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Born to be Wild: Faust, Pinocchio and the Marlboro Man meet the Embodied Other

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  • Illinois State Univeristy
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... Wild Systems Theory (WST) is a theoretical framework developed for cognitive science specifically (Jordan and Day 2016a,b, Jordan and Heidenreich 2010, Jordan and Ghin 2006, and the relationships between the arts and sciences, and culture and the sciences, in general (Jordan 2006, Jordan andVinson 2012). WST attempts to establish the reality of experience by conceptualizing organisms as multi-scale, self-sustaining, embodiments of context. ...
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The purpose of the present paper is to make a case for the reality of experience by conceptualizing it in terms of self-sustaining embodied context, as opposed to subjective or mental properties entailed in physical bodies. In need of a way to refer to the pat- terns we find in embodied context (i.e., experience) without using terms derived from physical-mental, objective-subjective dialectics, we examine the utility of discussing embodied context in terms of presence. At its core, presence refers to the persistent Now that runs through all our experiences, and stands in contrast to the “block universe” approach to reality. We then examine how the notion of embodied context speaks to the conceptualization of time entailed in the concept of presence, while simultaneously address- ing the notions of bodies, intentionality, and phenomenology in a manner that is consistent with the notion of presence, yet renders presence causal and, therefore, non-epiphenomenal.
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Historically, the concept intentionality referred to the apparent directedness of human consciousness. Given experimental psychology's turn-of-the-century shift from consciousness to behavior, intentionality is now treated as the pre-specification of motor output, while consciousness is considered a post-stimulus, attention-attenuated input phenomenon. The present contribution challenges this approach by presenting data that indicate perception to be just as intentional as action. An alternative approach to intentionality and consciousness is then proposed, which conceptualizes organisms as energy-transformation systems that emerged, phylogenetically, via the struggle for available energy. Such systems are able to sustain themselves (i.e., survive) because they are autocatalytic; their transformation states produce products that feed back into the system as fuel. In addition, such systems are embodiments; their internal transformation states constitute encapsulations (i.e., internalizations) of transformation states that used to exist outside of the organism. Given this notion of autocatalytic embodiment, the following points are argued: (1) such systems are inherently intentional (i.e., end-directed), for the only way they can remain intact (i.e., alive) is via the active, continuous offset of perturbation to the autocatalytic transformation states that sustain them, and (2) the 'feels' traditionally referred to as consciousness, derive from the embedded, embodied, end-directed 'of-ness' inherent in all autocatalytic systems. Historically, the concept intentionality referred to the apparent directedness of human consciousness. Given experimental psychology's turn-of-the-century shift from consciousness to behavior, intentionality is now treated as the pre-specification of motor output, while consciousness is considered a post-stimulus, attention-attenuated input phenomenon. The present contribution challenges this approach by presenting data that indicate perception to be just as intentional as action. An alternative approach to intentionality and consciousness is then proposed, which conceptualizes organisms as energy-transformation systems that emerged, phylogenetically, via the struggle for available energy. Such systems are able to sustain themselves (i.e., survive) because they are autocatalytic; their transformation states produce products that feed back into the system as fuel. In addition, such systems are embodiments; their internal transformation states constitute encapsulations (i.e., internalizations) of transformation states that used to exist outside of the organism. Given this notion of autocatalytic embodiment, the following points are argued: (1) such systems are inherently intentional (i.e., end-directed), for the only way they can remain intact (i.e., alive) is via the active, continuous offset of perturbation to the autocatalytic transformation states that sustain them, and (2) the 'feels' traditionally referred to as consciousness, derive from the embedded, embodied, end-directed 'of-ness' inherent in all autocatalytic systems.
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Dewey (1896)claimed that the word stimulus, if it is to be used in descriptions of organism–environment coordinations at all, should be used to refer, not to environmental events, but rather, to that aspect of the coordination specifying the state of affairs the coordination is striving to maintain. The present paper recasts Dewey’s critique by claiming that this specifying aspect of the coordination resides within a continuously generated, anticipatory body-in-the-environment “feel” that is not the result of afference. This theory of anticipatory consciousness is based primarily upon a synthesis of (1) Vandervert’s (1995) neuropositivistic integration of Lotka’s (1945) theoretical arguments regarding the prey-predator scenario, and Melzack’s (1992) empirical work on phantom limbs, and (2) research on a recently reported perceptual phenomenon known as the Phantom Array (Hershberger, 1987), the existence of which supports the theory of anticipatory consciousness. This recasting of Dewey’s coordination-specifying “stimulus” is then used to reveal conceptual inadequacies that arise within representationalist theories of perception, for such theories tend to ignore Dewey’s critique and theorize perception to be a response to environmental stimuli. Such theorizing leads to the following inappropriate conclusions: (1) perception lags behind the world, (2) the perceiver’s view of the world is inherently inaccurate and incomplete, and (3) their exists a “physical” world of which we experience but appearances. The presented theory of anticipatory consciousness reveals that (1) the sequencing of perception is determined more by the control of body–environment relationships than by the moment of information transduction (i.e., transfer delays), (2) perceptual accuracy should be measured in terms of sensory-motor success versus the degree of correspondence between mental representations and the material world, and (3) the “objects” found in the world beyond the organism are not ontological, a priori “givens” in need of representation prior to entering phenomenology, but rather, are invariant thermodynamic “information structures” that find themselves “realized” within an organism’s field of control. Based on these arguments, it is then concluded that it is the material world, not perception, which qualifies as inference, and J. J. Gibson’s theory of direct perception, which does not demand the inference of a “material” world is, thus, the more parsimonious.
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The concept of contextual emergence has been introduced as a speci?c kind of emergence in which some, but not all of the conditions for a higher-level phenomenon exist at a lower level. Further conditions exist in contingent contexts that provide stability conditions at the lower level, which in turn accord the emergence of novelty at the higher level. The purpose of the present paper is to propose that (proto-) consciousness is a contextually emergent property of self-sustaining systems. The core assumption is that living organisms constitute self-sustaining embodiments of the contingent contexts that accord their emergence. We propose that the emergence of such systems constitutes the emergence of content-bearing systems because the lower-level processes of such systems give rise to and sustain the macro-level whole (i.e., body) in which they are nested, while the emergent macro-level whole constitutes the context in which the lower- level processes can be for something (i.e., be functional). Such embodied functionality is necessarily and naturally about the contexts that it has embodied. It is this notion of self- sustaining embodied aboutness that we propose to represent a type of content capable of evolving into consciousness.