Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cognitive Ecologies and the History of Remembering: Religion, Education and Memory in Early Modern England

The spread of EC continues apace ....
This book presents a new approach to memory studies through a cognitive cultural history of religion in early modern England. Offering an ecological approach to the relationship of memory and culture, the authors argue that a ‘distributed’ and ‘extended’ approach can bridge the gap between individual and social models of memory. The work of memory cannot be located in individuals, objects, or social systems alone, but spreads across the entire system. The model retains its historical purchase and takes account of the vital importance of attending to human cognitive mechanisms. The concept of “cognitive ecology” offers a lens through which to view this operation of cognitive mechanisms, objects and social systems in past societies and has the potential to take cultural history in a new direction.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cole Review of Chemero's Radical Embodied Cognitive Science

Minds & Machines

Future Posts

Time to start my reading notes on (some of) the papers in Menary's The Extended Mind.  First up, Menary's introduction.  Richard has a lot to say about the Adams and Aizawa stuff, so I have a lot to say in return.

Adams and I also have a paper, "The Value of Cognitivism in Thinking about Extended Cognition," which is, in part, a rejoinder to Menary's (2006) critique.  It is forthcoming in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, but available here.  So, maybe these posts will complement the paper.

EC and Multiple Realization

Wheeler here presents an account of the relationship between EC and MR that I think was already articulated in Sprevak's Journal of Philosophy paper "Extended Cognition and Functionalism".  (I haven't read Sprevak's article in probably two or three years.)
In order to fly, EM needs to embrace a key feature supported by functionalist theorizing namely multiple realizability. A little philosophical history will help here. Functionalism (in its non-extended form) freed physicalist philosophy of mind from a kind of neural chauvinism. If our mental states were constituted by their functional roles, and the material contribution of our brains was merely implementationa I in character, then robots, Martians, Klingons and gaseous creatures from the outer limits of the universe could all join us in having mental states, just so long as the physical stuff out of which they were made could implement the right functional profiles. Stretching the word' skin' to include boundaries made of tin and gas, traditional functionalism bequeathed to the mind what we might call within-the-skin multiple realizability. And within-the-skin multiple realizability requires within-the-skin implementational materiality. But now extended functionalism merely plays out the same logic beyond the skin. If the specific materiality of the substrate doesn't matter to cognition, outside of the fact that it must be able to support the required functional profile, then what, in principle, is there to stop things-beyond-the-skin counting as proper parts of a cognitive architecture? Nothing, that's what. And this beyond-the-skin species of multiple realizability, which is just another way of characterizing the core philosophical commitment of EM, requires beyondthe-skin implementational materiality. If we look at things this way, the really radical and revolutionary movement was functionalism, not EM. EM simply makes manifest one of the implications of functionalism.  (Wheeler, 2010, 33).
Now, I think one has to be careful here.  One has to draw a distinction between a modal EC claim and a non-modal EC claim (as Wheeler now does in his Extended X manuscript).  The modal claim, essentially, is that it is (logically? nomologically? metaphysically?) possible for cognition to extend.  The non-modal claim, essentially, is that cognition (actually) extends.  Functionalism makes the modal claim at least pretty plausible, even though one can raise objections about the nomological and metaphysical cases.  But, functionalism, it seems to me, does not warrant the claim that cognition is (actually) extended.  Functionalism allows for multiple realization; it does not lead to (guarantee?) cases of multiple realization.  And, even if functionalism did entail actual multiple realization, it would not thereby entail actual multiple realization outside of brain.  Maybe it would only entail MR in brains.

As an aside, Carl Gillett and I have argued in "Levels, Individual Variation and Massive Multiple Realization in Neurobiology", for example, that many cognitive processes are actually multiply realized (or more technically, multiply implemented) in the brain at many different levels, but I don't see that cognitive processes are realized very often, if at all, out side the brain.

All of this is pretty rough--not what I would put in a journal article, but I think the lay of the land is clear enough for a blog post.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Are Wheeler and Clark Closet Cognitivists?

