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date: 19 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

4E cognition offers a viable alternative to the viewpoint of classic cognitivism, providing a coherent, biologically grounded theory of cognitive evolution, which recognizes that bodies evolved before brains, and argues that whatever cognition might be, it must be grounded in the ability of organisms to coordinate and control action in a dynamic environment. In this chapter, I first consider some ideas relating to the minimal criteria for cognition as a means to introduce this more “biogenic” approach. This notion of minimal cognition is then linked to a discussion of the origins of cognition in sensorimotor coordination, as articulated in the “skin-brain thesis,” which argues that early nervous systems enabled coordinated contractions across myoepithelia. Finally, I consider how one particular school of 4E thought, radical enactivism, offers a view of evolutionary continuity that seems well equipped to resist the anthropocentric impulses of traditional cognitivist views.

Keywords: cognitive evolution, skin-brain thesis, minimal cognition, sensorimotor coordination, myoepithelia, Umwelt, biogenic, radical, enactivism, evolutionary continuity, nervous systems

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