Volume 82, Issue 2, April 1999
Continental Phhilosophy For & Against
Joseph Ulric Neisser
On the Use and Abuse of Dasein in Cognitive Science
Dasein is one of several twentieth-century notions which paint a portrait of the “post-Cartesian subject.” Critics of cognitivism such as Dreyfus (1992) have invoked Dasein in arguing that computational models cannot be sufficient to account for situated cognition. Van Gelder (1995) argues that dynamic systems theory provides an empirical model of cognition as practical activity which avoids the Cartesianism implicit in the computational approach. I assess Van Gelder’s claim for dynamic systems as a model of being-in-the-world. Contra Van Gelder, I argue that the force of the “Dasein objection” is that the significance of a mental process, whether representational or not, depends on a lived background of value. While dynamic systems can help model the diachronic interplay between organism and environment, the semantic context for this interplay is no more accounted for here than in traditional computer models.