It sound like that here:
So what sort of overarching theory of the cognitive is favoured by EM theorists? As Clark (2008, 44) notes, the fact is that '[a]rguments in favour of [EM] appeal mainly, if not exclusively, to the computational role played by certain kinds of non-neural events and processes in online problem-solving'. In other words, EM theorists overwhelmingly conceive of cognition as a matter of information processing. Their distinctive observation is that, given this view of what cognition is, extra-neural factors - including the stuff of material culture - may, in some cases anyway realize the target phenomenon just as readily as neural tissue. For example, taking it that memory is, at least in part, a matter of the selective storage and context-sensitive retrieval of information, the EM theorist with a cognitive-archaeological bent might contend that information that is poised appropriately for context-sensitive retrieval may be stored in a Mycenaean Linear B tablet just a readily as in a Mycenaean brain.
Extended functionalism and implementational materiality 
Of course, not any old kind of information-processing profile will do here. To say that it would would be to fall prey to Rupert's worry about explanatory inefficacy. No, genuine cognition will be found only in a (perhaps rather small) subset of information-processing systems. (Wheeler, 2010, p. 32).
 To me, computational information processing of a restricted sort sounds a lot like the manipulation of representations, or a description of cognitivism sans the optional non-derived content condition.  This seems to me to reinforce the idea that cognitivism per se does not beg the question against EC, even though many advocates of EC and enactivism reject cognitivism.  Wheeler later drops the computational part for an extended "generic" functionalism, but that is still consistent with a thin sort of cognitivism that Adams and Aizawa have been urging since "The Bounds of Cognition" in 2001.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Embodied Cognition and Sport

It's taking off ...

John Sutton: Batting, Habit and Memory: The Embodied Mind and the Nature of Skill.

Sian L. Beiloc: Beyond the playing field: sport psychology meets embodied cognition.

Wheeler on "Generic Memory"

So, what of this "coarse grained", supposedly locationally-neutral theory of memory?  Wheeler writes,
Rupert sees this sort of response coming, and so develops his memory-oriented critique further by arguing that any attempt to fix a generic kind that would subsume internal and extended systems would need to be so devoid of detail (in order to subsume all the different profiles) that it would fail to earn its explanatory keep. But this seems wrong. Indeed, it's important to note that we would surely not intuitively withdraw the epithet 'memory' from an internally located system which did not exhibit the generation effect, but which continued to achieve (something like) the selective storage and context-sensitive retrieval of information, so why should we withdraw that epithet from an extended system with a similar profile? But if that's right, why think that exhibiting the generation effect is a defining dimension of memory, rather than an accidental feature? This gives us some reason to think that there must be a generic account of what memory is that covers both cases, and that has explanatory bite. (Wheeler, 2010, p. 31).
Again, it seems to me that there is a lot going on.  Adams and Aizawa have challenged the "generic mental categories move" from as early as our first "Bounds of Cognition" paper.  We note in Bounds how the generic category of memory has decreased in significance in psychology, being replaced by more specific types of memory, such as procedural and declarative memory.  This category is losing its "explanatory bite" even though the term hangs on.  Wheeler is, I think, right, to claim that "we would surely not intuitively withdraw the epithet 'memory' from an internally located system which did not exhibit the generation effect".  But, we also don't withdraw the epithet 'memory' from the hardware in a standard personal computer, because it does not exhibit the generation effect.  But, the generic category of memory that indifferently includes both the computer hardware and the brain's wetware does not seem to be a single scientifically interesting kind.

To return to the case mentioned by Justin Fisher, one might think that there is a category of flying that consists of things the move through the atmosphere.  And, surely we want to say that insects, birds, jet planes, helicopters, and rockets fly.  We would not want to withhold the "flies" epithet from them.  Nevertheless, the loose category of things that move through the atmosphere is of pretty limited interest to the entomologist studying insect flight, the ornithologist studying bird flight, the aeronautical engineer, and the rocket scientist.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Corrected Proof of "Coupling-Constitution Fallacy Revisited" Available

This contains a lot of material that I blogged here, etc., and to which Chalmers posted objections.

The Benchmarks of Cognitive Parity

So, here is where things get more serious.
what are the benchmarks by which parity of causal contribution is to be judged? Here is the wrong way to answer this question. First we fix the benchmarks for what it is to count as a proper part of a cognitive system by identifying all the details of the causal contribution made by (say) the brain. Then we look to see if any external elements meet those benchmarks. Why is this the wrong way to go? Because it opens the door to the following style of anti-EM argument: we identify some features of, say, internal memory that are not shared by external memory, and we conclude that since the parity principle is not satisfied, EM is false. (Wheeler, 2010, pp. 30-31).
There actually seems to me to be a lot going on here.

