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Pragmatism, enactivism, and ecological psychology: towards a unified approach to post-cognitivism

  • Manuel Heras-EscribanoEmail author
S.I.: Radical Views on Cognition


This paper argues that it is possible to combine enactivism and ecological psychology in a single post-cognitivist research framework if we highlight the common pragmatist assumptions of both approaches. These pragmatist assumptions or starting points are shared by ecological psychology and the enactive approach independently of being historically related to pragmatism, and they are based on the idea of organic coordination, which states that the evolution and development of the cognitive abilities of an organism are explained by appealing to the history of interactions of that organism with its environment. It is argued that the idea of behavioral or organic coordination within the enactive approach gives rise to the sensorimotor abilities of the organism, while the ecological approach emphasizes the coordination at a higher-level between organism and environment through the agent’s exploratory behavior for perceiving affordances. As such, these two different processes of organic coordination can be integrated in a post-cognitivist research framework, which will be based on two levels of analysis: the subpersonal one (the neural dynamics of the sensorimotor contingencies and the emergence of enactive agency) and the personal one (the dynamics that emerges from the organism-environment interaction in ecological terms). If this proposal is on the right track, this may be a promising first step for offering a systematized and consistent post-cognitivist approach to cognition that retain the full potential of both enactivism and ecological psychology.


Pragmatism Enactivism Ecological psychology Affordances Cognitive science 



Thanks to the audience at the Ways of Enaction Conference held in Fortaleza (Brasil) in September 2017 for their comments, and to Manuel de Pinedo and Ezequiel Di Paolo for their fruitful comments and suggestions to an earlier version of this paper.


This paper has been funded thanks to a 2018 Leonardo Grant for Researchers and Cultural Creators, BBVA Foundation (The Foundation accepts no responsibility for the opinions, statements and contents included in the project and/or the results thereof, which are entirely the responsibility of the authors), the Project FFI2016-80088-P funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, and the FiloLab Group of Excellence funded by the Universidad de Granada, Spain.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IAS Research Center on Life, Mind, and Society, Department of Logic and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of the Basque CountryDonostia-San SebastiánSpain

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