Volume 11 · Number 2 · Pages 298–307
Perception-Action Mutuality Obviates Mental Construction

Martin Flament-Fultot, Lin Nie & Claudia Carello

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Context: The dominant approach to the study of perception is representational/computational, with an emphasis on the achievements of the brain and the nervous system, which are taken to construct internal models of the world. Alternatives include ecological, embedded, embodied, and enactivist approaches, all of which emphasize the centrality of action in understanding perception. Problem: Despite sharing many theoretical commitments that lead to a rejection of the classical approach, the alternatives are characterized by important contrasts and points of divergence. Here we focus on the enactive and ecological approaches, in particular, on how they construe the status of the environment and the content of perception. Method: We begin with a review of James Gibson’s ecological psychology, highlighting it as a psychology for all organisms not just humans. Against this backdrop, we consider enactivist arguments against direct perception - a central assertion of the ecological approach - and in favor of interpreting the activity of perceptual agents as a kind of construction of a perceptually meaningful world. Results: We assess the merits of this interpretation and we conclude that it cannot be grounded on fundamental principles such as thermodynamics and organism-environment mutuality. Implications: As a consequence, enactivism remains close to representationalism and entails a form of dualism. Constructivist content: We advance a criticism of the constructivist foundations of the enactive approach to perception. Perception-action mutuality at the heart of enactivism does not require mental construction; indeed, perception-action mutuality obviates construction.

Key words: Ecological psychology, Gibson, constructivism, enactivism, perception, representation.


Flament-Fultot M., Nie L. & Carello C. (2016) Perception-action mutuality obviates mental construction. Constructivist Foundations 11(2): 298–307. http://constructivist.info/11/2/298

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