First, no one (Rupert, Adams, or Aizawa, in particular) want to fix the benchmarks by identifying all the details of the causal contribution made by the brain.  At most, Rupert, Adams, and Aizawa want to fix the benchmarks by identifying all the cognitive details of the causal contribution made by the brain.

Second, it seems to me perfectly fine to ask, "If one were to fix the benchmarks by reference to the cognitive details of the brain, then would we find these same cognitive details realized in brain-body-world combinations?"  The answer might be "no", but that does not mean that there is anything wrong with the question.

Third, bear in mind that, on the assumption that these fine causal details are multiply realizable, then it would not beg the question against EC.  If the details are multiply realizable, then it is in principle possible they are realized outside the brain.  Fineness of detail per se does not cheat the advocate of EC.

Fourth, and here is where Wheeler ultimately gets the conclusion he wants.  He can say that, even though Rupert, et al., are right that the fine causal contribution is not extended (what a preposterous idea!), there is this other kind of causal contribution -- call it "coarse causal contribution"-- that is extended.

Yet, it is misleading to suggest that Rupert, et al. are asking "the wrong question".  They are not begging the question.  They are not asking an absurd question.  The only thing is that it does not lead to the conclusion that Wheeler wants, namely, that there is some extended cognition.

So, I disagree with Wheeler's subsequent analysis:
To be clear, the Rupert-style argument under consideration is not suspect in virtue of being anti-EM, rather it is suspect because it begs the question against EM by assuming that II what counts as cognitive should be fixed by the fine grained profile of the inner. Such question-begging can be avoided, and Rupert's criticism resisted, if we adopt the following alternative strategy for saying what the benchmarks are by which parity of causal contribution is to be judged. First we give an account of what it is to be a proper part of a cognitive system that is essentially independent of where a candidate element happens to be located with respect to the internal-external boundary (however that boundary is to be determined). Then we look to see where cognition falls - in the brain, in the non-neural body, in the environment, or, as the EM theorist predicts will sometimes be the case, in a system that extends across all of these aspects of the world. (ibid., p. 31).
But, Rupert, et al., are not begging the question on fine grained details.  They are just asking a question to which the consensus answer now seems to be, "That kind of cognition does not extend".  Moreover, by "extracting" one's benchmarks for cognitive parity from the brain exemplar does not prejudice the location of other realizations of that exemplar.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Parity of Causal Contribution?

So, on t0 some of the substance of Wheeler's "Minds, Things, and Materiality".
In broad terms the parity principle states that if there is equality with respect to governing behaviour, between the causal contribution of certain internal elements and the causal contribution of certain external elements, then there is no good reason to count the internal elements concerned as proper parts of the cognitive system while denying that status to the external elements concerned. Parity of causal contribution mandates parity of cognitive status.  (Wheeler, 2010, p. 30).
Now, as I read this, it is somewhat ambiguous.  "Equality with respect to governing behavior" can mean

a) Equal insofar as two things (processes?) both govern behavior.
b) Equal insofar as two things (processes?) both govern behavior in the same way.

Wheeler, et al., can advance whatever theory of equality they wish, but I think Wheeler intends the second reading.  So, then, the issue becomes what is meant by "in the same way".  That's what the very current debates regarding "coarseness of grain" are all (mostly?) about.  More on that tomorrow....

Is This a Bad Sign of Things to Come?

There are now two MA theses (that I know of) arguing that I'm wrong one of my views regarding EC.

Lucas Allen Keefer at Georgia State University: "Defending Noe's Enactive Theory of Perception" (2009).

Uwe Peters at the University of Canterbury: "Does the Mind Leak?" (2009).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shapiro's New Book: Embodied Cognition

You can now pre-order it here from Amazon or here from  Do it.  Do it now.

Congrats, Larry!  The cover is very cool.

I read (and commented on) the original manuscript.  It's a great read that provides more than a recitation of the familiar embodied cognition memes.  It takes much of this standard material and challenges the reader to think more critically about what is being claimed.  I think that it is much more than just a book for students.

