The Emergence of Emergentism in Cognitive Science

  • Alfredo Paternoster Università degli Studi di Bergamo


This paper addresses, fundamentally, a single issue: assessing whether the currently very influent approach in cognitive sciences, i.e., Radical Embodied Cognitive Science (from now on, RECS), is committed to some version of emergentism. The structure of the paper is the following. In the first section I introduce the leading ideas of RECS. In the second section I compare certain standard formulations of emergentism with the main claims of RECS, trying to assess whether the latter involve some emergentist tenets. Some conclusions, in the third section, follow. My conclusion will be that, on the one hand, there are some substantive epistemological analogies between RECS and emergentism, but, on the other hand, the metaphysics of RECS is not of an emergentist kind, in spite of some shallow similarities. Therefore, depending on one’s taking emergentism as an epistemological rather than a metaphysical thesis, RECS will be considered as being committed to emergentism or not (as it happens, I take emergentism in its standard formulation essentially as a metaphysical thesis, so my answer to the question addressed in this paper is more negative).