Catching Ourselves in the Act

Situated Activity, Interactive Emergence, Evolution, and Human Thought

Catching Ourselves in the Act uses situated robotics, ethology, and developmental psychology to erect a new framework for explaining human behavior. Rejecting the cognitive science orthodoxy that formal task-descriptions and their implementation are fundamental to an explanation of mind, Horst Hendriks-Jansen argues for an alternative model based on the notion of interactive emergence.

Situated activity and interactive emergence are concepts that derive from the new discipline of autonomous agent research. Hendriks-Jansen puts these notions on a firm philosophical basis and uses them to anchor a "genetic" or "historical" explanation of mental phenomena in species-typical activity patterns that have been selected by a cultural environment of artifacts, language, and intentional scaffolding by adults. Situated robotics, allied with techniques and principles from ethology, allows the testing of hypotheses framed in terms of natural kinds that can be grounded through the theory of natural selection. This approach negotiates the "nature versus nurture" dispute in a radically new way.

Catching Ourselves in the Act provides a thorough overview of autonomous agent research in America and Europe, focusing in particular on work by such eminent researchers as Rodney Brooks, Pattie Maes, Maja Mataric, and Rolf Pfeifer. It reassesses the basic principles of artificial life and explores the repercussions of autonomous agent research for human psychology and the philosophy of mind, as well as its affinities with the "contextual revolution" in sociology and anthropology.

A Bradford Book

Complex Adaptive Systems

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. 1. Situated Robotics, Natural Selection, and Cultural Scaffolding: The Ingredients of a Historical Explanation
  3. 2. Computers, Models, and Theories
  4. 3. Internal Representation and Natural Selection: Epistemological and Ontological Strains in the Cognitive Approach
  5. 4. Connectionism: Its Promise and Limitations as Currently Conceived
  6. 5. Scientific Explanation of Behavior: The Approach Through Formal Task Definition
  7. 6. Scientific Explanation of Behavior: The Logic of Evolution and Learning
  8. 7. Toward a Working Definition of Activity: Recent Developments in AI That Try to Come to Terms with the S-Domain
  9. 8. An Examination of Alternative Conceptual Frameworks for Autonomous Agent Research
  10. 9. Models of Behavior Selection
  11. 10. A New Type of Model
  12. 11. Ethology: The Basic Concepts and "Orienting Attitudes"
  13. 12. Critiques and Modifications of the Basic Concepts of Ethology
  14. 13. Ethological Explanations of the Integration of Activity Patterns
  15. 14. The Explanatory Relation between Ethology and Autonomous Agent Research
  16. 15. Species-Typical Activity Patterns of Human Infants
  17. 16. Language and the Emergence of Intentionality
  18. 17. Situated Activity, Cultural Scaffolding, and Acts
  19. 18. An Explanatory Framework That Reconciles Biology and Culture
  20. References
  21. Index