Outside the Box
Outside the Box
On the ‘Extended Mind’ Hypothesis
Here I examine various aspects of the ‘extended mind’ (EM) thesis proposed by David Chalmers and Andy Clark. Their claim is that various items of extra-cranial equipment (ranging from notebooks to iPhones) are so closely bound up with our mental processes that they must – on a ‘parity principle’ – count as parts or integral components of the users’ minds. Opponents object that minds don’t have parts, that these devices 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. My chapter starts out from a position of broad sympathy with the EM thesis but then raises problems with it from a phenomenological as well as ethical and socio-political standpoint. I conclude that its advocates have been overly concerned with prosthetic devices of a physical kind and thereby led to under-estimate the role of human inter-personal, collective, and social exchange as a source of expanded mental powers. Then I briefly trace a history of thought – from Spinoza to Negri and other recent theorists – which lays chief stress on the idea of ‘multitude’ as a means of breaking with the entrenched individualism of Western post-Cartesian philosophic thought.
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