Notes for Andy Clark and David Chalmers “The Extended Mind”

Key concepts: active externalism.


Related theorists: .

1. Introduction

When the environment includes ECM to which we attribute cognition, and therefore embodiment, let us think about the embodiment as it relates to its equivalent of human mind based on active externalism rather than brainbound model.

(7) We advocate a very different sort of externalism: an active externalism, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes.

2. Extended Cognition

(8) It is not just the presence of advanced external computing resources which raises the issue, but rather the general tendency of human reasoners to lean heavily on environmental supports.

Epistemic actions such as recognition and search versus pragmatic actions are things we try to make computers do for us. Fetching. Data development. Ties into Hayles reasons for valuing electronic literature. Does epistemological transparency lead to secondary intersubjectivity and another term in another of Gallager's writers equivalent to Englebart's Type C behaviors?

(8) Epistemic actions alter the world so as to aid and augment cognitive processes such as recognition and search. Merely pragmatic actions, by contrast, alter the world because some physical change is desirable for its own sake (e.g., putting cement into a hole in a dam).

3. Active Externalism

Relate active externalism to systems programming use of C/C++ and other languages studied as they related to human use and assimilation into behavior, as Hayles discusses in EL along with synaptogenesis, and the adjustment to evolutionary theory as the codetermination genetic and embodied individual experience.

(10) In effect, explanatory methods that might one have been thought appropriate only for the analysis of 'inner' processes are now being adapted for the study of the outer, and there is promise that our understanding of cognition will become richer for it.
(11) The real moral of the portability intuition is that for coupled systems to be relevant to the core of cognition,
reliable coupling is required. It happens that most reliable coupling takes place within the brain, but there can easily be reliable coupling with the environment as well.

The old question raised by Socrates in Plato about internal versus external mnemonics, in context of transformation of computational problems admits to the self-reprogramming nature of evolutionarily selected mnemotechnics.

(11) It certainly seems that evolution has favored onboard capacities so as to reduce memory load, and even to transform the nature of the computational problems themselves.

Hayles says distributed entails distributed.

(12) Once we recognize that the crucial role of the environment in constraining the evolution and development of cognition, we see that extended cognition is a core cognitive process, not an add-on extra.

4. From cognition to mind

Environmental constitution of beliefs related to major premise of Norman Design of Everyday Things.

(12) In particular, we will argue that beliefs can be constituted partly by features of the environment, when those features play the right sort of role in driving cognitive processes. If so, the mind extends into the world.

Cognition beyond the human body.

(14) What makes some information count as a belief is the role it plays, and there is no reason why the relevant role can be played only from inside the body.

5. Beyond the outer limits

Socially extended cognition not only Roman name whispered but Zizek reality of the virtual.

(17) What about socially extended cognition? Could my mental states be partly constituted by the states of other thinkers? We see no reason why not, in principle.

Devices metaphor for describing unique abilities of language, here as ubiquitous literacy.

(18) 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 constructed, 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.

Compare occurrent states self to Hayles cyborg.

(18) Does the extended mind imply an extended self? It seems so. . . . 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.


Clark, Andy and David Chalmers. “The Extended Mind.” Analysis 58.1 (January 1998). 7-19. Print.