Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is the Extended Mind Hypothesis?

In their Introduction to The Cognitive Life of Things, Malafouris and Renfrew write,
A key question to ask then, is what exactly is the Extended Mind Hypothesis, and how precisely does it relate with the perspectives advanced and the examples discussed in the book?
     Put simply, the extended mind is a new, radical and much contested thesis over the mind's location.  (Malafouris & Renfrew, 2010, p. 5)
This is, of course, a pretty standard thing to say about what EC is all about, but there really seem to me to be two big expository matters to address when one asserts something such as that cognitive processes sometimes extended into the body and environment.  First, what are you talking about when you speak of "cognitive processes" and, second, what are the conditions under which they extend?

And, in fact, M&R go on to reject cognitive processes understood as computational processes in favor of a more enactivist sort of approach to cognition (op. cit., pp. 7-8).

I think that the literature has not yet taken the what-are-you-talking-about issue seriously enough.  More explicitness is in order here.  So, I guess I don't care that much about the truth of the Hypothesis of Extended Folk Cognition, where it is some folk theory that is suppose to extended.  And, I don't care that much about the Hypothesis of Extended Autopoeitic Cognition either.  And, I even believe in the Hypothesis of Extended Information Processing.  Let's just have some clarity on what is being proposed.

Malafouris, L., & Renfrew, C. (Eds.). (2010). The cognitive life of things: Recasting the boundaries of the mind. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs.

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