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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. Thus consider the use of pen and paper to perform long multiplication McClelland et al , Clark , the use of physical re-arrangements of letter tiles to prompt word recall in Scrabble Kirsh , the use of instruments such as the nautical slide rule Hutchins , and the general paraphernalia of language, books, diagrams, and culture.

In all these cases the individual brain performs some operations, while others are delegated to manipulations of external media. Had our brains been different, this distribution of tasks would doubtless have varied. In fact, even the mental rotation cases described in scenarios 1 and 2 are real. The cases reflect options available to players of the computer game Tetris.

In Tetris, falling geometric shapes must be rapidly directed into an appropriate slot in an emerging structure. A rotation button can be used. David Kirsh and Paul Maglio calculate that the physical rotation of a shape through 90 degrees takes about milliseconds, plus about milliseconds to select the button. To achieve the same result by mental rotation takes about milliseconds. Kirsh and Maglio go on to present compelling evidence that physical rotation is used not just to position a shape ready to fit a slot, but often to help determine whether the shape and the slot are compatible. 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. Epistemic action, we suggest, demands spread of epistemic credit. If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is so we claim part of the cognitive process.

Cognitive processes ain't all in the head! In these cases, 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. This externalism differs greatly from standard variety advocated by Putnam and Burge When I believe that water is wet and my twin believes that twin water is wet, the external features responsible for the difference in our beliefs are distal and historical, at the other end of a lengthy causal chain.

Features of the present are not relevant: if I happen to be surrounded by XYZ right now maybe I have teleported to Twin Earth , my beliefs still concern standard water, because of my history.


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In these cases, the relevant external features are passive. Because of their distal nature, they play no role in driving the cognitive process in the here-and-now. This is reflected by the fact that the actions performed by me and my twin are physically indistinguishable, despite our external differences. In the cases we describe, by contrast, the relevant external features are active, playing a crucial role in the here-and-now. Because they are coupled with the human organism, they have a direct impact on the organism and on its behavior. In these cases, the relevant parts of the world are in the loop, not dangling at the other end of a long causal chain.

Concentrating on this sort of coupling leads us to an active externalism, as opposed to the passive externalism of Putnam and Burge. Many have complained that even if Putnam and Burge are right about the externality of content, it is not clear that these external aspects play a causal or explanatory role in the generation of action. In counterfactual cases where internal structure is held constant but these external features are changed, behavior looks just the same; so internal structure seems to be doing the crucial work.

We will not adjudicate that issue here, but we note that active externalism is not threatened by any such problem. The external features in a coupled system play an ineliminable role -- if we retain internal structure but change the external features, behavior may change completely. The external features here are just as causally relevant as typical internal features of the brain.

By embracing an active externalism, we allow a more natural explanation of all sorts of actions. Once can explain my choice of words in Scrabble, for example, as the outcome of an extended cognitive process involving the rearrangement of tiles on my tray. Of course, one could always try to explain my action in terms of internal processes and a long series of "inputs" and "actions", but this explanation would be needless complex.

If an isomorphic process were going on in the head, we would feel no urge to characterize it in this cumbersome way. In a very real sense, the re-arrangement of tiles on the tray is not part of action; it is part of thought. The view we advocate here is reflected by a growing body of research in cognitive science.

In areas as diverse as the theory of situated cognition Suchman , studies of real-world-robotics Beer , dynamical approaches to child development Thelen and Smith , and research on the cognitive properties of collectives of agents Hutchins , cognition is often taken to be continuous with processes in the environment. In effect, explanatory methods that might once 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.

Some find this sort of externalism unpalatable. One reason may be that many identify the cognitive with the conscious, and it seems far from plausible that consciousness extends outside the head in these cases. But not every cognitive process, at least on standard usage, is a conscious process. It is widely accepted that all sorts of processes beyond the borders of consciousness play a crucial role in cognitive processing: in the retrieval of memories, linguistic processes, and skill acquisition, for example.

So the mere fact that external processes are external where consciousness is internal is no reason to deny that those processes are cognitive. More interestingly, one might argue that what keeps real cognition processes in the head is the requirement that cognitive processes be portable. Here, we are moved by a vision of what might be called the Naked Mind: a package of resources and operations we can always bring to bear on a cognitive task, regardless of the local environment. On this view, the trouble with coupled systems is that they are too easily decoupled.

