Mind and Behavior: Autumn 2008

The latest issue of The Journal of Mind and Behavior is now available. I especially want to bring your attention to the Critical Notice on Fred Adams’ and Ken Aizawa’s The Bounds of Cognition, a review essay superbly executed by Justin Fisher. Requests for reprints should be sent to:

Professor Justin C. Fisher, Department of Philosophy, Hyer Hall 207, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750142, Dallas, Texas 75275

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Intro:

Fred Adams and Kenneth Aizawa have long been the loyal opposition in the debate about extended cognition. Contemporary humans regularly use external devices to process information. Many of us store telephone numbers in our cell phones rather than our brains. Alzheimer’s patients use trusted notebooks to store all kinds of information (Clark and Chalmers, 1998). Expert Scrabble players continually reorganize their letters to more quickly see possible words they might play (Kirsh, 1995). Fans of extended cognition have held that the information processing performed partly within such external devices is enough like traditional cases of cognitive processing that it also deserves to be called “cognitive processing.” Adams and Aizawa have been two key figures to stand against this tide, arguing that we should instead view these as mere cases of external tool use, and that, at least for the time being, we should reserve the term “cognitive processing” for processes that occur inside creatures’ heads. The Bounds of Cognition compiles and updates Adams and Aizawa’s attempts to defend against this tide, and it gives the authors the opportunity to go on the offensive themselves, and give careful arguments for why we should stick to their more conservative construal of “cognitive processing.” This book does very well to give the reader a thorough overview of the state of play in the debate over extended cognition. As a consequence, the present paper is as much a critical commentary on the whole debate as it is a review of the book itself.