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.



In your face: transcendence in embodied interaction

A new open access article by Sean Gallagher (there currently seems to be some problem with the journal’s website but will hopefully be resolved).

In cognitive psychology, studies concerning the face tend to focus on questions about face recognition, theory of mind (ToM) and empathy. Questions about the face, however, also fit into a very different set of issues that are central to ethics. Based especially on the work of Levinas, philosophers have come to see that reference to the face of another person can anchor conceptions of moral responsibility and ethical demand. Levinas points to a certain irreducibility and transcendence implicit in the face of the other. In this paper I argue that the notion of transcendence involved in this kind of analysis can be given a naturalistic interpretation by drawing on recent interactive approaches to social cognition found in developmental psychology, phenomenology, and the study of autism.



Q+A with Antonio Damasio

This from MIT Technology Review (H/T to Mark Frazier).

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He believes that neurobiological research has a distinctly philosophical purpose.

There was something that appealed to me because of my interest in literature and music.

We wouldn’t have music, art, religion, science, technology, economics, politics, justice, or moral philosophy without the impelling force of feelings.

I would not want to go to only one level, because I don’t think the really interesting things occur at just one level.


How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement

Here’s a just published review in JMB, endorsed by some heavy hitters such as Edwin Hutchins and Kevin Warwick.

How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement represents a synthesis of the positions that the author, Lambros Malafouris, has developed over the course of his career, supplemented by the addition of new explanatory examples and unpublished chapters. The main objective of the book is to provide a unitary account of material engagement theory, the actual keystone that binds the multiple streams of argument presented by the author in his previous works. The book is organized in three main sections, which respectively take into account epistemological aspects, theoretical tenets, and empirical applications of material engagement theory.