The true cognitive processes are those that lie at the constant core of the system; anything else is an add-on extra. There is something to this objection. The brain or brain and body comprises a package of basic, portable, cognitive resources that is of interest in its own right. These resources may incorporate bodily actions into cognitive processes, as when we use our fingers as working memory in a tricky calculation, but they will not encompass the more contingent aspects of our external environment, such as a pocket calculator.

Still, mere contingency of coupling does not rule out cognitive status. In the distant future we may be able to plug various modules into our brain to help us out: a module for extra short-term memory when we need it, for example. When a module is plugged in, the processes involving it are just as cognitive as if they had been there all along.

Even if one were to make the portability criterion pivotal, active externalism would not be undermined. Counting on our fingers has already been let in the door, for example, and it is easy to push things further. Think of the old image of the engineer with a slide rule hanging from his belt wherever he goes. What if people always carried a pocket calculator, or had them implanted? The real moral of the portability intuition is that for coupled systems to be relevant to the core of cognition, reliable coupling is required.

Chicago Pragmatism and the Extended Mind Theory

It happens that most reliable coupling takes place within the brain, but there can easily be reliable coupling with the environment as well. If the resources of my calculator or my Filofax are always there when I need them, then they are coupled with me as reliably as we need. In effect, they are part of the basic package of cognitive resources that I bring to bear on the everyday world.

These systems cannot be impugned simply on the basis of the danger of discrete damage, loss, or malfunction, or because of any occasional decoupling: the biological brain is in similar danger, and occasionally loses capacities temporarily in episodes of sleep, intoxication, and emotion. If the relevant capacities are generally there when they are required, this is coupling enough. Moreover, it may be that the biological brain has in fact evolved and matured in ways which factor in the reliable presence of a manipulable external environment. It certainly seems that evolution has favored on-board capacities which are especially geared to parasitizing the local environment so as to reduce memory load, and even to transform the nature of the computational problems themselves.

Our visual systems have evolved to rely on their environment in various ways: they exploit contingent facts about the structure of natural scenes e. Ullman and Richards , for example, and they take advantage of the computational shortcuts afforded by bodily motion and locomotion e. Blake and Yuille, Perhaps there are other cases where evolution has found it advantageous to exploit the possibility of the environment being in the cognitive loop.

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If so, then external coupling is part of the truly basic package of cognitive resources that we bring to bear on the world. Language may be an example. Language appears to be a central means by which cognitive processes are extended into the world. Think of a group of people brainstorming around a table, or a philosopher who thinks best by writing, developing her ideas as she goes. It may be that languaged evolved, in part, to enable such extensions of our cognitive resources within actively coupled systems.

Within the lifetime of an organism, too, individual learning may have molded the brain in ways that rely on cognitive extensions that surrounded us as we learned. Language is again a central example here, as are the various physical and computational artifacts that are routinely used as cognitive extensions by children in schools and by trainees in numerous professions.

In such cases the brain develops in a way that complements the external structures, and learns to play its role within a unified, densely coupled system. 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. So far we have spoken largely about "cognitive processing", and argued for its extension into the environment. Some might think that the conclusion has been bought too cheaply.

Perhaps some processing takes place in the environment, but what of mind? Everything we have said so far is compatible with the view that truly mental states -- experiences, beliefs, desires, emotions, and so on -- are all determined by states of the brain. Perhaps what is truly mental is internal, after all?

The Extended Mind

We propose to take things a step further. While some mental states, such as experiences, may be determined internally, there are other cases in which external factors make a significant contribution. 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. As Cornelis de Waal remarks, we can trace the processes of adaptive coupling from events as relatively simple as the sunflower turning towards the sun, up to very complex human behavior such as browsing the Internet cf. Waal Mead would, thus, undeniably agree with contemporary findings of the philosopher of cognitive science, Radu J.

Rob Rupert: The Meta-Extended Mind

Bogdan, who holds that goal-directedness should be viewed not only as a successful life-strategy, but in fact as one of the very conditions for survival and replication of all living forms cf. Bogdan By contrast, an act finds its completion in consummation which can be characterized as a successful finishing or satisfaction of the particular course of action cf. As indicated above, the impulse already contains, in itself, its goal end-in-view that would, thus, under ideal environmental conditions, lead the organism directly to the stage of consummation.