Oh, and I have a cover blurb for the book.  The truncated version of my comments that they published may seem a little over the top, but it really is a must have book.  They didn't like the first draft of my comments:
Embodied Cognition is Shapiro acting out his firmest belief, " I don't have anything to say ...  That's not going to stop me! "  The many philosophical pratfalls and missteps in this book show why those who know Shapiro best think of him as the Jerry Lewis of academic philosophy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Enactivism vs EC

As I begin to work through Mike Wheeler's "Minds, Things, and Materiality," I'm struck by how much I have underestimated the extent to which the advocates of EC are working through the differences between EC and enactivism.  (One of Wheeler's ideas is to draw attention to the EC and enactivist themes in a paper by Malafouris.)

For much of the last ten years, the embodied, embedded, enactive, extended (EEEE) crowd has presented something of a unified front.  I knew that Noe (and Rowlands) think that consciousness extends, where Clark does not.  And, I have had this (unpublished) paper indicating rifts along representationalist lines.  And, I have been thinking about this Complementary EC/Revolutionary EC distinction for a few months.  But, it is now clear that some of the major players in the EC movement are looking at the differences between EC and enactivism.  There is the special issue of Topoi, edited by Julian Kiverstein and Andy Clark.  There is this paper by Wheeler that is now out.  There is some discussion along these lines in Thompson's Mind in Life.  There are probably other examples as well.

So, I figure there is going to be a rash of papers now articulating the differences.  This, I think, is a good thing.  I find that there is a tendency among some folks in the EEEE crowd to be somewhat dismissive of my criticisms from the perspective of orthodoxy.  But, differences among the heterodox (maybe) cannot be so easily dismissed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Weiskopf Review of Menary's Cognitive Integration

In Mind.

Embodied Cognition in Annual Review of Neuroscience

Alfonso Caramazza
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138
Annual Review of Neuroscience
Vol. 34 (Volume publication date July 2011) 

Klein Review of Rupert's Cognitive Systems

This is forthcoming from the Journal of Mind and Behavior (a fine venue for extended cognition as it is supported by Leslie Marsh), but it is available here from Klein's personal web page.
I have in mind to write up a paper about how Klein is too much like Rupert, who is too much like Clark, in his approach to extended cognition.

Clark's "Material Surrogacy" 3

It may still be objected, of course (see e.g. Adams & Aizawa 2001; Rupert 2004) that even if material culture sets the scene for new ways of thinking, the thinkings themselves are always fully internal, and brain-bound just as tradition has it. Two quick closing comments on this popular compromise.
Second, even if (mistakenly rejecting the consid­erations above) we choose to treat the organism alone as the physical substrate of all genuinely cognitive activity, it is still open to us to hold that the role of certain props and artefacts is essential to explain­ing how that very organism can manage to think the thoughts it does. For it may be that without the use of artefact-involving modes of stabilization, targeting, feature-highlighting, time-dilating and attention­ sculpting, certain thinkings would be impossible either to attain or to maintain. Material culture, on this only slightly more deflationary view, would still be massively cognition-enabling. Either way, material culture penetrates deep into the cognitive fold. (Clark, 2010, p. 27)
I think I can agree with most everything that Clark says here, except for those last two sentences.  They seem to me to be ambiguous in such a way as to have at least one reading that is fine and another reading that is problematic.  So, props might (and probably do) enable you to think thoughts you would never have had without them, hence be in some sense "cognition-enabling".  But, that would mean simply that props can make a causal contribution to the life of your mind such that you can think thoughts you would never have thought before.  But, if "cognition-enabling" is understood as "cognition constituting" then I'd have to demur.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Blitzer Review of Clark's Supersizing

From The Review of Metaphysics, online here.

Clark's "Material Surrogacy" 2

Much of Clark's paper could well have been taken to show just how material culture makes an important causal contribution to our cognitive performance abilities.  Yet, near the end of his paper, Clark apparently still wants to press for extended cognition, and provides two comments meant to reply to Adams, Aizawa, and Rupert.
It may still be objected, of course (see e.g. Adams & Aizawa 2001; Rupert 2004) that even if material culture sets the scene for new ways of thinking, the thinkings themselves are always fully internal, and brain-bound just as tradition has it. Two quick closing comments on this popular compromise.
     First, there is no obvious reason why, when the right external stuff is present, it should not play an active role as part of the physical substrate of think­ing. As Hurley (1998) notes, the skull is not a magical membrane beyond which physical stuff obtains some special property that makes it Gust then and not a moment before) capable of implementing thought and reason. Instead, if we are broadly speaking func­tionalists about the role of physical organizations in supporting thought, it must be at least possible that the relevant functional wholes should sometimes extend beyond the ancient confines of skin and skull, and include inextricable tangles of feedback, feed-forward and feed-around loops that promiscuously criss-cross the boundaries of brain, body and world. Something of this ilk may indeed occur, it seems to me, in the case of the musical cognizer mentioned above. (Clark, 2010, p. 17)
Now, A&A and Rupert, all agree that there is a reading of " there is no obvious reason why, when the right external stuff is present, it should not play an active role as part of the physical substrate of think­ing" that is true.  The idea is that one can combine some form of functionalism about cognition with some appropriate interpretation of qualifier "when the right external stuff is present," then get extended cognition.

