An enactive approach to language and mathematics

FWO/NWO onderzoeksprogramma
2015 t/m 2018
Dutch title: Woorden en getallen zonder franje. Een enactieve benadering van taal en wiskunde.

Current mainstream theories about the human mind and cognition model the human mind as analogous to a computer. In these models, the natural, social and cultural environment of the subject play only a secondary role. However, radically different views of the mind have always led a more or less undercover existence both in philosophy and psychology. In recent years, these views have reemerged under the banner of Embodied and Embedded Cognition (EEC).

The Enactivist approach – the most radical alternative to mainstream theories that falls under the banner EEC – argues that the human mind emerges out of, and is constituted by, active engagement with the environment. An advantage of such an approach is that it takes on board the idea that cognition takes place in, and is shaped by, a network of social and cultural practices. Cognitive scientists and philosophers have shown that replacing the computer-metaphor with a view of the mind as embodied active engagement pays off in explaining such basic capabilities as perception, memory and basic social interaction. The aim of this research project is to extend the Enactivist approach by showing how symbolic activities, in particular language and mathematics, can arise from embodied active engagement with the social environment, which currently presents the greatest challenge to EEC. The new branch of sciencecalled bio-semantics is going to play a major role in the execution of this programme.

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) Vlaanderen,
Lead Agency: Onderzoekssamenwerking NWO (3)
Dossier: G0C7315N

Ingediend door:
Prof. dr. E. Myin (Universiteit Antwerpen)
Prof. dr. F.A. Muller (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam).

Vlaams-Nederlandse samenwerking.
Bekend gemaakt door FWO op Woensdag 19 November 2014.
Bedrag: 273 kE.
Behelst: postdoc K. Zahidi (Antwerpen) en promovendus  J.C. van den Herik (EUR).

The Digital Turn in Epistemology

NWO onderzoeksprogramma
2018 t/m 2022
Dutch title: De Digitale Wende in de Kenleer

Embodied, Embedded and Extended Cognition (E3C) marks the recent turn in Epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge. The three adjectives indicate that our knowledge and capacities are not located in our skulls, but extend to, and are distributed over: (i) our bodies, which are always embedded in their environment they interact with; and (ii) the artefacts we use, varying from paper notebooks to computers.

E3C holds that practical knowledge is primary: subject S knows how to perform an action, and that the other kind of knowledge, propositional knowledge, derives from it phylogenetically and ontogenetically — subject S knows that p. The mediation of knowledge acquisition by ICT is becoming so dominant and ubiquitous (smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer, world-wide-web) that Epistemology must take, after the E3C turn, a further, digital turn.  

We concentrate on the following epistemological questions that obtrude: How to make sense of mathematical knowledge after the turn in epistemology to E3C, given its abstract character? Does the digital turn affect the genesis and essence of mathematical knowledge? When practical knowledge is primary and propositional knowledge is derivative (E3C), how does this ‘derivation’ work in a digital environment?  

To answer these pressing philosophical questions, an empirical case study in epistemology will be performed of the acquisition of mathematical knowledge and capacities in a controled ICT-embedded environment — also because the acquisition of these sorts of knowledge and capacities are exact and testable. Moreover, the flexible ICT–tool that this Project develops will also be of great service in mathematics eduction at secondary schools.

The purely philosophical project of inquiring into the effects of the E3C and digital turn in Epistemology on our understanding of what mathematical knowledge is lies in the hands of Daan Dronkers, since 1 February PhD at our Faculty.

Hoofdaanvrager: Prof.dr. F.A. Muller
In samenwerking met: dr. J.M. Broersen (Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Universiteit Utrecht)
                                       dr. A. Bakker (Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Universiteit Utrecht)

Programma heeft drie promovendi: ieder van bovengenoemde begeleidt er een.
Samenwerking tussen de EUR en Universiteit Utrecht
Gehonoreerd. Bekendgemaakt door NWO in de herfst van 2016.
Bedrag: 1 ME.  

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