Published on December 14, 2021

Key Concepts

Text based on Andringa & Denham (2021a)

| Concepts Core cognition key concepts with definition
Core Cognition The cognition shared by all of life
To live Self-maintaining being different from the environment
Death End of self-maintained difference from the environment
Need satisfaction Acquiring and executing the necessities (food and energy) for life (self-maintaining being different from the environment)
Agent “An autonomous organization that adaptively regulates its coupling with its environment and contributes to sustaining itself as a consequence.” (Barandiaran, Di Paolo, & Rohde 2009, pp. 1)
Behavior Agent-initiated and context-appropriate activities with expected future utility that counteract life’s precariousness and maximizes agent and habitat viability.
A need Something that, when satisfied, protects or increases agent viability
Viability Probabilistic distance from death (i.e., discontinued agency)
Agent viability Agent probabilistic distance to death. To persist, all life needs to optimize viability
Threat a perceived reduction of context appropriate behavioral options to include only those that allow the agent to survive.
Agency The ability, or a measure of the ability, to self-maintain viability (through need satisfaction) for survival and thriving
Cognition The ability to select behavior in the service of the agent’s continued existence and flourishing.
Coping and co-creation Two complementary forms of cognition. Coping is in the service of continued existence and co-creation in the service of flourishing. (These two forms of cognition are opposed in the two ontologies tabel
Stigmergy Building on the constructive traces that past behaviors left in the environment (increasing habitat viability)
Authority Expressing stigmergy
Habitat The environment from which agents can derive all they need to survive (and thrive) and to which they contribute to ensure long-term viability (of self and others), Note that we use the term habitat to include other agents, but to exclude the agent. Hence, we can speak of agent + habitat to refer to the whole of existence relevant to the agent
Habitat viability A measure of the degree to which the habitat can satisfy the conditions for agentic existence (i.e., satisfies its needs)
Biosphere The sumtotal of all agentic traces left in the environment. Since the biosphere grew from fragile and small, to robust and extensive we can conclude that life is a net constructive force and co-creation has been dominant
Carrying capacity A measure of the sum-total of the life activities that a habitat can sustain
Original perspective A perspective on the world originating as the yet undeveloped ability to separate individual viability from the combined viability of self and habitat, which allowed primitive life to optimize the whole, while addressing selfish needs and creating the conditions for more agentic life
Purpose of life The (Emergent) purpose of life is to produce more life
Well-being Process of co-creation leading to high viability agents, increased habitat viability, and long-term protection of the conditions on which existence depends. Note that this is a process, not a state or the evaluation of a state.
Context Agent’s assessment of the (current) state of the habitat
Behavioral repertoire The set of all context-appropriate behaviors the agent has access to. Appraisal activates context appropriate subsets of the repertoire
Learning The process to extend the behavioral repertoire and tune the effectivity of individual behaviors to the context
Worldview The set of all that an agent takes as reliable (true) enough to base behavior on
Appraisal A worldview-based motivational response to the perceived viability consequences of the present that activates context appropriate behavioral options
Core affect Mood level action readiness based on the appraisal of indicators of (un)safety and situationally appropriate activation of behaviors, expressed as motivations to avoid or end (coping) or motivations to perpetuate or to aim for (co-creation).
Resilience “The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks” (Walker et al., 2004)
Realism A measure of whether individual behavior leads to intended and/or viability enhancing outcomes
Identity A theory of me-as-actor-in-the-world

References Andringa, T. C., & Denham, F. C. (2021a). Coping and co-creation: one attempt and one route to well-being. Psychology in Russia, 14(2), 152–170.

Two contrasting ontologies

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This is a table with two contrasting self-consistent ontologies that arise from the defining properties of coping and co-creation. Ideally the ontology of thriving dominates with continual focused contributions of the ontology of survival. But it is also possible that coping starts to dominate to the exclusion of the other ontology: a coping trap


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The references to the basics series (published in Psychology in Russia)