Book Notice: Radicalizing Enactivism, by Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin

Hutto and Myin’s Radicalizing Enactivism is a great little book that’s short and to the point. Their master argument is fairly simple though it’s implications are profound. They argue that cognitive science’s tacit reliance on notions of information “content” is incompatible with explanatory naturalism (the “Hard Problem of Content”), and the only solution is to abandon the idea that basic minds essentially involve content. If they are right, Hutto and Myin’s critique would collapse the vehicle/content distinction because if there is no content, there is nothing for the vehicle to carry; there is only the actual, physical activity of the vehicle.

I agree almost entirely with their critique and believe the Hard Problem of Content is indeed hard and spells disaster for most analytic philosophy of mind as well as contemporary cognitive science. My only complaint is that their Radical Enactive Cognition account is not radical enough, hard as that may be to believe. Hutto and Myin try to distance themselves from Type A physicalism and lean towards a softer Type B, “gappy” materialism of some kind, but in the end their position is ontologically equivalent to Type A physicalism and their only recourse against this slippery slope is seemingly practical: their position is already hard to sell, and making it more radical would make it even more difficult, even though I believe this is the logical outcome of their argument. Overall, philosophers would do well to grapple with the deep, fundamental issues raised in Hutto and Myin’s book. 5/5

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1 Comment

Filed under Books, Philosophy, Psychology

One response to “Book Notice: Radicalizing Enactivism, by Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin

  1. I have always hated the vehicle/content distinction. What bothers me most is that people use the terminology utterly without argument or discussion, and obviously it tilts us toward certain ways of thinking about thought, and away from others. Imma quote myself (from http://www.jrg3.net/mind/language.html):

    “I may have a box. If I put a cake in the box, then the cake constitutes the contents of the box. I could have put the cake in a different box, in which case that other box would have had the same contents that this box now has. Or I could have put some old newspapers in the box, in which case the same box would have different contents. The box is blank, empty, until I put some contents into it. These are the sorts of images and relationships we drag into play as soon as we invoke the highly loaded term “content”. I have thoughts, that is all. As far as I can tell, I have no separate “contents” of those thoughts. “

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