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Grounding cognition: heterarchical control mechanisms in biology

Bechtel, William and Bich, Leonardo (2021) Grounding cognition: heterarchical control mechanisms in biology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376 (1820). ISSN 0962-8436

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Abstract

We advance an account that grounds cognition, specifically decision-making, in an activity all organisms as autonomous systems must perform to keep themselves viable—controlling their production mechanisms. Production mechanisms, as we characterize them, perform activities such as procuring resources from their environment, putting these resources to use to construct and repair the organism's body and moving through the environment. Given the variable nature of the environment and the continual degradation of the organism, these production mechanisms must be regulated by control mechanisms that select when a production is required and how it should be carried out. To operate on production mechanisms, control mechanisms need to procure information through measurement processes and evaluate possible actions. They are making decisions. In all organisms, these decisions are made by multiple different control mechanisms that are organized not hierarchically but heterarchically. In many cases, they employ internal models of features of the environment with which the organism must deal. Cognition, in the form of decision-making, is thus fundamental to living systems which must control their production mechanisms.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bechtel, Williambechtel@ucsd.edu0000-0001-6370-5321
Bich, Leonardoleonardo.bich@ehu.es0000-0002-2416-112X
Keywords: decision-making, production mechanisms, control mechanisms, chemotaxis, circadian rhythms
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Depositing User: Dr. Leonardo Bich
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2021 15:12
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2021 15:12
Item ID: 18635
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publisher: Royal Society
Official URL: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rst...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0751
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Causation
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Date: 2021
Volume: 376
Number: 1820
ISSN: 0962-8436
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18635

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