Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wherein Menary is Right

I have repeatedly stated my position that cognitive integration starts from the following positions:
  • That we are actively embodied in a socially constructed cognitive niche and
  • That phylogenetically and ontogenetically there is good evidence to suppose that we acquire cognitive capacities to create, maintain and manipulate the shared cognitive niche and
  • That this has led to the development of hybrid cognitive systems where the bodily manipulation of vehicles (some of them representational) in the niche involves the coordination of neural, bodily and environmental vehicles.
  • Cognitive processing sometimes involves these online bodily manipulations of the cognitive niche, but also collaborative thinking and offline private thinking.
Consequently, I propose that I am not committed to the view that cognition is first in the head and then gets extended into tools. Nor does it follow that I am committed to the idea that pencils can think for themselves. (Menary, 2010)
A&A agree with all of these claims.  We think Menary is right on this stuff.  (Incidentally, this is why we largely ignore Menary's four claims about integration: "Adams and Aizawa, strangely, fail to notice the discussion of four different theses that are supposed to motivate integration: the manipulation thesis, the hybrid mind thesis, the transformation thesis and the cognitive norms thesis." (Menary, 2010).)

But, notice that this list of positions does not contain HEC: "According to this view ... human cognitive processing literally extends into the environment and surrounding organism, and human cognitive states literally comprise--as wholes do their proper parts--elements in that environment" (Rupert, 2004, p. 393).  Menary does not include the claim that "the material vehicles of cognition can be spread out across brain, body and certain aspects of the physical environment itself’"

So, maybe he is not defending EC after all, or at least the version of EC that Clark defends.  (Of course, Menary does claim that "cognitive integration starts from the following positions", so maybe he still does want to defend HEC.  Not absolutely clearly.)

But, why would A&A have thought that Menary defends the kind of EC that Clark does?  His 2006 paper begins with this:
Recently internalists (Adams & Aizawa, 2001, 2006; Rupert, 2004) have mounted a counter-attack on the attempt to redefine the bounds of cognition. Their counterarguments are aimed at the extended mind hypothesis, which, as Andy Clark has recently put it, is the view that ‘‘the material vehicles of cognition can be spread out across brain, body and certain aspects of the physical environment itself’’ (Clark, 2005, p. 1).
     However, I think that the extended mind hypothesis is part of a more radical
project which I call ‘‘cognitive integration,’’ which is the view that internal and
external vehicles and processes are integrated into a whole. It is this more radical
project that Clark and others are really engaged in.  (Menary, 2006, p. 329).
So, insofar as Menary's complaint is that we have not challenged the items in his bulleted lists, he's right.  We have mostly set aside discussion of those things, since we think they are correct.  What we have strived to challenge is HEC (and mostly the arguments typicaly given for HEC), or the idea that cognitive processes are typically realized by processes in brain, body, and world.

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