Biological Formulations  

(Preliminary List)

Biological Programs that touch on the Question of What is Knowledge?

Evolutionary epistemology

Cognitive structures have great variety, are species specific and evolve as do any other attributes of species.

Gerald Edelmann (neural patterns evolve during the lifetime of the individual by selecting for successful behaviors)

Behaviors themselves are knowledges that adapt in the lifetime of an individual

Extended phenotype (objects are part of the phenotype in that the genes need specific objects to continue reproduction; e.g. ponds to beavers are part of the phenotype; also borrowed shells, burrows, webs, etc.)

Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela and the autopoetic coupling of knower into environment

Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen on "Figments of reality" couples knowers into features of the environment

Behavioral ecology

Sensory transduction (Responding to stimuli is one of the basic aspects of being alive)

Hierarchy Theory (fundamental disjunction of levels of organization from levels of observation).  See "Hierarchy Theory: A Vision, Vocabulary, and Epistemology,"  Valerie Ahl & T.F.H. Allen, Columbia University Press, 1996.

Developmental Systems Theory - between genes, development and environment no fixed priorities of relevance to growth are recognized, and niche construction and "ecological inheritance" between generations is recognized.  The effect is to heavily reduce the division between internal and external processes as well as support the key role of external processes of organisms..  See "Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution," Oyama, Griffiths & Gray, MIT, 2001.

Tomasello's cultural origins of human cognition posits shared attention (e.g. a mother's pointing for a child to attend to something) and the linkage of causality as allowing learning to be cumulative over generations.  This gives an explicit mechanism in the formation and transmission of relations.  See "The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition," Michael Tomasello, Harvard, 1999.

Stuart Kauffman's theory of organism as an autonomous agent doing at least one work cycle is a strong suggestion of the strong continuity of life and mind (in taking in energy an organism must do work to align its energy receptors; life is thus constitutionally involved in both energy reception and the work of aligning to receive more.)  See "Investigations," Oxford, 2000.

Environmental Complexity Thesis - "The function of cognition is to enable the agent to deal with environmental complexity."  "Complexity and the Function of Mind in Nature," Peter Godfrey-Smith, Cambridge, 1996


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Page updated 2/20/02