Ontological and epistemological definitions of affordances (as per previous post). (2/5)

The ontology of affordances (based on my previous post), then, defines affordances as physical properties inherent to the object/agent that may be acted upon only by other compatible objects/agents.

The specific affordance to-be-explained is derived from the specific physical properties with the object/agent and they are necessarily constrained/restricted by both the body of the object/agent and the physical properties of the environment. For example, our legs are able to move in some ways but not others, we are restricted in the movement of our legs by a) the physical properties of the make-up of our leg (the knee puts the most obvious restriction) and b) the physical properties of the make-up of the environment in which it is currently in (living in a gas allows relatively free movement of the leg -compared to living in water, for example, but gravity will “restrict” -probably more accurate to say control here- us in one sense, whereas, say direct physical constraint -someone holding your feet down- restricts us in another sense). Here, thus, it should be obvious to see that Physics, Chemistry and Biology are necessarily implicated as the basis upon which determines what is a restriction and what is a constraint.

The most important part; defining affordances minimalistically ontologically, avoids many of the ontological consequences faced when defining affordances as relationships (by leading to some form of idealism), although, as I will argue, affordances within objects/agents depend on each other epistemologically. I believe this is also the consequence by using the definitions of realisation and actualisation for the epistemological reliance of affordances.

Realisation and actualisation is the, how we come in contact with, how we gain knowledge of, what affordances do. What we do. How we do them. Since (if I’ve got this right) (radical) embodied cognitive science posits that, consciousness, cognition, memory (and many other representationalist terms) are not properties of the brain -but things we do– then I think it appropriate to the central ideas of rECS. I use “radical Embodied Cognitive Science” instead of embodied cognition due to the well argued taxonomy that Chemero presents in his book. Radical does not get a capitol letter however, to make the point that the theory is not radical in and of itself (like Chemero argues) but is merely a distinction from Embodied Cognition. This distinction seems to me necessary because of Chemero’s arguments.

Affordances rely on the mechanisms of realisation and actualisation.

Realisation is to do with what Wilson & Golonka discusses on their blog, that which is perceptible necessarily contains information, if I understood it correctly (energy array etc., their definition is brilliant and me rewriting it would not do it justice, it also serves my purposes well).

Actualisation is to do with the coupling, when we act on the perceived affordances.

Objects exist when we are not there to perceive them; realisation, but not actualisation. It should be obvious that once we have perceived an object and some of its affordances, the realisation is retained by virtue of the compatible affordances of both the affordances of the object and the affordances of the agent. As of yet however, I believe the affordances of the agent are necessary (we can realise the affordance we need in an object in order to actualise the affordance perceived of our body).

Failing when doing; I don’t see this as an issue, why would it be? This type of reasoning belongs to Evil Philosopher type arguments, in that, because we “get it wrong” then it somehow reflects on the actual mechanism of perception and/or action. I do not believe this is so. Direct perception gives us the information that we are able to perceive and act upon, but in my mind there has to be a perturbance or something not yet perceived to disrupt our ability to actually carry out, actualise, affordances. And, objections like that seem to assume that we are perfect beings. As I see it, our sensory modalities are limited, we are not the pinnacle of “creation”, we will get things “wrong” -but like all other philosophy of mind objections it doesn’t have a bearing on ontology, solely epistemology. We evolved to perceive to survive and reproduce, not to gain a perfect perception of the environment. And that’s ok. Doesn’t have a bearing on affordances since they are defined ontologically without the requirement of being accurate.

Ontology; Affordances, thus, are not defined as realisation and actualisation, but as (simplified here) physical properties reflected by Wilson & Golonka’s definition of information.
Epistemology; Affordances rely on the mechanisms of realisation and actualisation. All three are necessarily constrained by physical properties of themselves individually as well as each other. Objects and agents can be realisable but not actualisable, both in presence and in absence of each other; actualisable only in presence of each other.

Exploding boxes and affordances

If I have understood this correctly, there is an issue with two boxes being identical but only one having a specific affordance -in this case being “pick-up-able” or “touch-able”. Both boxes, to us, are perceived to have the affordance but this is not the case. Therefore, we can’t rely on perception to decide which affordances are available to us.

I am not sure this makes sense. The central point of the masses of words beneath is, does it not assume us to be constant naive explorers of the world? And is this a fair assumption? (Now you don’t have to read all the details, you’re welcome.)

It strikes me however that, the consequence of trying to explore a possible affordance, gives information on which affordances are available to us. Because we are explorers/seekers, we navigate our environment and find out what is, and isn’t. We rely on perception to do so. Is ice walk-on-able? Sometimes. How do we go about finding out? We poke the ice infront of us with a stick, indirectly finding out if the ice is walk-on-able. So we use secondary mechanisms to find out if something has an affordance, if it is not directly perceptible to us, but this relies on that we have seen evidence of it not being able to be relied on by direct perception of our environment. The assumption in the issue may be that we are constant naive explorers, which we aren’t.

