Let the explanation fit the theorist - Enactive explanatory pluralism and the representation debate

Conference Date
Lyon, France
Date Published
September 2017
Conference Date: 2017, Vol. 14, Pages 283-289.
(doi: 10.7551/ecal_a_049)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
Article PDF (596.53 KB)

Discourse in the representation debate within cognitive science employs a problematic model of explanations, which needs to be challenged. What makes a good explanation, even on a philosophically realist interpretation, depends not only on the agreed facts regarding a phenomenon, but also intrinsically on the purposes of the theorist. While one might expect traditional cognitivists to be oblivious to these considerations, it is ironic that outspoken proponents of enactivism ignore them. It is also open for debate whether there is any objective fact of the matter regarding whether a given system makes use of representational content or not. Intentional systems theory is compatible with anti-realism regarding representations, as are philosophies of science such as constructive empiricism. I argue that, due to the diversity of the discipline, different theorists within cognitive science have legitimately different explanatory needs, and that this merits both nonrepresentational and representational explanations of the very same system.