But, this seems to me just to go back to the idea that extended cognition is possible, which we have agreed to as early as Adams & Aizawa, 2001, p. 47.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Clark's "Material Surrogacy" 1

It seems to me that much of Clark's paper could have been written simply to show how material culture provides many tools that causally enable us to think things we would not have thought otherwise.  But, near the end, he thinks that the story he has told supports extended cognition.  But, think of his discussion of the way in which surrogates can better help by suppressing concrete detail.  (Here is where you don't really need to have read the article.)  Now, I don't doubt that the experimental work Clark cites supports this kind of conclusion, but what does the additional claim that material culture realizes extended cognition add to the mix?  Not seeing this probably enabled me to read (most of) Clark's paper as being about nothing but the causal utility of material culture.

Monday, July 19, 2010

So, what is one to make of this if the mind is not in the brain?

Brain to brain interface.

Those who think that mind is not in the brain might also think that this could not work, since you are not hooking up mind to mind.  Instead, it would be like hooking up one neuron to another neuron. But, I'm not sure what to make of this if one does not think the mind is realized in the brain.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Malafouris on transforming the "Handaxe Enigma" 2

Just to emphasize the fact that Malafouris is not using EC to resolve the handaxe enigma, we have additional text that shows that he is, instead, interested in putting on the table a kind of enactivist theory of intentional states. 

I want to argue that the 'handaxe enigma' embodies much more than a simple question about what precise goal the knapper pursues. ...  In other words, it is not simply a problem about the precise content of the knapper's 'intentional states', e.g. a cutting instrument vs a symmetric cutting instrument. It is instead a problem about the actual nature, location and constitution of these intentional states in human cognitive evolution. ... But the key issue underlying the hand axe enigma is not about whether humans in the Stone Age were producing one sort of intentional states rather than another. The issue does not lie in deciding between a core and a blade. The key issue, rather concerns, on the one hand, the question of how humans - in contrast to what we see in other animals - came to possess this special property that we call 'intentionality', and, on the other hand, the question of how and when humans became aware of the intentional character of their actions and of the actions of others. The unique challenge that the 'handaxe enigma' poses to the archaeology and philosophy of mind lies precisely in thinking about when and how this explicit understanding emerges. (Malafouris, 2010, pp. 16-17).
Now, it is true that the issue of how humans came to possess intentionality is a large and important one and it may be true that the handaxe enigma may presuppose human intentionality, but Malafouris' contention notwithstanding it really does seem to be a debate over which intentions early humans had.  It is not about whether they had them (or maybe it is, given some ways in which Malafouris sets up the debate).  Nor is it about what it is for early humans to have had intentions.  It is about which intentions they had.

Or, if Malafouris is right, I don't see what reason he has given for his take on what the issue really is.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Malafouris on transforming the "Handaxe Enigma" 1

