Gerrit Jan van Ingen Schenau
Arthur J. van Soest
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
It has often been stated that the ideas of Bernstein, relevant to many disciplines that constitute the human movement sciences, placed him ahead of his time by 20-50 years. Many physiologists, psychologists, anatomists, biomechanists, and even philosophers have been inspired by his impressive work.
The recently rediscovered book by Bernstein, On Dexterity and Its Development again summarizes his strong arguments and his creative perspectives. Moreover, it demonstrates another quality of Bernstein: his capacity to write for a broad audience and to illustrate his reasoning with numerous nice examples and anecdotes.
Now, about 100,000 scientific papers on subjects relevant to motor control later, it would be amazing (and a pity for those papers) if one were not able to dispute any of his arguments. In this chapter we indeed dispute some of his arguments. Yet, we are really amazed by the fact that the major perspectives Bernstein offered again in this book are still highly up-to-date and exceptionally useful in continuing to guide contemporary research. Though many will dispute some of our arguments, we believe that Bernstein's approach and ideas can still serve as a model in many respects, including the following examples:
His emphasis on the active sometimes even creative nature of motor behavior; his deep insight in the nature of motor control; his warning against reductionism ("the whole is more than the sum of parts"); and his demonstration of a successful top-down approach.
The integration of knowledge from various sources (physiology, anatomy, psychology, cybernetics, biomechanics, mathematics, medicine, and training