In the case of higher-order organisms, however, this situation almost never takes place. This is why Mead introduces into his analysis of action two mediatory phases of the act, namely — perception and manipulation. The very occurrence of an impulse, Mead holds, indicates increasing lack of adjustment between an organism and its environment that urges the organism to employ a series of adaptive strategies change of spatial position, movement, active searching for stimuli, etc.

The lack of adjustment between an organism and its environment is therefore surmounted by means of mediatory phases of the act. The teleological character of the impulse sensitizes the organism to certain kinds of stimuli:. The process of sensing is itself an activity. In the case of vision this is most evidently the case. Here the movement of the eyes, the focusing of the lens, and the adjustment of the lines of vision of the two eyes require a complicated activity which is further complicated by the movements of the eyes which will bring the rays of light coming from all parts of the object upon the center of clearest vision.

In other words, in the process of perception the organism has to perform certain practical strategies if it wants to bring the perceptual object into an appropriate focus. The very phase of perception bears with it, therefore, an important normative dimension. In the process of perception, the organism understands however unreflectively what it is supposed to do, if it wants to reach a distant object in a particular way. It might no longer be true that thinking is an entirely inner activity based on the computational processes occurring inside our skulls.

By contrast, in the pragmatic view, it is the implicit practical understanding of changes in the perceptual field on the basis of bodily movement that could possibly be regarded as the origin of thinking. It should also be noted that in this enactive paradigm it is the world itself on which the animal relies. The organism does not have to create some inner representations of the worldly structures if it is sufficient for it just to create appropriate ways of interaction with them in terms of bodily movements. Contact experience is the immediate presence of the environment as it appears in unmediated physical opposition.

By contrast, distance experience is the kind of experience we have of objects which are not within our reach. For Mead the ultimate test of experience lies in haptic contact, within which the validity of distant perceptual experience is examined. In the case human beings, the distance experience is connected to the contact experience by means of eye-hand coordination.

The phase of manipulation, therefore, intervenes between perception of distant objects and successful completion of the act at the stage of consummation. For Mead, the role of the hand in the development of human intelligence is of crucial importance. Manipulation can be defined as human activity of transformation and exploitation of the environmental structures in order to achieve particular goals of action. The existence and physiological structure of the hand enables human beings 26 not to devour the desired object immediately but manipulate, reorganize or transform it in order to achieve further goals.

Mead suggests that by means of tools we can enlarge our body-schema and use those tools as an actual extension of our limbs. More specifically, the brain cells that are sensitive to both the look and the feel of the hand and arm treated the rake extension of the arm as if it were part of the body, that is — as if it were the arm itself cf. To enter into deep and complex relationships with nonbiological constructs, props and aids […] it is our special character, as human beings, to be forever driven to create, co-opt, annex and exploit nonbiological props and scaffoldings We have been designed by mother nature, to exploit deep neural plasticity in order to become one with our best and most reliable tools.

Clark 5. Consequently, they also transform their peripersonal space, i. In his opinion, there is no principled reason to think our bodies stop where we think they do. The Chicago pragmatists, as well as the defenders of the extended mind theory, contend that technology increases our access to the world, which is to say that it increases the extent of what is, or at least can be, available for us. We are creatures that, due to our mastery of technology, extend our minds 29 and bodies outside our skinbags. It is not something that happens exclusively in our heads. The world itself is immediately given to us due to our practical strategies of active engagement with the environmental structures.

Thus, unlike classical empiricists, pragmatists maintain that the world does not come to us for free, it only shows up if we actively develop practical strategies of hooking up with it. In the version of pragmatism Dewey and Mead advocated, these practical strategies are encoded in our brains and bodies via attitudes and habits which attune us to particular worldly structures. Habits executed in the form of so called deeds , then, as I was trying to argue, can be described as representations of these worldly structures if, by enacting them in our actions, we can accomplish our practical tasks.

Successful employment of deeds in the world means that they are correct representations of the worldly structures they refer to since they stand the test of practical action. From this perspective it seems that pragmatism does not necessarily have to get rid of the notion of representation altogether. What it ought to do, on the other hand, is to reformulate it in terms of action.

Representations, then, will cease to be defined in terms of pictures magically matching the outer world but will be situated where cognition unfolds, that is, in the world itself. If we adopt such a view, it is clear that, from the pragmatic perspective, we represent the world not so much in our heads but, much rather, through our bodies and embodied action in it.

