Uncovering double standards: a critical assessment of radical enactivism’s treatment of basic minds and departure from relaxed naturalism : master's thesis in philosophy



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Tartu Ülikool


In developing REC, Hutto & Myin commit to 'Relaxed Naturalism', a philosophical position very broadly concerned with "thinking about the natural world and our place in it" (Hutto 2023, 2). The articulation of the philosophical program of Relaxed Naturalism was itself an endeavor initiated by Hutto in collaboration with philosopher Glenda L. Satne (2015, 2017, 2018a, 2018b). They define Relaxed Naturalism in opposition to both 'scientific/strict naturalism,' which they deem to be too strict in its dedication to hard sciences, and 'liberal naturalism', which they deem to be too permissive in regards to ‘supernatural’ phenomena. Relaxed Naturalism aims to negotiate a moderate position between these two approaches to naturalism by "draw[ing] upon and harmoniously integrat[ing] the discoveries from a wide range of sciences and disciplines" (Hutto 2022, 165). I assert that a close examination of the treatment of 'basic minds' in radical enactivism undermines REC's proclaimed commitment to Relaxed naturalism. Moreover, I demonstrate how the three core notions utilized in REC's analysis of 'basic minds' — autopoiesis, adaptivity, and normativity — support REC's alignment with strict naturalism rather than relaxed naturalism, as they provide a comprehensive account of basic minds within the framework of natural sciences alone. Insofar as Hutto & Myin deem it unnecessary to employ the extended repertoire of concepts offered by relaxed naturalism, they betray their own argument for its methodological necessity. I demonstrate this by uncovering REC’s double standards that can be found in its treatment of basic minds. REC criticises rival theories for their strictly naturalistic purview of the mind, yet, applies the same perspective in its own treatment of basic minds, thus applying its principles rather unfairly. In my thesis I aim to demostrate how Radical Enactivism’s unfair application of its own principles undermine its commitment to Relaxed Naturalism, particularly regarding its perspective on "basic minds."