Extended cognition and the explosion of knowledge

Penultimate version.

The aim of this article is to show that externalist accounts of cognition such as Clark and Chalmers’ (1998) “active externalism” lead to an explosion of knowledge that is caused by online resources such as Wikipedia and Google. I argue that externalist accounts of cognition imply that subjects who integrate mobile Internet access in their cognitive routines have millions of standing beliefs on unexpected issues such as the birth dates of Moroccan politicians or the geographical coordinates of villages in southern Indonesia. Although many externalists propose criteria for the bounds of cognition that are designed to avoid this explosion of knowledge, I argue that these criteria are flawed and that active externalism has to accept that information resources such as Wikipedia and Google constitute extended cognitive processes.



Critical neuroscience and socially extended minds

Another paper by Shaun this time coauthored with Jan Slaby (check out Jan’s website – lot’s of good stuff here). 

The concept of a socially extended mind suggests that our cognitive processes are extended not simply by the various tools and technologies we use, but by other minds in our intersubjective interactions, and more systematically by institutions that, like tools and technologies, enable and sometimes constitute our cognitive processes. In this paper we explore the potential of this concept to facilitate the development of a critical neuroscience. We first explicate the concept of cognitive institution and show how it builds on a more enactive version of the extended mind. We then turn to the idea that science itself is a good example of a cognitive institution that through various practices and rules shapes our cognitive activity so as to constitute a certain type of knowledge, packaged with relevant skills and techniques. Building on this idea, we focus on neuroscience, its cultural impact, and the various institutional entanglements that complicate its influence on reframing conceptions of self and subjectivity, and defining what questions count as important and what kind of answers will be valued. Our intent is to show that by understanding neuroscience as a cognitive institution – that is, as a set of practices that help us to think and solve problems within a specific domain – we gain a critical perspective on what neuroscience accomplishes.



Extended cognition: New philosophical perspectives

Here’s a special issue of Philosophical Psychology that features some top-notch names that includes Ed Hutchins, Rob Wilson and Sven Walter.



Neurotechnology, Invasiveness and the Extended Mind

This from the latest issue of Neuroethics December 2013, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp. 593-605.



The Peripheral Mind

Last August I chanced upon a forthcoming book by István Aranyosi. I’m pleased to say that my copy arrived today and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Any book that opens with a Kafka quote suggests immaculate taste. Not only that, but the series of which this book is a part is edited than none other than Dave Chalmers who quickly saw the virtues of István’s work. Last, but by no means least, there is a very personal story behind the realization and motivation of the book, refreshingly different from the inflated egos of writers who get funding to spend six months in say, Vézelay, to do some writing and then very pretentiously sign off their preface Joe Blogs, New York and Vézelay.

I also look forward to a close-grained review that I have commissioned for The Journal of Mind and Behavior.

The Peripheral Mind introduces a novel approach to a wide range of issues in the philosophy of mind by shifting the focus of analysis from the brain to the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Contemporary philosophy of mind has neglected the potential significance of the PNS and has implicitly assumed that, ultimately, sensory and perceptual experience comes together in the brain. István Aranyosi proposes a philosophical hypothesis according to which peripheral processes are considered as constitutive of sensory states rather than merely as causal contributors to them. Part of the motivation for the project is explained in the autobiographical opening chapter, which describes the author’s subjective experiences with severe peripheral nerve damage.

Although Aranyosi’s approach could be classified as part of the current “embodied mind” paradigm in the philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience, this is the first time that notions like “embodiment” and “body” in general are replaced by the more focused concept of the PNS. Aranyosi puts the hypothesis to the test and offers novel solutions to puzzles related to physicalism, functionalism, mental content, embodiment, the extended mind hypothesis, tactile-proprioceptive illusions, as well as to some problems in neuroethics, such as abortion and requests for amputation of healthy body parts. The diversity of the volume’s methodology–which results from a combination of conceptual analysis, discussion of neuroscientific data, philosophical speculation, and first-person phenomenological accounts–makes the book both engaging and highly informative.