Friday, October 7, 2011

The Extended Mind and WE-ness: How Far Can It Stretch Without Breaking?- William Rottschaefer

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.


  1. I hope everyone in the audience is mature enough not to snicker at every mention of supersizing the WE-ness.

  2. I'm old, but I'm not that mature.