• Aucun résultat trouvé

On the relation between the enactive and the sensorimotor approach to perception


Academic year: 2021

Partager "On the relation between the enactive and the sensorimotor approach to perception"

En savoir plus ( Page)

Texte intégral


HAL Id: halshs-00791944


Submitted on 18 Sep 2018

HAL is a multi-disciplinary open access archive for the deposit and dissemination of sci-entific research documents, whether they are pub-lished or not. The documents may come from teaching and research institutions in France or abroad, or from public or private research centers.

L’archive ouverte pluridisciplinaire HAL, est destinée au dépôt et à la diffusion de documents scientifiques de niveau recherche, publiés ou non, émanant des établissements d’enseignement et de recherche français ou étrangers, des laboratoires publics ou privés.

On the relation between the enactive and the

sensorimotor approach to perception

Dario Taraborelli, Matteo Mossio

To cite this version:

Dario Taraborelli, Matteo Mossio. On the relation between the enactive and the sensorimo-tor approach to perception. Consciousness and Cognition, Elsevier, 2008, 17 (4), pp.1343-1344. �10.1016/j.concog.2008.08.002�. �halshs-00791944�


Taraborelli, D., Mossio, M. (in press) On the relation between the enactive and the sensorimotor approach to perception,

Consciousness and Cognition (2008), doi:10.1016/j.concog.2008.08.002

On the relation between the enactive and the

sensorimotor approach to perception

Dario Taraborelli Department of Psychology University College London

Gower Street London WC1E 6BT United Kingdom Matteo Mossio* IHPST CNRS/Université Paris I 13, Rue du Four 75006 Paris France

In Mossio & Taraborelli (2008) we challenged the assumption according to which the ecological and sensorimotor approaches are mere conceptual variations on the same enactive theme. We showed, on the contrary, that they endorse substantially different notions of an “action-dependent perceptual invariant” and we submitted that this distinction has interesting theoretical and empirical implications.

This dissimilarity between ecological and sensorimotor theories stems, in our view, from a more fundamental divergence on the nature of perceptual information. Since Gibson’s work, the ecological approach has adopted a fundamentally realist stance, according to which this information is “picked up”, “revealed”, “encountered” and “exploited” by the organism (as a range of affordances) but not “constituted” by the activity of the organism. In contrast, sensorimotor approaches take an explicit interactivist position, which sees the perceiver’s motor activity as a determinant of perceptual information itself.

Pascal & O’Regan (2008) suggest that our analysis of the relationship between ecological, sensorimotor and enactive theories would benefit from a further distinction. The original enactive approach (Varela et al. 1991; Maturana, 2002; Thompson, 2007), they argue, should not be lumped together with contemporary sensorimotor approaches to perception: whereas sensorimotor theories endorse an externalist view of perception, according to which “perception can only be understood as a form of interaction of the organism with the environment”, the original enactive approach by Varela and collaborators would have strong “idealist underpinnings”.

To address this criticism, we should first clarify that the enactive approach can be regarded as a general theoretical framework on the nature of biological organisms that spawned a variety of strains of research, in particular:

1. an account of how biological autonomous systems constitute themselves across their history of interaction with the environment;

2. a hypothesis on perception as built upon structural couplings between sensory patterns and motor activity;

3. a critical appraisal of the functionalist approach to the study of phenomenology.

* Matteo Mossio's work was partly supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Centre National de la



Pascal & O’Regan submit that the idealist underpinning of Varela’s position can be traced back to his philosophical commitment to an anti-functionalist view of phenomenology, which, in particular, rejects the way in which the problem of consciousness and subjectivity has been framed in mainstream philosophy of mind and cognitive science (3.). However, if we leave aside the phenomenological part of Varela’s work, and focus instead on his view on the nature of perception, then the allegation of “idealism” relies on a fundamental misinterpretation of the enactive approach.1

There are indeed several valid reasons to distinguish the sensorimotor and enactive approaches. We submit, however, that with respect to their view of perception (2.), enactive and sensorimotor theories are fully compatible, insofar as they endorse a substantially identical idea of perceptual information. In this sense, the opposition between externalist sensorimotor theories and idealist enactive theories suggested by Pascal & O’Regan does not seem to point to any relevant conceptual difference between the two approaches.

