jeannerod (1994) has added an important discussion of motor simulation. There is contemporary debate about whether perceptual simulation requires primary as well as secondary sensory cortex, but the basic points have been made.
My debts in relation to representing practices begin, of course, with Wittgenstein. Korzybski (1933) makes a passionate case for clear distinctions between map and territory. Suzanne Langer (1942, 1962, 1988) sees that understanding the cognitive uses of representation is philosophy transcribed to a new key. Lev Vygotsky (1962) describes the use of imagined speech in private thinking.
Michael Halliday's functional grammar (1994), which describes speech as simultaneously multifunctional, shows beautiful fit with connectionist and neuroscientific visions of cognition as distributed process; parallel distributed multifunctionality may be seen both in the way speech evokes cognitive organization in a reader or hearer, and in the way linguistic forms are exit-organized (the way action is organized) from active structures at many sites. This sort of understanding of how language works was also being suggested by Ronald Langacker on grammar and by Leonard Talmy on spatial terms, both in 1983.
Walter Ong has written lucidly about the cognitive differences between oral and literate uses of natural language (1982). I.A.Richards, whose writing of the 1930s has recently been republished (1991), studied neuroscience and wrote about writing in ways that seem to me to be based on a vision something like mine. Paul Valery (1958), and George Whalley more recently (1985), wrote with a similar clarity, in their cases based on precise attention to technical effect in poetry. Palpable behind Richards, Valery and Whalley are the Romantic cognitivists of the 1700s, particularly Coleridge, exquisite phenomenologist of his own process, rummaging though every sort of theory that might help him discover what a poet is.
Denis Smalley's (1992) gave me a perceptive description of simulational structure evoked by music, and Manfred Clynes (1978) shows how musical style is cognitive style.
Barbara Stafford recently (1991,1996) and Rudolf Arnheim prophetically (1969), have noticed that we need a cognitive explanation of pictorial representation. Gibson (1970) began to give one.
Nelson Goodman has written carefully on formal notation (1968), and Max Black (1962) on metaphors and models.
Naturalizing mathematical and scientific knowledge can be taken as a kind of hardest case: if we can show how these kinds of knowing are built on evolved and developed physical capabilities of bodies in the world, we take one of the dualist strongholds.
Penelope Maddy in the philosophy of mathematics (1980, 1984, 1988) shows how mathematical knowledge can be based on evolved abilities to perceive and act. Mary Tiles' elegant work in the philosophy of set theory (1989) shows how to understand the theory of sets as a representation system and not as a sort of empirical description of abstract objects. Michael Reddy (1979) and George Lakoff (1987) have discussed basic level metaphors structuring discourse about representing in general.
In the 1990s and early 2000s there has been new attention to the essential embodiment of cognition. Andy Clark (1997), Dana Ballard (1997), Susan Hurley (1998), Esther Thelen (1995), and Alva Noe (2000) have supported my inklings in this area. Nancy Tuana (2000) has thought carefully about how to defend the cognitive value of the natural world in realist terms, while acknowledging the evolved and encultured kinks of its human observers.
Terrence Deacon's (1997) brings evolutionary and developmental considerations to language. Linguists such as Eva Sweetser on polysemy (1990) and Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner on conceptual blends (1996), are writing from a sophisticated sense that the effective locus of language is not the term but the cognitive structure it evokes.
Ed Hutchins' cognitive anthropology of navigation (1995) shows how socially distributed cognition -- by which people have distributed roles in a common task -- is also distributed over representational forms, for instance, natural language, numbers and charts. Hutchins adds that instruments and notation systems are ways of pre-organizing cognitive jobs and, for trained users, of setting up reliable short cuts, the way memorizing a multiplication table saves computation. This is an important addition because many things about representation practices (clichés, line drawings, computers) can be understood as publically embodied pre-organization.
Scott Liddell (1995) has been writing about spatial simulation as a normal part of linguistic function in American Sign Language. Lakoff, Talmy and others had been showing how language is used to set up imagined spatial action, but Liddell adds the idea that the space of the hand -- the restricted space of object handling, directly in front of the body -- can be used the same way full-body space is used, to support simulation of non-present contexts and actions. He calls this compressed sub-space, whose use is specifically representational, token space.
Eugene Ferguson (1977) writes about pictorial thinking in science and engineering, and Samuel Edgerton (1991) makes an impressive case for a founding influence of perspective drawings on Renaissance science.
Denise Schmandt-Besserat's (1992) on clay tokens as precursors for written mathematical and natural language seems to belong with Liddell's paper -- something about the relation of hand and eye, as built into the brain, is critical to our ability to make and use representation systems.
Fritz Perls' Gestalt therapy works out many of the practical implications of understanding knowledge in terms of structured persons.
Gaston Bachelard (1968) and Evelyn Fox Keller (1985) have been brilliant advocates of attention to metaphors structuring science, and thirty years of feminist scrutiny have engrained this habit in relation to any theoretical discourse.
Robert Rosen (1979, 1985, 1991) has been saying we have trouble modeling biological process because the formalisms we are using are Newtonian formalisms made to model the relations between sets of structureless points, which do not self-repair or self-replicate. As a consequence they cannot model reflexive or reentrant processes, and thus cannot track the self-construction, self-modification and self-replication of biological parts.
A shift in the way we understand systems is implicit in much of the work I have used. Gleick's summary of current work in non-linear systems was a thrilling introduction. Susan Oyama's crisp work on co-causation (1985, 1993), Tim van Gelder's vision of cognitive dynamics (1995), and Stuart Kauffman's rethinking of evolution in complex systems terms (1993) have helped with aspects of the shift. Barry Truax has written about the implications of a complex systems paradigm for computer music composition in particular and art in general (1984).
In neuroscience my best sources have been Karl Pribram (1971, 1991), Gerald Edelman on neural groups and cortical reentry (1986, 1987, 1992, 1998), Hanna and Antonio Damasio on distributed and convergent cortical function (1993, 1994, 1999), Theodore Bullock on neural multifunctionality (1993), Giacomo Rizzolati (1995, 1995, 1997) on action observation circuits, and Leslie Ungerleider (1991, 1995, 1998) and M-Marsel Mesulam (1981, 1990) on frontal-parietal networks in spatial function. Read in the context of network neuroscience, Donald Hebb (1949) and Kurt Goldstein (1939) are inspired anticipations. My project began with suggestions in Margaret Livingstone and David Hubel's (1989) on what and where streams in secondary visual cortex.
The introduction to Martha Nussbaum's (1991) makes a brave defence of innovations in philosophical tone.
I have grateful affection for these people and want everyone to know what they have done. The fact that I can set their beautiful work into a common frame gives me confidence in the frame.