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Further thoughts: on the extended mind hypothesis

Norris, Christopher Charles 2012. Further thoughts: on the extended mind hypothesis. Southern Humanities Review 46 (3) , pp. 243-269.

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In this essay I examine various aspects of the “extended mind” (EM) thesis proposed by Andy Clark and David Chalmers. Their claim is that various items of extracranial equipment (ranging from notebooks to iPhones) are so closely bound up with the mental processes of those who use them that they must—on a “parity principle”—count as parts or integral components of the users’ minds. Opponents of the thesis typically object that minds don’t have parts, that the devices in question are themselves products of human ingenuity, and that intentionality—the mark of the mental—cannot be attributed to notebooks or iPhones without falling into gross confusion. In response the advocates of “strong” EM advance a range of arguments, mostly of the slippery-slope kind, in order to press their point that there is no way to draw a firm or principled line between “internal” and “extraneous” modes of mental extension or cognitive enhancement. My essay reviews the current debate, starting out from a position of broad sympathy with the EM thesis but then raising problems with it from a phenomenological as well as ethical and sociopolitical standpoint. I conclude that its advocates have been too much concerned with prosthetic devices of a physical or material kind and have thereby been led to underestimate the role of human interpersonal, collective, and social exchange as a source of expanded mental powers. By way of pointing out this missing dimension of the EM argument I briefly trace a history of thought—from Spinoza to Negri and other recent theorists—that lays chief stress on the idea of “multitude” as a means of breaking with the entrenched individualism of Western post-Cartesian philosophic thought.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Publisher: Auburn University, Alabama
ISSN: 0038-4186
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Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 05:04

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