As I was trying to argue in this paper, Mead and Dewey held this position a century ago. However, this is not to mean that pragmatists cannot learn anything from the extended mind theory. Quite the contrary. Everybody laughs at this nowadays, and yet everybody continues to think of mind in this same general way, as something within this person or that, belonging to him and correlative to the real world. Today, we can see that Peirce was extremely optimistic about how long it would take to finally overcome Cartesianism. Even after decades of consistent opposition against it, the Cartesian picture of mind still holds captive a good portion of the contemporary philosophy of mind mostly through various forms of internalism.

That is why a firm alliance between pragmatism and the extended mind theory should be urgently pursued. Adams F. Bernstein R. Bogdan R. Clark A. Dewey J. Dewey, , vol. Boydston, A. Hankinson R. Shields ed. Hutto D. Myin , , Radicalizing Enactivism. Gibson J. Iacoboni M. James W.

Joas H. Camic ed. Johnson M. Kilpinen E. Koczanowicz L. Krueger J. Lakoff G. Johnson , , Philosophy in the Flesh. Lizardo O. Madzia R. Reidel Publishing Company.


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To achieve the same result by mental rotation takes about milliseconds. Kirsh and Maglio go on to present compelling evidence that physical rotation is used not just to position a shape ready to fit a slot, but often to help determine whether the shape and the slot are compatible. 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. Epistemic action, we suggest, demands spread of epistemic credit.

If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is so we claim part of the cognitive process. Cognitive processes ain't all in the head! In these cases, 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. This externalism differs greatly from standard variety advocated by Putnam and Burge When I believe that water is wet and my twin believes that twin water is wet, the external features responsible for the difference in our beliefs are distal and historical, at the other end of a lengthy causal chain.

Features of the present are not relevant: if I happen to be surrounded by XYZ right now maybe I have teleported to Twin Earth , my beliefs still concern standard water, because of my history. In these cases, the relevant external features are passive. Because of their distal nature, they play no role in driving the cognitive process in the here-and-now. This is reflected by the fact that the actions performed by me and my twin are physically indistinguishable, despite our external differences.

In the cases we describe, by contrast, the relevant external features are active, playing a crucial role in the here-and-now. Because they are coupled with the human organism, they have a direct impact on the organism and on its behavior. In these cases, the relevant parts of the world are in the loop, not dangling at the other end of a long causal chain. Concentrating on this sort of coupling leads us to an active externalism, as opposed to the passive externalism of Putnam and Burge. Many have complained that even if Putnam and Burge are right about the externality of content, it is not clear that these external aspects play a causal or explanatory role in the generation of action.

In counterfactual cases where internal structure is held constant but these external features are changed, behavior looks just the same; so internal structure seems to be doing the crucial work. We will not adjudicate that issue here, but we note that active externalism is not threatened by any such problem.

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The external features in a coupled system play an ineliminable role -- if we retain internal structure but change the external features, behavior may change completely. The external features here are just as causally relevant as typical internal features of the brain. By embracing an active externalism, we allow a more natural explanation of all sorts of actions. Once can explain my choice of words in Scrabble, for example, as the outcome of an extended cognitive process involving the rearrangement of tiles on my tray.

Of course, one could always try to explain my action in terms of internal processes and a long series of "inputs" and "actions", but this explanation would be needless complex. If an isomorphic process were going on in the head, we would feel no urge to characterize it in this cumbersome way. In a very real sense, the re-arrangement of tiles on the tray is not part of action; it is part of thought.

The view we advocate here is reflected by a growing body of research in cognitive science. In areas as diverse as the theory of situated cognition Suchman , studies of real-world-robotics Beer , dynamical approaches to child development Thelen and Smith , and research on the cognitive properties of collectives of agents Hutchins , cognition is often taken to be continuous with processes in the environment.

In effect, explanatory methods that might once 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. Some find this sort of externalism unpalatable.

Drag to reposition

One reason may be that many identify the cognitive with the conscious, and it seems far from plausible that consciousness extends outside the head in these cases. But not every cognitive process, at least on standard usage, is a conscious process. It is widely accepted that all sorts of processes beyond the borders of consciousness play a crucial role in cognitive processing: in the retrieval of memories, linguistic processes, and skill acquisition, for example.

