Sunday, July 11, 2010

"The Extended Mind" in the Blogosphere

Here and here.

One of the things that makes me believe that EC is going to hang around for a while is the ease with which it seems to be assimilable and transferable to other domains and projects.  The Malafouris and Renfrew book on The Cognitive Life of Things, upon which I have been commenting in recent days, is a good example, of course.  But, here are two others that are not stretches at all, roughly, on the technology of the word.


  1. Hi Ken, thanks for linking to my paper (the second link), it's been really nice seeing people come across from this blog and stay a while to read it. I'm also really glad that you don't see the idea of recruiting EC in the humanities as being stretch of the theory. I think it speaks volumes to the usability of the notion of agnostic recruitment of body and world in cognition that it is able to be simply and effectively used as both a metaphor, and as literally at work in other realms (and it helps that a lowly English student can understand at least its basic shape too!).

    Thanks again for the link

    _Matt Hayler.

  2. Hi, Matt,

    I must confess that, as a long time critic of EC, I've underestimated how popular this idea would become. But, once I vetted an archaeology paper on EC some years ago, I began to suspect this trajectory. Your thoughts support my suspicions.

    Now, I see it as part of my task as critic must be to understand the basis for this popularity, then speak to it.

    best wishes,

  3. Hi Ken,

    Interesting. To play Devil's Advocate: do you think that if Exetended Cognition does turn out to be a misleading item of philosophy/psychology, that it's use as a metaphor in other disciplines might be problematic? I'm certainly not a psychologist, and it can't be my place to critique the psychological findings, but I'm most persuaded by EC in its applicability elsewhere. In much the same way as Darwinian evolution seems to crop up elsewhere, metaphorically or literally, it seems to indicate a deep level functionality peculiar to theories which are at least beginning to apprehend something important. But, of course, if it does turn out to be nothing but a faddish turn away from a true bounded cognition then it seems that its use in other fields might well cause it to outstay its welcome (numerous parallels exist in the borrowing of other theories I'm sure). Perhaps part of any resistance to EC must be to deconstruct the borrowings in other disciplines, as well as on the obvious philosophical/psychological grounds?

    Just a thought.



  4. The Darwinian evolution example is useful. Philosophers, and probably scientists, and others, have often asked about the extension of this theory to other domains, e.g. is there Darwinian selection in the realm of ideas?

    The case of EC appears to be somewhat different. Critics, such as Adams and Rupert and myself, have been at pains to argue that EC does not look to be a plausible version of scientific cognitive theories extended literally to other objects.

    This leaves open the question of a metaphorical extension of scientific theory.

    But, another possibility is that there is this informal, non-scientific use of psychological language, as in "My car doesn't want to start" or "It looks like it wants to rain." This third possibility is neither a metaphorical nor literal extension of a scientific concept or theory at all. It's all metaphor or something.

    Now, it is unclear to me just exactly how the advocates of EC want their view to go. At times, it seems as though they want the literal application of scientific cognitive psychology to non-brain things. But, then, there are other times when folks, such as Andy Clark, will claim that they are trying to articulate a folk psychological theory that is applicable to non-brain objects.

    All this brings me to the point that, I don't think I know about the metaphorical extension of scientific psychology or the metaphorical uses of psychological vocabulary. What I have been exploring is the literal extension of scientific theory. But, this articulates what I think are some of the largely unexplored options for EC.

    Thanks for your comment.