, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 227-236
Date: 12 Aug 2005

Collective memory, group minds, and the extended mind thesis

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Abstract

While memory is conceptualized predominantly as an individual capacity in the cognitive and biological sciences, the social sciences have most commonly construed memory as a collective phenomenon. Collective memory has been put to diverse uses, ranging from accounts of nationalism in history and political science to views of ritualization and commemoration in anthropology and sociology. These appeals to collective memory share the idea that memory “goes beyond the individual” but often run together quite different claims in spelling out that idea. This paper reviews a sampling of recent work on collective memory in the light of emerging externalist views within the cognitive sciences, and through some reflection on broader traditions of thought in the biological and social sciences that have appealed to the idea that groups have minds. The paper concludes with some thoughts about the relationship between these kinds of cognitive metaphors in the social sciences and our notion of agency.

Communicated by John Sutton