Volume 1 · Number 1 · Pages 19–34
Enactive Cognitive Science. Part 1: History and Research Themes

Kevin McGee

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Purpose: This paper is a brief introduction to enactive cognitive science: a description of some of the main research concerns; some examples of how such concerns have been realized in actual research; some of its research methods and proposed explanatory mechanisms and models; some of the potential as both a theoretical and applied science; and several of the major open research questions. Findings: Enactive cognitive science is an approach to the study of mind that seeks to explain how the structures and mechanisms of autonomous cognitive systems can arise and participate in the generation and maintenance of viable perceiver-dependent worlds – rather than more conventional cognitivist efforts, such as the attempt to explain cognition in terms of the “recovery” of (pre-given, timeless) features of The (objectively-existing and accessible) World. As such, enactive cognitive science is resonant with radical constructivism. Research implications: As with other scientific efforts conducted within a constructivist orientation, enactive cognitive science is broadly “conventional” in its scientific methodology. That is, there is a strong emphasis on testable hypotheses, empirical observation, supportable mechanisms and models, rigorous experimental methods, acceptable criteria of validation, and the like. Nonetheless, this approach to cognitive science does also raise a number of specific questions about the scope of amenable phenomena (e.g., meaning, consciousness, etc.) – and it also raises questions of whether such a perspective requires an expansion of what is typically considered within the purview of scientific method (e.g., the role of the observer/scientist).

Key words: cognition, radical constructivism, olfactory system, autonomy, umwelt, concepts, Francisco Varela


McGee K. (2005) Enactive cognitive science. Part 1: History and research themes. Constructivist Foundations 1(1): 19–34. http://constructivist.info/1/1/019

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