As Varela puts it:

[t]he enactive approach underscores the importance of two interrelated points: 1) perception consists of perceptually guided action and 2) cognitive structures emerge from the recurrent sensorimotor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided. (Varela et al., 1991, p. 173)

To better understand this characterization, it is worth recalling that one of the tenets of the enactive approach to cognition and perception is the notion of structural coupling:

“Structural coupling” refers to the history of recurrent interactions between two or more systems that leads to a structural congruence between them. (Thompson, 2007, p. 45. See also Maturana & Varela, 1987)

The concept of structural coupling refers to the fact that living systems maintain their identity in a permanent interaction with the external environment so as to preserve their internal organization. Perception and cognition are specific dimensions of the activity in virtue of which biological systems control their relation to the physical world and their own identity. As Varela concludes:

“[w]e found a world enacted by our history of structural coupling” (Varela et al., p. 217).

Far from adopting an idealist perspective on perception, the enactive approach explicitly endorses what Pascal & O’Regan call an externalist stance, given the essential role of sensorimotor interactions with the environment for the self-maintenance of the system. This assumption is substantially equivalent to the position found in O’Regan and Noë (2001) and Noë (2004) when they stress that perception consists in the knowledge of contingencies that link actions with sensory transformations. In conclusion, we believe that the enactive and the sensorimotor approach cannot be theoretically distinguished with respect to their interpretation of the nature of perception or their hypotheses on the relation between the perceiving agent and the environment (2.).

If we consider enaction as a theory of self-organizing autonomous systems (1.), we agree with Pascal & O’Regan that “the use of the word enactive by many sensorimotor theorists leads to confusion”, but we disagree on why this is the case. The fundamental difference between the enactive and the sensorimotor approaches is that whereas the enactive theory of cognition and perception is embedded in a general theory of biological organization, the sensorimotor view of

1 Varela et al. (1991) explicitely reject any idealist interpretation of perception and cognition by noting that

enactivism takes a middle path between “the Scylla of cognition as the recovery of a pregiven outer world (realism) and the Charybdis of cognition as the projection of a pregiven inner world (idealism)” (p.172).



perception might, in principle, be formulated without any commitment to specific biological constraints on the observer.

The enactive approach puts a variety of physical and structural constraints on the kind of systems that can possibly develop cognitive and perceptual capacities. Systems capable of perception and cognition, according to the original enactive view, need to be living systems (or at least possess all the relevant properties that characterize biological organisms) (Maturana & Varela, 1980). Sensorimotor theories, in contrast, do not make any particular distinction on the kind of systems that may display perceptual abilities in virtue of sensorimotor invariants. From a sensorimotor perspective, the capacity to detect and use sensorimotor invariants does not seem to originate from, or be restricted to, biological organization. The same sensorimotor-dependent capacities could, in principle, be implemented in a variety of artificial systems (Philipona et al., 2003), an idea on which enactive theories would be extremely cautious, at the very least.

To sum up, we maintain that–leaving aside phenomenological considerations that were not within the scope of our analysis in Mossio & Taraborelli (2008)–enactive and sensorimotor approaches are fully compatible with respect to their view of perception and can then be contrasted as a whole with ecological approaches. They can however be distinguished from each other with respect to their explanatory scope and on the constraints they put on systems capable of sensorimotor-based perceptual abilities.


1. Maturana, H.R., Varela, F (1980). Autopoiesis and Cognition. Dordrecht: Kluwer. 2. Maturana, H.R., Varela, F. (1987). The tree of knowledge. Boston: New Science Library. 3. Mossio, M., Taraborelli, D. (2008). Action-dependent perceptual invariants: From

ecological to sensorimotor approaches, Consciousness and Cognition, in press. 4. Noë, A. (2004). Action in perception, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

5. O’Regan, J.K., Noë, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account on vision and visual consciousness, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(5), 939-1011.

