Wild Systems Theory: Overcoming the Computational-Ecological Divide


For years, there has been a tension between computationalist cognitive scientists who utilize the notion of representation and efficient-cause in their accounts of mind, and dynamical-systems oriented ecological psychologists who eschew representationalism and efficient-cause in favor of multi-scale, contingent interactions and embodiment. The present paper presents a recently-developed theory of embodiment, Wild Systems Theory (WST), that was developed to overcome this riff. WST conceptualizes organisms as multi-scale self-sustaining embodiments of the phylogenetic, cultural, social, and developmental contexts in which they emerged and in which they sustain themselves. Such self-sustaining embodiments of context are naturally and necessarily about the multi-scale contexts they embody. As a result, meaning (i.e., content) is constitutive of what they are. This approach to content overcomes the computationalist need for representation while simultaneously satisfying the ecological penchant for multi-scale contingent interactions.

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