Active Externalism

...the human organism is linked with an external entity in a two-way interaction, creating a coupled system that can be seen as a cognitive system in its own right. All the components in the system play an active causal role, and they jointly govern behavior in the same sort of way that cognition usually does. If we remove the external component the system's behavioral competence will drop, just as it would if we removed part of its brain. Our thesis is that this sort of coupled process counts equally well as a cognitive process, whether or not it is wholly in the head.


...the major burden of the coupling between agents is carried by language. Without language, we might be much more akin to discrete Cartesian "inner" minds, in which high-level cognition relies largely on internal resources. But the advent of language has allowed us to spread this burden into the world. Language, thus construed, is not a mirror of our inner states but a complement to them. It serves as a tool whose role is to extend cognition in ways that on-board devices cannot. Indeed, it may be that the intellectual explosion in recent evolutionary time is due as much to this linguistically-enabled extension of cognition as to any independent development in our inner cognitive resources.

What, finally, of the self? Does the extended mind imply an extended self? It seems so. Most of us already accept that the self outstrips the boundaries of consciousness; my dispositional beliefs, for example, constitute in some deep sense part of who I am. If so, then these boundaries may also fall beyond the skin. The information in Otto's notebook, for example, is a central part of his identity as a cognitive agent. What this comes to is that Otto himself is best regarded as an extended system, a coupling of biological organism and external resources. To consistently resist this conclusion, we would have to shrink the self into a mere bundle of occurrent states, severely threatening its deep psychological continuity. Far better to take the broader view, and see agents themselves as spread into the world.

As with any reconception of ourselves, this view will have significant consequences. There are obvious consequences for philosophical views of the mind and for the methodology of research in cognitive science, but there will also be effects in the moral and social domains. It may be, for example, that in some cases interfering with someone's environment will have the same moral significance as interfering with their person. And if the view is taken seriously, certain forms of social activity might be reconceived as less akin to communication and action, and as more akin to thought. In any case, once the hegemony of skin and skull is usurped, we may be able to see ourselves more truly as creatures of the world.


Folksonomies: cognitive prosthesis cognitive enhancement

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/family and parenting/children (0.348543)
/science (0.316675)

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Otto:Person (0.696993 (positive:0.515930))

Mind (0.988218): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Psychology (0.911854): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Philosophy of mind (0.707175): dbpedia | freebase
Cognitive science (0.608676): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Thought (0.582053): opencyc | freebase | dbpedia
Cognition (0.566507): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Perception (0.474735): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Brain (0.447852): freebase | dbpedia | opencyc

 The Extended Mind
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Clark, Andy and Chalmers, David J. (1998), The Extended Mind, Analysis , 58:10-23, 1998, Retrieved on 2015-04-03
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: philosophy