Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Stigmergic epistemology, stigmergic cognition

By Leslie Marsh and Christian Onof


To know is to cognize, to cognize is to be a culturally bounded, rationality-bounded and environmentally located agent. Knowledge and cognition are thus dual aspects of human sociality. If social epistemology has the formation, acquisition, mediation, transmission and dissemination of knowledge in complex communities of knowers as its subject matter, then its third party character is essentially stigmergic. In its most generic formulation, stigmergy is the phenomenon of indirect communication mediated by modifications of the environment. Extending this notion one might conceive of social stigmergy as the extra-cranial analog of an artificial neural network providing epistemic structure. This paper recommends a stigmergic framework for social epistemology to account for the supposed tension between individual action, wants and beliefs and the social corpora. We also propose that the so-called "extended mind" thesis offers the requisite stigmergic cognitive analog to stigmergic knowledge. Stigmergy as a theory of interaction within complex systems theory is illustrated through an example that runs on a particle swarm optimization algorithm

Topics: Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology, Complexity Theory, Social Psychology
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1776). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London:
  2. (2006). Cognitive architecture and contents for social structures and interactions. In
  3. (2007). Does the sensory order have a useful economic future? Cognition and Economics.
  4. (1996). Economic reason: The interplay of individual learning and external structure. In
  5. (2006). Environments for multi-agent systems III,
  6. (1996). Explaining culture: A naturalistic approach.
  7. (2004). Externalism, epistemic artefacts and the extended mind. In
  8. (2006). Groupthink versus the wisdom of crowds: The social epistemology of deliberation and dissent.
  9. (1997). On emergence and explanation.
  10. (2003). On the use of the term ‘‘stigmergy.’’
  11. (2006). Prolegomena to integrating cognitive modeling and social simulation. In
  12. (2003). Self-organization in biological systems.
  13. (2006). Situated cognition. In
  14. (2001). Social cognition, artefacts, and stigmergy: A comparative analysis of theoretical frameworks for the understanding of artefact-mediated collaborative activity.
  15. (1997). The anatomy of a large-scale hypertextual web search engine.
  16. (1997). The connectionist mind: A study of hayekian psychology. In
  17. (2004). Using the robocup simulation environment to study the advantage of the environment contributing to cognition.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.