So the mere fact that external processes are external where consciousness is internal is no reason to deny that those processes are cognitive. More interestingly, one might argue that what keeps real cognition processes in the head is the requirement that cognitive processes be portable. Here, we are moved by a vision of what might be called the Naked Mind: a package of resources and operations we can always bring to bear on a cognitive task, regardless of the local environment. On this view, the trouble with coupled systems is that they are too easily decoupled.

The true cognitive processes are those that lie at the constant core of the system; anything else is an add-on extra. There is something to this objection. The brain or brain and body comprises a package of basic, portable, cognitive resources that is of interest in its own right. These resources may incorporate bodily actions into cognitive processes, as when we use our fingers as working memory in a tricky calculation, but they will not encompass the more contingent aspects of our external environment, such as a pocket calculator.

Still, mere contingency of coupling does not rule out cognitive status. In the distant future we may be able to plug various modules into our brain to help us out: a module for extra short-term memory when we need it, for example. When a module is plugged in, the processes involving it are just as cognitive as if they had been there all along. Even if one were to make the portability criterion pivotal, active externalism would not be undermined. Counting on our fingers has already been let in the door, for example, and it is easy to push things further.

Think of the old image of the engineer with a slide rule hanging from his belt wherever he goes. What if people always carried a pocket calculator, or had them implanted? 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. If the resources of my calculator or my Filofax are always there when I need them, then they are coupled with me as reliably as we need. In effect, they are part of the basic package of cognitive resources that I bring to bear on the everyday world.

These systems cannot be impugned simply on the basis of the danger of discrete damage, loss, or malfunction, or because of any occasional decoupling: the biological brain is in similar danger, and occasionally loses capacities temporarily in episodes of sleep, intoxication, and emotion. If the relevant capacities are generally there when they are required, this is coupling enough.

Richard Menary

Moreover, it may be that the biological brain has in fact evolved and matured in ways which factor in the reliable presence of a manipulable external environment. It certainly seems that evolution has favored on-board capacities which are especially geared to parasitizing the local environment so as to reduce memory load, and even to transform the nature of the computational problems themselves.

Our visual systems have evolved to rely on their environment in various ways: they exploit contingent facts about the structure of natural scenes e. Ullman and Richards , for example, and they take advantage of the computational shortcuts afforded by bodily motion and locomotion e. Blake and Yuille, Perhaps there are other cases where evolution has found it advantageous to exploit the possibility of the environment being in the cognitive loop.

If so, then external coupling is part of the truly basic package of cognitive resources that we bring to bear on the world. Language may be an example. Language appears to be a central means by which cognitive processes are extended into the world. Think of a group of people brainstorming around a table, or a philosopher who thinks best by writing, developing her ideas as she goes.

It may be that languaged evolved, in part, to enable such extensions of our cognitive resources within actively coupled systems. Within the lifetime of an organism, too, individual learning may have molded the brain in ways that rely on cognitive extensions that surrounded us as we learned. Language is again a central example here, as are the various physical and computational artifacts that are routinely used as cognitive extensions by children in schools and by trainees in numerous professions.

In such cases the brain develops in a way that complements the external structures, and learns to play its role within a unified, densely coupled system. 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. So far we have spoken largely about "cognitive processing", and argued for its extension into the environment. Some might think that the conclusion has been bought too cheaply. Perhaps some processing takes place in the environment, but what of mind?

Everything we have said so far is compatible with the view that truly mental states -- experiences, beliefs, desires, emotions, and so on -- are all determined by states of the brain. Perhaps what is truly mental is internal, after all? We propose to take things a step further. While some mental states, such as experiences, may be determined internally, there are other cases in which external factors make a significant contribution. 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. First, consider a normal case of belief embedded in memory. Inga hears from a friend that there is an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and decides to go see it. She thinks for a moment and recalls that the museum is on 53rd Street, so she walks to 53rd Street and goes into the museum. It seems clear that Inga believes that the museum is on 53rd Street, and that she believed this even before she consulted her memory.

It was not previously an occurrent belief, but then neither are most of our beliefs. The belief was sitting somewhere in memory, waiting to be accessed. Now consider Otto. Otto suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and like many Alzheimer's patients, he relies on information in the environment to help structure his life. Otto carries a notebook around with him everywhere he goes.