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.

On the definition of affordances. (1/5)

This is most definitely a work under progress. These thoughts came from criticising Anthony Chemero’s “Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, ch. 7 “Affordances etc.” and concludes with the (in)famously ambiguous quote from Gibson on what affordances are defined as.

If affordances are defined as the relation between (or, the relation between is a part of the definition). Then an object need not exist if an agent is not perceiving it. It can, but it needn’t. This will incorporate idealism in full or in part and this is unsatisfactory.

If affordances are defined as the individual ability of an agent and the property of an object, then neither are necessarily coupled. Also unsatisfactory.

However, if abilities and properties are given a compatibility value (a, metaphorical, mathematical/numerical range), which, if in perception of each other are [also] within each others’ range and can thus be combined/actualised/realised. Then, if this is what we wish to call an affordance, is inherent individually in the object and the agent (and thus exist without the presence of each other) but can only be actualised in presence of each other (or by other agents/objects within the same range). Thus, an affordance is neither solely subjective, nor objective, at the same point in time. Or both, if you will. (I hope I got at least a chuckle from this rephrasing of Gibson.)

This view is compatible with evolutionary aspects, ecological aspects but is not selectionist [things Chemero makes a good point of what we should want]. In short and simple, there are many, albeit finite, number of affordances and those that have been directly linked to survival and reproduction (which are temporally and situationally dependent, although this specific aspect falls under biology to explore/have explored) have thus determined our phylogenetic development.

I suggest following terminology (although I have to admit that I am slightly confused by all the existing definitions and so reserve myself for the mistake of reifying someone else’s definition. Should this be the case, I apologize and will credit you accordingly)

Actualised: object/agent in a physically coupled, mutual, dynamic relationship that is temporally bound. (Temporally bound refers to that actualizations of affordances do not last forever, in the most extreme case, we die, but, the temporal aspect is necessary, for development, evolution and dynamicism more generally. Although it can be argued that someone else can keep actualizing what I did before death, this is still another instance, another coupling, that can be simultaneous to my coupling. This thus also holds for collective behaviour.)

Realised: object/agent in a perceptually coupled, mutual, dynamic relationship. (Perceptually bound, spatially bound, geographically bound. Referring to the necessary perception of the object and its affordances and (but not necessarily) the agents affordances and the compatibility range of both. Basically, we need direct perception, and perception at all to be able to realise that there are objects at all etc..)

Both these terms are necessarily physically bound, both by their individual physical properties (body of the agent and shape, density etc. of the object) and the physical constraints of the environment (gravity, exemplifying a more so global constraint, and situationally specific things for example social norms, etc.).
This, allows us realisations in absence of the relevant object but actualizations only in presence. It also allows us to avoid Evil Philosopher arguments, examples of cases when we don’t actualise although we can and failing an attempted actualization.

Arriving at the terribly mundane conclusion that we can interact with things when they are there and they are retained when we are not. To be continued… …probably in my master thesis…