Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Concepts as They Relate to Autonomy

Joel Parthemore

The enactive movement in philosophy has spent considerable time and effort trying to come to grips with the concept of autonomy, which they relate closely to the concepts of organizational closure and autopoiesis. Concepts as, roughly speaking, units of structured thought that are per Evans' Generality Constraint systematic and productive, relate to autonomy in two key ways.

First, I will hold that concepts are always concepts for a particular agent or agents, who must be autonomous agents. However, if all life exhibits autonomy per the enactive definition, then clearly not just any kind of autonomy will do!  The relevant kind of autonomy follows from Kant's notion of spontaneity, what Jesse Prinz has also called endogenous control: to wit, conceptual agents must be the active shapers of the concepts they possess and not simply passive repositories.

Second, and in tension with the first point, is the way that concepts are, particularly with the advent of written language, treated as though they, themselves, were autonomous. I will advance some arguments why this is a useful, possibly even necessary, fiction, but a fiction nevertheless.

Finally, I will offer some thoughts on the consequences of these discussions for empirical research in the area of e.g. so-called machine consciousness.