Res cogitans extensa: A Philosophical Defense of the Extended Mind Thesis

Look out for Georg Theiner’s book (publisher, Peter Lang) that is about to hit the shelves. I’m reproducing the cover blurb from the preprint he so kindly sent me. Georg has already done some good work for an Extended Mind project and I’m looking forward to his contribution to the stigmergy issue.

Abstract for Res cogitans extensa: For Descartes, minds were essentially immaterial, non-extended things. Contemporary cognitive science prides itself on having exorcised the Cartesian ghost from the biological machine. However, it remains committed to the Cartesian vision of the mental as something purely inner. Against the idea that the mind resides solely in the brain, advocates of the situated and embodied nature of cognition have long stressed the importance of dynamic brain-body-environment couplings, the opportunistic exploitation of bodily morphology, the strategic performance of epistemically potent actions, the generation and use of external representations, and the cognitive scaffolding provided by artifacts and social-cultural practices. According to the extended mind thesis, a significant portion of human cognition literally extends beyond the brain into the body and its environment. This book aims to clarify the nature and the scope of this thesis, and to defend its central insight that cognition is not confined to the boundaries of the biological individual.

About Georg: Georg Theiner, born in Vienna, received his Ph.D. in Philosophy, with a Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and a Minor in History and Philosophy of Science, at Indiana University, Bloomington in 2008. His research interests are in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. During his tenure as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta, he worked on the extended mind thesis and socially distributed cognition.