It is clear that the relationships between cognition and the brain, and cognition and the body more broadly, are far from settled. I wish to argue that there are, in fact, close
relationships between brain and bodily processes, on the one hand, and mental phenomena, on the other. The relationships involved, however, are neither the strong independence of
computationalism and connectionism, nor the eliminative anti-emergentism of some
dynamicists. Instead, they are relationships of emergence of mental processes in particular
kinds of brain and bodily processes — and in biological processes more broadly.
The Emergence of Function and Representation
The biological foundations of cognition are those biological properties and processes that are essential for the emergence of cognition. I will explore the implications for such foundations of an approach to Cognitive Science called interactivism. Interactivism is, in the first instance, a model of the nature and emergence of representation, and, therefore, of cognition. The emergence of representation, in turn, d e p e n d s o n t h e e m e r g e n c e o f n o r m a t i v e f u n c t i o n . S o , t h e m o d e l t o b e o u t l i n e d i s t h a t o f
the emergence of normative function, followed by the emergence of representation as a particular kind of function; the biological foundations are those that are crucial at each step
of emergence. Interactivism is in important respects an instance of dynamic and autonomous agent models, but differs in basic ways from standard positions in both
camps. Correspondingly, it offers a novel range of implications for the biological foundations of cognition.
My focus in this paper is on those biological foundations, and the interactive model
itself has been presented elsewhere (Bickhard, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998; Bickhard & Terveen, 1995; Bickhard & Richie, 1983; Campbell & Bickhard, 1986), so I will present
an inspissated version of the model and the related arguments — hopefully, just enough to
support the exploration of the implications for biological foundations.
Consider a far-from-equilibrium system, such as a candle flame or Benard cells in a pan of water. Benard convection cells form when there is sufficient heat differential between the top and the bottom of a layer of water. The convection cells will persist so long as the heat differential is maintained. Maintenance of the heat differential, in turn, is dependent on whatever external processes are creating it, such as a fire or electrical heat
source underneath the pan holding the water. The crucial point for my current purposes is that the maintenance of the far-from-equilibrium system is dependent on processes external to the system itself.