6. Pascal, F.P. & O’Regan, J.K. (2008). Commentary On Mossio and Taraborelli: Is the enactive approach really sensorimotor?, Consciousness and Cognition, in press.

7. Philipona, D., O’Regan, J.K., and Nadal, J.-P. (2003) Is there something out there? Inferring space from sensorimotor dependencies. Neural Computation 15, 9.

8. Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

9. Varela F., Thompson E., & Rosch E. (1991). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science


Documents relatifs

Isto se justifica pelo fato de que este tipo de interpretação, como veremos, nos abre um caminho para compreendermos que aquilo que se passa na experiência perceptual é irredutível

En el presente docu- mento me propongo explorar una alternativa diferente a las posiciones de la filosofía analítica para tratar de comprender no solo la configuración del

Changsha, Hunan 410081, People’s Republic of China jiaolongche n@sina.com Hunan Normal University, Department of Mathematics,.. Changsha, Hunan 410081, People’s Republic

La région de Cheria est un synclinal orienté NE-SW, qui supporte un bassin versant avec une forme générale, grossièrement, triangulaire, dont la pointe est orientée vers le

Le regroupement des informations générales concernant l’enfant et son environnement linguistique s’est fait grâce à l’utilisation du questionnaire parental Beyrouth-Tours

Er, Nigaud, habe ihm darauf einen dreifachen Vorschlag unterbreitet: Überlassung der Leitung des Unternehmens an ihn, der jährlich eine Ge- winnrate von 600 Kronen

USDA and IICA designed to build the capacities of the staff of the Agricultural Health and Protection Institute (IPSA) in the area of plant health protection, specifically with

a) Free from the pressure to be linguistically perfect, the students gradually became aware of their ability to translanguage. They developed great confidence

tasks, and moreover improving learning of non-manual knowledge, through enactive computer-based systems, such as those sketched by virtual reality systems, robotics,

(2014), 'The memorization of in-line sensorimotor invariants: toward be- havioral ontogeny and enactive agents', Artificial Life and Robotics 19(2), 127-135..

Finally, by com- puting similarities between the internal representations obtained from the agent’s different sensory streams, it shall be shown that the agent is able to build

Keywords: Mixed methods, enactive phenomenological approach, Trier Social Stress Test, psychosocial stress, experience, experimental protocol, HPA axis, cortisol, anxiety..

Of course, we cannot say anything about weak quasi-Miura transfor- mations, since it is even not clear in which class of functions we have to look for its deformations, but we still

results The force signals exhibited two phases: a transient phase, similar to a damped sinusoid with a dominant frequency around 5 Hz when the players scrummaged alone and with

We report a case of a COVID-19 infection in a liver transplant recipient, in which the first clinical symptoms were abdominal pain without fever or respiratory symptoms..

Using a physics simulation environment we show that self-organized locomotion may result in complex phase spaces which include limit cycle corresponding to regular movements and

To investigate a hypothesis of a developmental origin of adult disorders, we showed in the present study that reduced and abnormal patterns of somatosensory inputs after hind

the thirteen lava flows of the present study is in poorer agreement with the expected geocentric axial dipole field direction and suggests that a larger flow number is required

In particular, we emphasize the role of somatosensory feedback, which, in light of its influence on planning and control, may serve as a calibration signal conditioning our

The enactive approach rejects the classical computational dichotomy between perception and action. Instead, the proponents of the enactive approach argue for a stronger relation

Indeed, contrary to the enactive view that one's sensorimotor knowledge of the sensory consequences of one's own bodily movements is the main source of the phenomenal content of

Par conséquent, la problématique retenue dans notre étude consiste à nous demander quel a été, pour le Canada, l'impact de la promotion de son identité nationale en

If this TLV is advertised multiple times for the same link in different OSPFv2 Extended Link Opaque LSAs originated by the same OSPFv2 router, the OSPFv2 Extended Link TLV in