Complexity and Extended Phenomenological-Cognitive Systems

Michael Silberstein, Elizabethtown College
Anthony Chemero, Marshall University


The complex systems approach to cognitive science invites a new understanding of extended cognitive systems. According to this understanding, extended cognitive systems are heterogenous, composed of brain, body, and niche, non-linearly coupled to one another. This view of cognitive systems, as non-linearly coupled brain-body-niche systems, promises conceptual and methodological advances. In this article we focus on two of these. First, the fundamental interdependence among brain, body, and niche makes it possible to explain extended cognition without invoking representations or computation. Second, cognition and conscious experience can be understood as a single phenomenon, eliminating fruitless philosophical discussion of qualia and the so-called hard problem of consciousness. What we call "extended phenomenological-cognitive systems" are relational and dynamical entities, with interactions among heterogeneous parts at multiple spatial and temporal scales. © 2011 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.