Exorcising action oriented representations: ridding cognitive science of its Nazgûl



Publication Details

Hutto, D. (2013). Exorcising action oriented representations: ridding cognitive science of its Nazgûl. Adaptive Behavior: animals, animats, software agents, robots, adaptive systems, 21 (3), 142-150.


This paper reviews two main strategies for dealing with the threat posed by radically enactive/embodied cognition to traditional cognitive science. Both strategies invoke action oriented representations (AORs). They differ in emphasizing different features of AORs in their attempt to answer the REC threat – focusing on their contents and vehicles, respectively. The first two sections review the central motivations and rationales driving the ‘content’ and ‘format’ strategies in turn and raise initial concerns about the tenability of each. With respect to the ‘content’ strategy, these worries ought to make us suspicious about the explanatory value of positing AORs. Although the ‘format’ strategy has a way of answering this concern, it raises a more fundamental worry about the motivation for even believing in AORs in the first place. Although these worries cast doubt on the feasibility of invoking AORs as a means of dealing with the REC threat, they do not constitute conclusive reasons for eliminating AORs altogether. There are other, stronger reasons for supposing that we should. The third section provides a sketch of a master argument, developed elsewhere, which makes that case in full dress fashion. The final section – ‘Resurrection?’ – considers and rejects the possibility that AORs might be resurrected, even if it is agreed that the master argument cited in the third section succeeds.

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