Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 287–308 | Cite as

Extended cognition and fixed properties: steps to a third-wave version of extended cognition

  • Michael David Kirchhoff


This paper explores several paths a distinctive third wave of extended cognition might take. In so doing, I address a couple of shortcomings of first- and second-wave extended cognition associated with a tendency to conceive of the properties of internal and external processes as fixed and non-interchangeable. First, in the domain of cognitive transformation, I argue that a problematic tendency of the complementarity model is that it presupposes that socio-cultural resources augment but do not significantly transform the brain’s representational capacities during diachronic development. In this paper I show that there is available a much more dynamical explanation—one taking the processes of the brain’s enculturation into patterned practices as transforming the brain’s representational capacities. Second, in the domain of cognitive assembly, I argue that another problematic tendency is an individualistic notion of cognitive agency, since it overlooks the active contribution of socio-cultural practices in the assembly process of extended cognitive systems. In contrast to an individualistic notion of cognitive agency, I explore the idea that it is possible to decentralize cognitive agency to include socio-cultural practices.


Extended cognition Fixed-properties Dynamical properties Cognitive transformation Cognitive assembly 



An Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project Grant (DP1095109) and an International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (no. 2011180) has funded this project. Thanks to Richard Menary, John Sutton, and Will Newsome for helpful discussions. I am especially grateful for the highly constructive comments made by two anonymous referees. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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