Friday, September 10, 2010

Active Cognition Arguments

Active cognition arguments are so called because they all appeal to the active exercise of cognitive capacities in the real world ...
     These arguments all focus on determinate forms of a particular cognitive ability (e.g., memory, attention, problem solving) as they are exercised by individual agents. They view the integration of individuals with both their biological and artificial environments as critical to their status as cognitive agents with these particular capacities. With this focus on actual agents and the abilities they act on, active cognition arguments try to preempt the objection that "the extended mind" is merely a conceptual possibility or a far;on de parler. The chief aim of active cognition arguments has been to show directly that much of cognition as we know it is extended; the real question for their proponents is just which aspects of cognition are extended, and in what ways. (Wilson, 2010, p. 172).
The first thing to be on the look out for in what follows, I think, is an instance of the coupling-constitution fallacy.  When an argument begins by drawing attention to the "important" contribution some bodily or environmental process makes to cognition, one can expect the fallacy to arrive sooner or later.  Similarly, when an argument begins by drawing attention to how one actively exercises one's cognitive capacities in the world, one is drawing attention to the way one is causally connected to the world, hence probably lining up to commit some version of the coupling-constitution fallacy.

But, that aside, it is important to note that Wilson, at least, is not merely arguing that EC is possible.  He wants to argue that something closer to the view that EC is a prevalent feature of the human condition ... kind of like saying that we are natural born cyborgs.
Wilson, R. "Meaning making and the mind of the externalist".  In Menary, R. (Ed.) The Extended Mind.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.  (pp. 167-188).

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