Is it not true that both boxes still persist in holding the affordance, only that, in one case we end up exploded and the other we don’t? A big enough box provides the affordance of sitting, regardless of what the consequence of sitting on it is?

It seems to me that this is a classic case of philosophy of mind issues -where we can’t rely on direct perception to perceive what is “actually out there”. For all its worth, if we are to be assumed to be naive explorers, I posit that we will always sit on the exploding chair, touch the exploding box, walk on what is perceived as a solid and rigid surface and so on -because the visual properties, surface and rigidity and so on, lend us to perceive the existence of such an affordance.

So it depends on reliance then. If we rely solely on direct perception (making us constant naive explorers) then objects retain their perceived affordances, regardless of which affordances actually are available to us. If two objects are identical in all perceptible ways, then we can not rely on direct perception to know which affordances are available to us. However. We are not constant naive explorers. We see others interact with objects, get burned on stoves that look like they are turned off. So what do we do? We quickly touch the stove, or look at the knob or hold our hand above the stove.

As for objects, without the involvement of interaction with other things, it is my view that they retain, many, finite number of affordances. These affordances will be available to other objects, but not all affordances to all other objects. Which ones are, will only be realised when another thing, with its own affordances, interact with it, perceive it. With this said, affordances are not the actual relationship between things, it is the fit between one objects affordance and another objects affordance. If they are compatible, then to the specific object, the other object has the specific affordance. They form a relationship, but importantly, both have their affordances retained in the non-presence of each other, if, the affordances are available when interacting with each other.

Example, the structure of DNA contains four characters, only A can bind to B but not C and D and vice versa, in A and Bs absence of each other they both retain the affordance of being able to bind to one other and they both do not have the affordance of binding to C and D. In A and Bs presence of each other they can bind to each other, and thereby realise both of their affordances. In essence, they retain their separate affordances in absence because they can be realised in presence.

No wonder social relationships are so damn important evolutionarily, seeing others being blown up by boxes would surely rule out to me going near any box even similar in visual makeup to the one that exploded!

Ugh.. always feel I lack knowledge when I finish a thought. Either way, these are thoughts associated to http://theboundsofcognition.blogspot.se/2011/01/s-does-not-visually-perceive-pick-up.html and http://psychsciencenotes.blogspot.se/2011/02/fcking-affordances-how-do-they-work.html

Subjective experience of embodied cognition

Two examples in handball and rugby enabling me to subjectively understand continuous reciprocal interaction with one’s environment, without a need to invoke representations.

Handball (large sport in northern, central and eastern European countries)
Playing handball as an outfielder, when I receive the ball in an attacking position, in my visual field are three or so opponents, number doesn’t really matter. What I perceive is a wall with gaps in it, I begin moving towards one of the gaps and as I do it minimizes as a consequence of two defenders moving closer together. I need to get to the gap that I perceive opening up to the side instead and take a quick step towards it sideways and perceive the gap to still be there so I take two steps forward, altering my bodily posture to further avoid the wall I had just stepped past. When thinking about this sequence, there is no real thought, I simply perceive the environment in front of me, attempt to navigate in it, react bodily to the environmental changes occurring. It signifies to me a dynamically reciprocal relationship between the environment and my body, where my brain fills the task of perceiving the changes in the environment and as a consequence alters my motor-movement in response to those changes. I know which movement-possibilities I am able to employ because through training very similar situations, very many times, I have narrowed down which affordances are available to me in other similar situations. If I perceive, in the second instant in the situation that the second gap also is closing in front of me, the only two alternative motor-movements are to either pass the ball on to a teammate or find myself pacified by a defender holding me down. (The second alternative here being non-desirable because it means the energy spent on the previous movements were in vain and I will have to start over from a still-standing position.)

In rugby, much the same type of situation can occur, holding the ball on any given spot on the field, running forward, you perceive the obstacles that you have to move around. Just that, everything in this situation is dynamic because the environment changes depending on your movement and your movement changes the way the environment changes (not unlike the Watt governor). By that, you have to continuously rearrange your movements according to real-time demands. In the subjective experience there is simply no time to even begin explaining complex action-perception movements like this in representationalist terms. Now, this obviously doesn’t mean we don’t have representations at all, or that you can’t express it in those terms, but the point is that I don’t need to invoke them in the subjective experience of the situation, nor do I need to use them in a verbal explanation of it. While they may exist, it is an extra assumption about the world and can we do without extra assumptions, I believe we are getting a better explanation of the world.

While subjective experience itself may be misleading, what I am trying to get across is what a dynamic situation may look like. The type of continuously reciprocal relationship between environment, body and brain, all acting on each other and changing in response to each other, all in real-time. Tim van Gelder in What Might Cognition Be, If Not Computation? provides an elaborate explanation however of systems that do not even seem to make sense to put in computational terms. It goes far deeper than the simple idea that I am trying to get across here and is worth a read.