So, what exactly is this "handaxe enigma"?  Roughly, it is a debate over two different ways in which humans might make Acheulean handaxes: either by intending to make an envisioned symmetrical tool or by intending just to knock off chips.  (In truth, Malafouris at time seems to set up the debate as over an intentional way of making the handaxes versus an unintentional way.)  And one might think that Malafouris' project is to show how EC will help resolve this debate.  See the following, for example:
Broadly speaking there are two main sides in the 'hand axe debate'. On the one hand, we have those archaeologists (e.g. Wynn 1995; 2002) that identify 'conscious intention' behind the symmetry of the hand axe, although as we shall be discussing below, they differ on the precise selective forces or mechanisms that they see as furnishing the main influences on hand axe morphology (for a good summary discussion see Lycett 2008 ). On the other side of the debate, many archaeologists would disagree with the above interpretations arguing that the perceived symmetry in stone tools is simply the consequence of the manufacture technique, rather than the product of human intention (Noble & Davidson 1996; McPherron 2000). On this construal, symmetrical handaxes are simply seen as more effective cutting and chopping tools that do not involve any conscious choice on the part of Acheulean toolmakers (e.g. Ohe11987; Mitchell 1996; Simao 2002).
     How are we then to understand the cognitive life of this object? What questions should we ask of it? My contention is that what we call 'the handaxe enigma' (Wynn 1995) needs to be placed altogether on a different ontological foundation. We need to abandon our common representational/internalist assumptions, and recognize knapping as an act of thought; that is a cognitive act.  (Malafouris, 2010, p. 14).
One might have thought that EC is supposed to help us decide between these two interpretations, but instead (per the last two sentences) EC is just a proposal for rethinking the description of these two alternatives.  This is repeated later.
I propose, that' active externalism' clearly points out that the problem of human intentionality which the handaxe ' enigma' primarily embodies, is grounded on the false assumption that intentional states are 'in the head' whereas in fact in many cases they can be seen to spread out across skin and skull. Consequently, in the last part of this paper, I will attempt to describe knapping as an embodied cognitive process which criss-crosses the boundaries of skin and skull, since its effective implementation involves elements that extend beyond the purely 'mental' or neural realm.  (Malafouris, 2010, p. 17).
 Ok.  So, this transforms the problem.  Now, the handaxe enigma is not about competing hypotheses about intentions in the head, but about competing hypotheses about intentions spread out over brain, body, and world.  I don't see that this does much to address the anthropologists who were interested in the enigma in the first place.

Moreover, one might have hoped that Malafouris would show how EC could help resolve the debate, hence that this would be some evidence in favor of believing in EC.  Yet, we seem only to get an EC reformulation of a debate with no apparent payoff.  Why would this tranformation be helpful?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heidegger and Cognitive Science Workshop

Workshop website.

The workshop seeks to introduce key Heideggerian ideas to the participants in a conceptually clear manner - hoping to scrupulously avoid the obscurism sometimes attributed to continental thinkers – and link them to contemporary empirical research and philosophical debate. Emphasis will be placed on the ramifications pro and con for adopting a Heideggerian stance towards philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

The target group of the workshop is UK graduate students and faculty interested in philosophy of mind, and cognitive science. As this workshop will not involve detailed critique of either Heidegger, or phenomenology, we do not seek to target those interested in textual analysis of work done in the phenomenological tradition.

Handaxes are Part of the Extended Mind 2

A second reason Malafouris, 2010, gives for believing in EC is:
For another, the more we study material culture, the more it looks like a genuine element of the human cognitive system and its long-term development. Thus, given the archaeological preoccupation with long-term processes and the study of material culture, one would expect some questioning of the conventional boundaries and intuitions about the whereabouts of the human mind.  (Malafouris, 2010, p. 15).
But, doesn't this just beg the question?  Why is it that the more one studies material culture, the more it looks like a genuine element of the human cognitive system?

I'm fine with the claim that material culture is an element in the long-term development of the human cognitive system, because that is perfectly consistent with HEMC.  But, why think that because some factor is an element in the long-term development of the cognitive system that it is part of the cognitive system?  Maybe a regular night-day cycle of light is an important element in the long-term development of the cognitive system.  That does not seem to me to make the cycle part of the cognitive system, rather than a causal influence on the cognitive system.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Handaxes are Part of the Extended Mind 1

According to the anti-EC view of handaxes, as presented by Malafouris, 2010:
The hand axe, being a thing made of stone, cannot participate in the knapper's cognitive realm per se. Instead, it can only be the index of a mental process, like a footprint is the index of walking. In other words, the hand axe is simply the product, or external representation, of an 'internal' preformed idea, or cognitive process, which was subsequently realized in the external physical world.  (Malafouris, 2010, p. 15)
So far, so good.  So, what reason does Malafouris give for challenging the anti-EC view?
Are there sufficient grounds to uncritically accept as archaeologists the above popular 'internalist' scenario (see also Introduction, this volume)? I think not. From an archaeological perspective, I see no compelling reason why the study of mind should stop at the skin or skull, despite what other disciplines might think. For one thing, most of our evidence about the origin and evolution of human intelligence comes in the form of material culture, rather than abstract ideas and brain tissue. (ibid.)
So, there are two things here.

