Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 353–374 | Cite as

Keeping the collectivity in mind?

  • Harry CollinsEmail author
  • Andy Clark
  • Jeff Shrager


The key question in this three way debate is the role of the collectivity and of agency. Collins and Shrager debate whether cognitive psychology has, like the sociology of knowledge, always taken the mind to extend beyond the individual. They agree that irrespective of the history, socialization is key to understanding the mind and that this is compatible with Clark’s position; the novelty in Clark’s “extended mind” position appears to be the role of the material rather than the role of other minds. Collins and Clark debate the relationship between self, agency, and the human collectivity. Collins argues that the Clark’s extended mind fails to stress the asymmetry of the relationship between the self and its material “scaffolding.” Clark accepts that there is asymmetry but that an asymmetrical ensemble is sufficient to explain the self. Collins says that we know too little about the material world to pursue such a model to the exclusion of other approaches including that both the collectivity and language have agency. The collectivity must be kept in mind! (Though what follows is a robust exchange of views it is also a cooperative effort, authors communicating “backstage” with each other to try to make the disagreements as clear and to the point as possible.)


Cyborg Agency Extended mind Interactional expertise Collectivity Language Cognitive psychology Self 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Department PhilosophyEdinburgh UniversityEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Department PsychologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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