Friday, May 6, 2011

COGS Seminar, University of Sussex

University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QN

Tuesday May 10, 4pm Pevensey I, Room 1A7

Perception, Action, and the Extended Mind

Professor Mike Wheeler
School of Arts and Humanities: Philosophy
University of Stirling\


According to the extended cognition hypothesis (henceforth ExC), there are actual (in-this-world) cases in which thinking and thoughts (more precisely, the material vehicles that realize thinking and thoughts) are spatially distributed over brain, body and world, in such a way that the external (beyond-the-skin) factors concerned are rightly accorded cognitive status (where 'cognitive status' signals whatever status it is that we ordinarily grant the brain in orthodox, non-extended cognitive theory). David Chalmers, one of the original architects of ExC, has recently articulated an objection to the view which turns on the claim that the idea of cognitive extension is in conflict with an intuitive thought that we ought to preserve. Chalmers puts that intuitive thought like this: 'It is natural to hold that perception is the interface where the world affects the mind, and that action is the interface where the mind affects the world. If so, it is tempting to hold that what precedes perception and what follows action is not truly mental.' Chalmers proceeds to offer a defence of ExC against the worry. In my talk I'll (i) set the scene with some comments about how one ought to understand ExC (comments that involve some criticisms of Andy Clark's version of the view), (ii) explain Chalmers' objection and his response to it, (iii) argue that Chalmers' response fails, and (iv) suggest that we should solve the problem by ditching the intuitive thought. This final move will enable me to address a challenge that, up until now, has arguably not been met successfully by advocates of ExC, that is, to say what consequences the view has for empirical work in cognitive science and psychology.

Mike Wheeler is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Stirling. Prior to joining Stirling Philosophy in 2004, he held teaching and research posts at the Universities of Dundee, Oxford, and Stirling (a previous appointment). His doctoral work was carried out in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex. His primary research interests are in philosophy of science (especially cognitive science, psychology, biology, artificial intelligence and artificial life) and philosophy of mind. He also works on Heidegger and is interested in exploring ideas at the interface between the analytic and the contemporary European traditions in philosophy. His book, Reconstructing the Cognitive World: the Next Step, was published by MIT Press in 2005.

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