First, he notes that there is no reason (he sees) why the study of mind should stop at the skin or skull.  Ok.  But, there is an understanding of the anti-EC view according to which the study need not stop at the skin or skull.  As I noted in an earlier post, even those who think the mind is in the head think that one needs to understand the role of the body and environment in causally influencing cognitive processes.  This is what Rupert labels "HEMC."

Second, there is the observation about where most of our evidence comes from.  But, why should the boundaries of the mind be co-extensive with the boundaries of the evidence?  If most of our evidence about the origin and evolution of human intelligence were to come from fMRI, would that mean that our minds extend into these giant magnets, etc.?

Now, I would be happy to accept something like the Hypothesis of Extended Evidence, according to which much of our evidence about the origin and evolution of human intelligence extends beyond the boundaries of skin and skull, but not the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Archeulean Handaxes and EC

In "Knapping Intentions and the Marks of the Mental", Malafouris uses the example of Acheulean handaxes as an instance of EC.

For some reason, I find this an attractive example, even though I don't think they provide instances of EC.

For the advocate of EC, however, the situation is more interesting.  There seems to be an issue of whether or not these could count as tools wherein cognition might extend.  As I've mentioned before, I think it is Clark's view that tools suitable for EC must be information resources or information processors.  I get this as implicit in Clark's conditions on "trust and glue".  Here is one version of them:
1. The resource must be reliably available and typically invoked.
2. Any information retrieved from the resource must be more-or-less automatically endorsed. It should not usually be subject to critical scrutiny (unlike the opinions of other people, for example).
3. Information provided by the resource should be easily accessible as and when required. 
The information requirement is implicit in conditions 2. and 3.  So, are the handaxes tools like a recipe or like an oven used in baking a cake?  For me, the answer is no, but for the advocate of EC it seems to be up for grabs. 

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.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Special Issue of Cognitive Systems Research on Extended Cognition

Leslie Marsh reports that (the uncorrected proofs of) these papers are now available here.  (I just finished and submitted my proofs yesterday.)  Leslie has a nice mix of papers from some of the usual suspects, like Adams, Aizawa, and Rupert, but also some new takes on the subject from some younger philosophers, such as Matt Barker, Zoe Drayson, Nivedita Gangopadhyay, and Georg Theiner.

Barker here and Sprevak (in a paper forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science) both take a look at the philosophy of science of locating cognition.  That's a twist on the debate I never saw coming.

Thanks for all your hard work in organizing this, Leslie! 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Engrams and Exograms

Malafouris and Renfrew discuss the Mycenaean Linear B clay tablet as a prototypical exogram, hence as a kind of extended memory.  They, then, proceed to note differences between it and engrams.  And even note that we should be careful not to overlook the differences between engrams and exograms.  This, however, is what Adams and Aizawa and Rupert have been emphasizing.  The differences are significant enough that, while we might take a vague similarity between them as motivating calling them "memory" (as happens with human memory and computer memory, for example), the way of the scientific future should be not to just lump these exograms and engrams together in a generic "memory science".

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Methodological Implications of EC

Malafouris & Renfrew repeat a relatively familiar claim about EC:
The methodological implication of this is that cognition can be studied independently of any consideration of the external environment, the body, or the material world.  (Malafouris & Renfrew, 2010, p. 10).
I have a tough time putting a favorable interpretation on this.  Think about the experimental study of vision over the last 40 years.  Maybe there are parts of it, such as some computational modeling tasks, such as finding lines in scenes, that can be done with little consideration of the body or environment.  But, there are vast tracts of research in vision science dedicated to controlled experiments that tweak minor parameters of the visual stimulus in order to try to determine various properties of the visual system.  Gibsonians will dislike much of this, but the problem for them is not that it works independently of any consideration of the external environment, the body, or the material world.  It is that this work looks at the wrong features of the environment, or looks at them in the wrong way.

Moreover, vision science includes a lot of work on the structure of the eye, structures such as the lens and the macular pigment.  These are features of the non-neural body.

And the study of hearing is much the same.  In the sensation and perception text I use, Blake and Sekuler's Perception, for example, there is ample discussion of the role of the head and the ears.  My favorite line in the book is when they describe the head as a dense barrier.  (Many people have told me that my head is a dense barrier, but not in the context of the study of audition.)

