Extended view of the mind

Not an internal control system, enclosed in the human body, receiving data from human sensory system and directing human action.

Instead, the mind is a systems that extends far beyond the body of the human organism, systems that include extra-somatic resources: environmental fuels for adaptive action

It suggests that human cognitive systems include those resources that are importantly, robustly, reliably, or persistently supportive of decisions making

Environmentally Supported Cognition

Derives from the Theory of Niche Construction, helps to emphasize the active role of the agent in explaining the adaptive fit of agent and environment

Over time, agents adapt to environments but also adapt their environment to them

“Animals construct nests, burrows and dams, thus protecting themselves from predators and from the violence of the world.”

Epistemic action is a form of niche construction too. For example, ants lay scent trails between nest and food source. Humans also partake in generational learning

Agential Gullibility

In which we too readily bolt external processes onto our own agency. To rephrase, to rely too heavily on the external faculties and trust in them blindly and fully.

Otto — the man who lost his memory

Clark and Chalmers (extended mind) argued that information in his notebook should be amongst Otto’s memories

Parity principle: if an external resource plays the same functional role in supporting action as an action-supporting internal resource that is uncontroversially cognitive, then the external resource is part of the cognitive system of the agent

However, there is a functional difference between Otto’s notebook and internally represented information.

External representations are:

  • subject to interference from other parties and manipulation
  • only accessed via other intentional states (one must believe that the book contains memories that you’ve written before, for example)

And thus, they can’t replace internal, embodied wants (e.g. relational and sexual preferences). The notebook might be a prompt or a cue, but can’t replace motivation and desires

Environmental fuels for cognition — three dimensions

  1. Trust
    • reliability of their access to a resource and the reliability of the resource itself
    • the more agents trust a resource, the less they will see themselves needing redundancy against failure
    • Otto’s competitors have the opportunity to steal his notebook, erase passages in it and add deceptively to it. If Otto is rational, he will be aware of such a danger and will be wary of committing himself to a high-stakes action on the basis of his notebooked beliefs alone
  2. Interchangeability, individualization, entrenchement
    • example of stick for a blind person, extension of their hand and for them, phenomenologically the interface between body and world is at the end of their stick rather than at the end of their hand
    • stick is individualized (custom weight, balance, length, etc.) and entrenched (switch it out, they won’t be used to it)
    • can apply to cognitive resources like book too
      • most books are interchangeable (standard books) but some are heavily individualized (long marginalia, etc.)
      • none are entrenched → no single work is sufficiently salient, they dont read them enough that they adapt to their resource
  3. The individual and the collective
    • distinction between individual and collective resources
      • collective resources have distinct individual and intergeneration dynamics
      • language have almost certainly transformed the internal processes of human minds
      • We adapt the expressive powers of language to our own purposes, but no doubt we have also adapted to it (not to any one individual, but to society as a collective)