5. Continuity Skepticism in Doubt: A Radically Enactive Take
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5  Continuity Skepticism in Doubt: A Radically Enactive Take The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. —Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, 1871 Introduction: Getting Radical about the Origins of Content Enactivists of all sorts emphasize the role of active, embodied engagement over representation when it comes to understanding cognition. For radical enactivists about cognition, RECers , this is not just a matter of emphasis: they advance a stronger claim, holding that (1) not all cognition is content involving and, especially, not its root forms (Hutto and Myin 2013).1 Even so, RECers are not content deniers; they do not embrace global eliminativism about content. RECers hold that if appearances don’t deceive us, then (2) some thoughts and linguistic utterances are contentful. Indeed, RECers allow that such thoughts and utterances— judgments about factual matters—are contentful in the full-blooded sense of exhibiting the familiar semantic properties of reference and truth.2 That (2) is the case not only appears to be borne out by experience but is necessary for explaining certain features of at least some forms of cognition. What’s more, RECers are naturalists, albeit of a relaxed sort. They hold that (3) it is possible, in principle, to explain the origins of content-involving cognition in a scientifically respectable, gapless way. RECers aim to do so by appeal, in large part, to the important role played by sociocultural scaffolding (Hutto and Myin 2013; Hutto and Satne 2015). Daniel D. Hutto and Glenda Satne 1.  The notion of content that REC rejects is one that assumes the existence of some kind of correctness condition according to which the world is specified as being in a certain way (e.g., “taken,” “said,” “represented,” or “claimed” to be in a certain way) that it might not be in. 2.  To accept that some forms of thought and language involve reference and truth conditions is not, of course, to endorse the reductive thesis that all uses of language must be contentful in this sense. 108 D. D. Hutto and G. Satne This chapter responds to several accusations that a REC-inspired program for explaining the natural origins of content—the NOC program, for short—is doomed to fail. Section 1 responds to a preliminary general concern that the NOC program is internally incoherent when seen in light of the Hard Problem of Content—a problem identified by RECers themselves . Section 2 considers a different, more softly pitched complaint against the NOC program—namely, that in drawing a sharp distinction between basic, contentless, and content -involving kinds of cognition, REC gives succor to continuity skepticism, the specific complaint being that REC is at odds with evolutionary continuity. Section 3 casts doubt on the idea that REC motivates this kind of continuity skepticism by offering a sketch of how the natural origins of content could be explained in a gapless, REC-friendly way that does not violate evolutionary continuity. Finally, Section 4 considers how REC fares against a different , philosophically motivated variety of continuity skepticism. Although we conclude that REC cannot quell the skeptical worries that a philosophically based continuity skepticism generates, we argue that REC’s representationalist rivals fare no better against this brand of skepticism. Thus, in the final analysis, we have good reasons to doubt that a REC-inspired NOC program promotes or is particularly prone to skepticism about continuity. 1  A Fatal Dilemma? The three REC assumptions outlined in the introduction are incompatible, some claim (Alksnis 2015; Korbak 2015). If these critics of REC are right, its central commitments do not form a coherent set. Their complaint is driven by the impression that RECers are inconsistent in the way they use the Hard Problem of Content, or HPC. RECers invoke the HPC to motivate the adoption of a contentless view of basic minds. But RECers seemingly ignore the HPC’s force, selectively, when allowing that some minds—the subset that have benefited from the right kind of scaffolding—have a contentful character, and seek to explain how this can be so. Yet, so the critics of REC insist, if there is a HPC at all, then it must afflict any and all attempts to explain how content could be part of the natural order equally. In the view of REC’s critics, the HPC is thought to be a universal acid, which, once out of its bottle, cannot be contained in the way...