- Cognitive scientists have become increasingly enamored of the idea of extended minds. The extended-mind thesis (EM) is the claim that mentality need not be situated just in the brain, or even within the boundaries of the skin. EM is the modal1 claim that it is possible that the mind is not bound by skull or skin. EM is quite radical: A mind is a collection of processes that easily extends to tools, programs, other minds, language. Cognitive states may have all sorts of components—neural, bodily, environmental. The heart of the extended-mind thesis is that we biological creatures can “couple” with nonbiological entities or features of our environment and thereby expand the entities that we are. Some versions do away with enduring agents altogether: “Extended selves” are relatively transitory couplings of biological organisms and external resources. (Clark and Chalmers, 1998, p. 18) Although there is a huge and complex literature on the idea of an extended mind — both pro and con — I’ll focus on some of Andy Clark’s work, especially the article he wrote with David Chalmers in 1998, “The Extended Mind.”
- Here’s my plan for the paper: First, I want to show how EM can be seen as an extension of traditional views of mind. Then, after voicing a couple of qualms about EM, I shall reject EM in favor of a more modest hypothesis that recognizes enduring subjects of experience and agents with integrated bodies. Nonetheless, my modest hypothesis allows subpersonal states to have nonbiological parts that play essential roles in cognitive processing. I’ll present empirical warrant for this modest hypothesis, and show how it leaves room for science and religion to co-exist.
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