The study of evolutionary patterns of cognitive convergence would be greatly helped by a clear demarcation of cognition. Cognition is often used as an equivalent of mind, making it difficult to pin down empirically or to apply it confidently beyond the human condition. Recent developments in embodied cognition and philosophy of biology now suggest an interpretation that dissociates cognition from this mental context. Instead, it anchors cognition in a broad range of biological cases of intelligence, provisionally marked by a basic cognitive toolkit. This conception of cognition as an empirically based phenomenon provides a suitable and greatly expanded domain for studies of evolutionary convergence. This paper first introduces this wide, biologically embodied interpretation of cognition. Second, it discusses examples drawn from studies on bacteria, plants and fungi that all provide cases fulfilling the criteria for this wide interpretation. Third, the field of early nervous system evolution is used to illustrate how biologically embodied cognition raises new fundamental questions for research on animal cognition. Finally, an outline is given of the implications for the evolutionary convergence of cognition.
One contribution of 12 to a theme issue ‘Convergent minds: the evolution of cognitive complexity in nature’.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.