Recent work in cognitive neuroscience has emphasized the notion of neural reuse on the evolutionary timescale (Anderson 2010) and neural recycling on the developmental timescale (Dehaene 2004; 2009). These concepts have been put to use especially in contexts of social cognition (Gallese 2014), in neural linguistics (Pulvermüller 2005), and more generally in theories of ‘weak’ embodied cognition and embodied simulation (Goldman 2012; 2014). In both philosophy and neuroscience, however, these analyses have remained caught in the classic cognitivist stances of internalism and methodological individualism where mechanisms of cognition and even social cognition are sought in purely internal (brain-based, 'in the head') processes that downplay the contribution of bodily, environmental, and social-cultural factors. In contrast, enactivist proposals in philosophy of mind have championed the importance of cultural affordances and embodied social interactions in processes of meaning institution. Such proposals align well with empirical research in applied linguistics and Conversation Analysis (e.g., Goodwin 2000; 2011; 2013), and anthropological theories of material engagement (e.g., Malafouris 2009). I’ll argue that an integration of these latter approaches not only presents a strong viable alternative to classic cognitivist theories, but can still employ notions of neural reuse/recycling as part of a more comprehensive or extensive concept of metaplasticity. It also provides a way to reconceive of brain function in the context of enactivist embodied cognition.
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