The Extended Mind and WE-ness: How Far Can It Stretch Without Breaking?- William Rottschaefer (Lewis & Clark College)Date: November 18, 3:30am - 5:00pm
Location: J.R. Howard Hall
Advocates of cognitive extension argue that the human mind super-sizes itself by embodying itself in a body, embedding itself in an epistemic environment and uniting itself with both in extended cognitive agency. Call this the 3E-ness thesis. In this paper, I propose a strong version of 3E-ness, WE-ness: In some instances super-sizing results in the creation of a plural subject, a WE. I outline the ontological lineaments of WE-ness, distinguishing it from other forms of situated cognition, and suggest a bio-cultural model of its origin based on a biological model of the emergence of multi-cellular life from single- celled life. I then examine recent findings and theories in developmental psychology concerning we-intentionality and its features of normative and supra-personal intentionality. Developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello has argued that we-intentionality has played a central role in the social/cultural achievements that distinguish humans from their primate cousins. Drawing on these findings, I argue that we-intentionality and its consequences suggest WE-ness for their bases. I then lay out an argument for the existence of WE-ness based on a bio-cultural account of its origin and maintenance, indicating how we-intentionality might play in a role in those processes. Finally, I examine three major objections to the extended mind thesis that also raise problems for WE-ness.