The dynamical challenge

Andy Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies such as Thelen and Smith (1994), Kelso, (1995), Van Gelder, (1995), Beer, (1995), and others have presented a forceful case for a dynamical systems approach to understanding cognition and adaptive behavior. These studies call into question some foundational assumptions concerning the nature of cognitive scientific explanation and (in particular) the role of notions such as internal representation and computation. These are exciting and important challenges. But they must be handled with care. It is all too easy, in this debate, to lose sight of the explanatorily important issues and to talk at cross-purposes, courtesy of the (surprisingly) various ways in which different theorists often conceive the key terms. The primary goal of the present paper is thus a modest one: to begin to clarify just what is at issue and to highlight some of the most central and pressing concerns. In so doing, we may hope to develop a constructive framework for future debate. In addition, I try to open up a space of intermediate options - ways in which dynamical and representational/computational understandings may sometimes afford complementary (rather than competing) perspectives on adaptive success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-481
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


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