Mechanicism and Autonomy: What Can Robotics Teach Us About Human Cognition and Action?
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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It is argued in this paper that robots are just quasi-autonomous beings, which must be understood, within an emergent systems view, as intrinsically linked to and presupposing human beings as societal creatures within a technologically mediated world. Biosemiotics is introduced as a perspective on living systems that is based upon contemporary biology but reinterpreted through a qualitative organicist tradition in biology. This allows for emphasizing the differences between (1) an organism as a general semiotic system with vegetative and self-reproductive capacities, (2) an animal body also with sentience and phenomenal states, and (3) higher forms of anthroposemiotic systems such as humans, machines and robots. On all three levels, representations (or sign action) are crucial processes. The “representationalism” invoked by critiques of cognitive science and robotics tends to focus only on simplistic notions of representation, and must be distinguished from a Peircean or biosemiotic notion of representation. Implications for theorizing about the physical, biological, animate, phenomenal and social body and their forms of autonomy are discussed.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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