The Extended Mind Thesis



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The Extended Mind Thesis
Julian Kiverstein1, Mirko Farina2 & Andy Clark3
1 Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, Amsterdam

2 ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Australian Hearing Hub, Macquarie University, Sydney.

3 University of Edinburgh
Introduction

General Overviews

Textbooks

Anthologies



Intellectual Precursors and Inspiration

Extended Functionalism



"Second Waves" Approaches

Perception and Action

Language and Thought

Memory


Consciousness, Self and Agency

Emerging Topics



Extended Mind and Epistemology

Technology

Material Culture and Cognitive Archaeology

Group and Social Cognition
Introduction

The extended mind thesis claims that the cognitive processes that make up our minds can reach beyond the boundaries of individual organisms to include as proper parts aspects of the organism’s physical and socio-cultural environment. Proponents of the extended mind story thus hold that even quite familiar human mental states (such as states of believing that so-and-so) can be realized, in part, by structures and processes located outside the human head. Such claims go far beyond the important but less challenging assertion that human cognizing leans heavily on various forms of external scaffolding and support. Instead, they paint mind itself (or better, the physical machinery that realizes some of our cognitive processes and mental states) as, under humanly attainable conditions, extending beyond the bounds of skin and skull. Extended cognition in its most general form occurs when internal and external resources become fluently tuned and deeply integrated in such a way as to enable a cognitive agent to accomplish her projects, goals and interests. Consider for instance how technological resources like pens, paper, and PCs are now so deeply integrated into our everyday lives that we couldn’t accomplish many of our cognitive goals and purposes without them. Technological resources have become so thoroughly enmeshed with our internal cognitive machinery as to count, so the extended mind thesis claims, as a part of the machinery of thought itself. Underlying (but distinct from) the extended mind thesis is a commonplace observation. It is that intelligent problem solving of the kind we find in adult humans isn’t something the naked brain can achieve all on its own but is the outcome of the brain and body operating together in an environmental and often technologically-loaded setting. Humans possess the kinds of high-level cognitive skills and abilities we do in no small part because of the many tools we use for thinking. The extended mind thesis goes further, however, by claiming that it is mere prejudice to suppose that all cognition must take place within the confines of the organism’s skin and skull. Cognitive Science, it is then claimed, shouldn’t just concern itself with the more or less enduring processes taking place inside the heads of cognitive agents. Cognitive scientists should also investigate, on a kind of equal footing, temporary, soft-assembled wholes that mesh the problem-solving contributions of the brain and nervous system with the body and physical and socio-cultural environment. The section on *Extended Mind and Epistemology* was kindly prepared with the assistance of Spyridon Orestis Palermos. Many thanks to Orestis, and to Duncan Pritchard and John Sutton, for their help and advice.





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