This week in CCC we’re reading the first part of Jean Lave’s Cognition in Practice (1988). Lave is one of the major figures in the area of so-called “Situated Cognition.” This sounds to my ear a little bit like the less conservative “Embedded Cognition” approaches which emphasize that environmental situatedness is important for understanding cognition, without thinking that features of the situation are constitutive of cognition. It is clear from the get-go that this is not in fact Lave’s view:
It will be argued here… that a more appropriate unit of analysis is the whole person in action, acting with the settings of that activity. This shifts the boundaries of activity well outside the skull and beyond the hypothetical economic actor, to persons engaged with the world…
It is within this framework that the idea of cognition as stretched across mind, body, activity and setting begins to make sense. (p. 17-18, emphasis added)
I am drawn back (no surprise) to John Dewey. John Dewey says, in the preface of his 1938 Logic, that throughout the work he refers to “inquiry” where he had previously referred to “thinking.” Perhaps we could adapt his definition of “inquiry” as a definition of “cognition” for situated cognition theory:
[Cognition] is the directed or controlled transformation of an indeterminate situation into a determinately unified one. (“The Pattern of Inquiry,” Logic, 1938, LW 12).
Could be a start.