And think of Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus argument.  Whether or not you think this is a good argument, it is not an argument that ignores the environment.  It is one that makes a claim about the environment, namely, that it does not contain enough information to enable normal infants to acquire language in a reliable manner.

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.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Philosophical Studies' book symposium on Clark's Supersizing the Mind

Keep an eye out for this upcoming issue.

What if Some Human Cognition is Extended? (Elpidorou review)

Assume that some human cognition is actually extended. What follows?  A whole lot. Cognitive neuroscience is in trouble; computational psychology is partly misguided; and social psychology is in need of a change. (p. 1).
The consequences of human extended cognition really depend a lot on more details of the view.

First of all, there is the question of how much "some" covers.  If there is one human with an prosthetic device in which there is extended cognition, maybe not much changes.

Second, if we are talking about folk cognition in the way Clark does, at least at times, then it seems to me relatively unimportant that that extends.  What the cognitive neuroscientists, computational psychologists, and social psychologists should worry about is whether or not scientific psychology extends.  Or, at least, if the extension of folk cognition has these consequences, then this merits further argumentation.

Third, suppose one goes the route of thinking of the kind of cognition that extends as some form of "general liberal" cognition.  This would be the kind of general cognition that is supposed to dodge objections to the equivalence of Inga-Otto by way of appeal to "coarse functional equivalence" (whatever that amounts to).  Why not suppose that extant cognitive neuroscience, computational psychology, and social psychology are about/attend to these?  After all, that's what Adams and Aizawa and Rupert have been pointing out.  Extant cognitive psychology cares about things such as primacy and recency effects, the generation effect, and so on and so forth.  No defender of EC has ever, to my knowledge, denied these claims.  So, why would that change just because we find these new general psychological categories?

Fourth, Clark is among those who advocates a Complementary Version of Extended Cognition.  That's the idea that, while there is some cognition that extends, there remains a "cognitive core" in the brain.  If there is such a cognitive core, then why isn't cognitive neuroscience about this cognitive core?  And, maybe current views in computational psychology and social psychology could just be focused on developing their views with the views of the cognitive core. 

But, if you don't have these versions of EC, then you could get different consequences.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Elpidorou (Draft) Review of Rupert's Cognitive Systems and the Extended Mind

Destined for Minds & Machines, but available in draft form here.

60-Second Science 7/1/10 Intelligence Averages Linked to Regional Infectious Disease Burden

In a correlational study lower average regional intelligence was found to be linked with higher infectious disease rates. Perhaps because the metabolic demands of the brain are great and resources are diverted to fight disease. Karen Hopkin reports here.

Does the use of mosquito nets in Africa count as extended cognition?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why are hand measurements off?

Here is a more recent Scientific American 60 Second Science on the misperception of unseen hand size.  Subjects thought their unseen hands were "about two thirds wider and one third shorter than they really were".  The "neuroscientific explanation" invokes the mental representation of the hand.

But, C&S claim, "Note that neither Gibson nor Skinnerians claim that the brain is not importantly involved in cognition; rather they claim that psychologists can do all their explanatory work without referring to the brain."  (Chemero & Silberstein, 2008, p.4).

So, what is the Gibsonian or Skinnerian explanation?  I guess there must be one. I know that Shaun Gallagher has done a lot of work on this kind of body image/body schema issue.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

60-Second Science 5/10/10 Wash Away Your Doubt

A recent study suggests that washing our hands after making a decision can keep us from second-guessing our choice. Karen Hopkin reports here.

So, is this an instance of EC?  On Clark's view, I think it may be hard to tell.  For Clark, an external resource has to be an informational resource to be part of extended cognition.  I've tried to make this point before by noting the different between using a recipe and using an oven to bake a cake.  The first is an instance of EC, for Clark, where the other is not.  (At least this is how I read Clark's conditions of "trust and glue" and which Andy confirmed in conversation.)

As with other studies, I guess the question to ask is how is it that washing our hands after making a decision keeps us from second guessing our choices.  That's where just claiming that these things are instances of extended cognition is of little use or point.  But, tell me where I'm wrong.  I just don't think I have the "EC intuition".

It is probably also worth noting that in evaluating these cases, it seems to me that we are not trying to impose a conclusion in the advance of science, but it seems that we are trying to interpret data as part of the ongoing scientific process.