Enactivism, Radical Enactivism and Predictive Processing: What is Radical in Cognitive Science?

Klaus Gärtner 1  and Robert W. Clowes 2
  • 1 Center for Philosophy of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (CFCUL),
  • 2 Nova Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA)/Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH),


According to Enactivism, cognition should be understood in terms of a dynamic interaction between an acting organism and its environment. Further, this view holds that organisms do not passively receive information from this environment, they rather selectively create this environment by engaging in interaction with the world. Radical Enactivism adds that basic cognition does so without entertaining representations and hence that representations are not an essential constituent of cognition. Some proponents think that getting rid of representations amounts to a revolutionary alternative to standard views about cognition. To emphasize the impact, they claim that this ‘radicalization’ should be applied to all enactivist friendly views, including, another current and potentially revolutionary approach to cognition: predictive processing. In this paper, we will show that this is not the case. After introducing the problem (section 2), we will argue (section 3) that ‘radicalizing’ predictive processing does not add any value to this approach. After this (section 4), we will analyze whether or not radical Enactivism can count as a revolution within cognitive science at all and conclude that it cannot. Finally, in section 5 we will claim that cognitive science is better off when embracing heterogeneity.

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