Francisco Varela
Ethical Know-How
Action,Wisdom, and Cognition
Stanford University Press 1999

Know-How and Know-What
Setting out the Question

Keywords: moral philosophy - Ethics - ethics is closer to wisdom than to reason - critical morality - active and engaged ethics - ...a wise (or virtuous) person is one who knows what is good and spontaneously does it.  immediacy of perception and action - Piaget: "it is the moral judgement that we propose to investigate, not moral behavior" - pervasive mode of being ethical - performing deliberate, willed action - know-how and know-what: cognition can only be understood in terms of how significance arises out of the autonomous totality that is the organism - the world is not something that is given to us but something we engage in by moving, touching, breathing, and eating. This is what I call cognition as enaction since enaction connotes this bringing forth by concrete handling - "who we are" at any moment cannot be divorced from what other things and who other people are to us,

Keywords: THE ETHICAL EXPERT - skilled behavior - intentional analysis - we acquire our ethical behavior in much the same way we acquire all other modes of behavior: they become transparent to us as we grow up in society. This is because learning is, as we know, circular: we learn what we are supposod to be in order to be accepted as learners - socialization process - self-conscious or intentional action and self-less or intentionless action - non-unitary self - Computationalism in cognitive science embraces the idea that the self or cognizing subject is fundamentally fragmented or non-unified simply because it postulates mental or cognitive processes of which we are not only unaware, but of which we cannot be aware - unified "point of view," a stable and constant vantage point from which to think, perceive, and act - the self: consciousness is its central feature.

Keywords: the notion of a cognitive subject (cognitive agents) - Contrary to what seems to be the case from a cursory introspection, cognition does not flow seamlessly from one "state" to another, but rather consists in a punctuated suc-cession of behavioral patterns that arise and subside in measurable time. This insight of recent neuroscience - and of cognitive science in general - is fundamental, for it relieves us from the tyranny of searching for a centralized, ho-muncular quality to account for a cognitive agent's normal behavior - oscillations are the symptoms of very rapid reciprocal cooperation and competition between distinct agents activated by the current situation, vying with each other for differing modes of interpretation for a coherent cognitive framework and readiness-for-action. This dynamic engages all the subnetworks that give rise to the entire readiness-for-action in the next moment. It involves not just sensory interpretation and motor action but the entire gamut of cognitive expectations and emotional tonality central to the shaping of a microworld. 

pg 52-60
Keywords: cognitive self - the identity of the cognitive self : emergence through a distributed process - emergent properties of an interneural network - the beehive and the ants' nest have long been considered "superorganisms," but this was little more than a metaphor until recently. It was not until the I970s that detailed experiments were made whose results could not be explained without taking into account the entire colony - model of how complex systems exhibit emergent properties through the coordinated activity of simple elements - representation of the external world - artificial neural network machines underlying the regularities we call their behavior or performance are interactions between ensembles - A situated cognitive entity has - by definition - a perspective - When the synthesis of intelligent behavior is approached in such an incremental manner, with strict adherence to the sensorimotor viability of an agent, the notion that the world is a source of information to be represented simply disappears.

pg 60-75
Keywords : self: a virtual person - nonsubstantial self that acts as if it were present, like a virtual interface - selfless "I" - Ethical know-how is the progressive, firsthand acquaintance with the virtuality of self - wu-wei - It is no ground whatsoever; it cannot be grasped as ground, reference point, or nest for a sense of ego. It does not exist - nor does it not exist - decentered self ideal - compassionate action is also called skillful means (upaya) in Buddhism. Skillful means are considered to be inseparable from wisdom - Individuals must personally discover and grow into their own sense of virtual self.

Francisco Varela