Monica Cowart is Chairperson and Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Merrimack College. She earned her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University, and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Cowart specializes in philosophy of psychology, and philosophy of cognitive science. Her current research includes investigating the role of metaphor in mindfulness-based clinical treatments. In addition to the degrees listed above, Dr. Cowart also holds a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from University of Georgia, MA in Philosophy from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and BA in Philosophy with Research Honors from Illinois Wesleyan University. Her areas of specialization are: Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Psychology, and Applied Ethics.
Monica Cowart Quotes
Infants must learn how to perform certain activity patterns, such as reaching, and then remember when it is appropriate to generate those patterns again to achieve a desired goal. In order to effectively perform these behaviors at the appropriate times, the infant must learn to categorize particular situations and correctly apply the action solution that corresponds with that situation. For example, if a baby learns how to control its arm muscles so that it can reach a toy it desires, then it will not take long for the infant to realize that the same type of reaching behavior can also be used to grasp food. It is in this sense that the behaviors become generalized as the infant learns to use its body to explore its environment. Moreover, one might argue that the generalized categories formulated to perform these reaching behaviors could be viewed as one instance of intentional categorization emerging from action of a dynamical system.
Until recently, almost all of the robots built in the field of artificial intelligence were constructed according to the stored-description model. Building systems, according to the stored-description technique, requires programmers to guess at the conditions the robot will encounter, and then to spell out all of the relevant information that is needed for the system to generate an appropriate response in its environment. Determining what information to include in the system is difficult, since the programmer must anticipate everything the robot will need to know to perform its task as well as providing the robot a response to any unexpected environmental features that might throw it off task. This process of explicitly stating all of the necessary information is further complicated by the fact that the system does not start with any prior knowledge, or even a simplistic understanding of the kinds of things existing in the world. So, even if all of the relevant information is correctly represented in the system, there are still no guarantees the robot will correctly perform its task, since it must then determine what makes a piece of information relevant in one situation and not in another. Given these challenges, robots utilizing the stored description model are very brittle and tend to malfunction in environments when they encounter unexpected events, or multiple soft constraints.
If the way we conceptualize and categorize is based on the way we are embodied, then according to embodied cognition theorists these concepts and categories are actively constructed and not merely apprehended wholesale from an observer-independent environment.
The theoretical assumption that at least some forms of cognition are constructive is supported by a growing number of theorists from a variety of disciplines.
The ultimate claim of embodied theorists is that new insights into previously unanswered questions concerning cognitive development will be attained if cognitive scientists re-orient their approach and conduct research in a manner that acknowledges the crucial links existing among an organism's brain, body, and world.