CALL FOR PAPERS. Special Issue of the Journal Synthese: RADICAL VIEWS ON COGNITION

Guest Editor(s): Marcos Silva (Federal University of Alagoas) and Francicleber Ferreira
(Federal University of Ceará)

Special Issue Description:

Several contemporary philosophers have been developing tenets in pragmatism (broadly construed) to motivate it as an alternative philosophical foundation for a comprehensive understanding of cognition, opposed to a far-reaching representationalist tradition.
This long-established representationalist tradition in philosophy of mind and cognitive science defends that cognition is fundamentally content-involving. On the other side, some radical contenders advocate that cognition is neither basically representational nor does it involve, as in usual internalist views, processing or manipulating informational contents. They call attention to the importance of inherited and embodied practices and social interactions in order to understand relevant topics in perception, language and the nature of intentionality. They take seriously evolving biological systems and situated individuals interacting in communities over time as preconditions of our rationality, features often dismissed as not central in the representationalist and internalist tradition.

More recently, some approaches incorporate further biological insights into the debate about cognition, by calling attention to basic facts about living organisms such as their perpetual activity of self-construction (autopoiesis), their need to be constantly adapting
to the changing conditions of the environment (adaptivity), and their selective responsiveness to specific aspects of the environment creating their own world of significance (enaction). Following on this trend, radically enactivist approaches take the bold further step of proposing the complete removal of representational content in the
explanation of cognition in basic minds, not only for simple organisms but also at human level. Accordingly, the conservative view that content is the mark of the cognitive should be rejected.

Together with embodied, embedded, ecological approaches, this radical research program has been successful in providing explanations for a wide variety of basic cognitive phenomena. However, a straight solution to the full naturalization of the concept of content and mental representations requires, among other points, explaining how it is possible to get from informational foundations that are allegedly non-contentful to a full theory of mental content using only naturalist resources.

Despite the achievements of the non-representationalist front, the representationalist side has recently been putting forward powerful proposals based on a content-based view of cognition. Additionally, critics concerning the possibility of a full-fledged enactivist program have been posed, such as the so-called “scale-up objection”, namely, the challenge of proving itself relevant for the investigation of traditional problems related to higher level cognition involving concepts such as contentful information, representational states, symbolic thought, logic, mathematics, etc.

As the recent developments witness, the question has not yet been settled and the debates are reaching a critical point.

This special issue aims to be a venue where radical views on cognition can be proposed, defended and criticized, and opposing views can be confronted in order to give a further step towards a resolution of the dispute.

Appropriate Topics for Submission include, among others:

  • Enactivism and Pragmatism
  • Representationalism vs Anti-representationalism
  • Enactivism and its critics
  • Enactivism and Language
  • Enactive approaches to Intentionality, Imagination, Memory and/or Perception
  • Enactive approaches to formal sciences as Logic and Mathematics
  • Cognition and artificial intelligence without content

For further information, please contact the guest editor(s):

Papers should be submitted via the editorial manager at by the deadline for Aug 1, 2018.

When the system asks you to “Choose Article Type”, scroll down in the pulldown menu to “S.I. Radical Views on Cognition”.

Before submitting your paper, please, read carefully the Synthese “Instructions for Authors” at:


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