Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1–26 | Cite as

Making it mental: in search for the golden mean of the extended cognition controversy



This paper engages the extended cognition controversy by advancing a theory which fits nicely into an attractive and surprisingly unoccupied conceptual niche situated comfortably between traditional individualism and the radical externalism espoused by the majority of supporters of the extended mind hypothesis. I call this theory moderate active externalism, or MAE. In alliance with other externalist theories of cognition, MAE is committed to the view that certain cognitive processes extend across brain, body, and world—a conclusion which follows from a theory I develop in “Synergic Coordination: an argument for cognitive process externalism.” Yet, in contradistinction with radical externalism, and in agreement with the internalist orthodoxy, MAE defends the view that mental states are situated invariably inside our heads. This is done, inter alia, by developing a novel hypothesis regarding the vehicles of content (in “Extended cognition without externalized mental states”, and by criticizing arguments in support of mental states externalism (in “Reflections and objections”). The result, I believe, is a coherent theoretical alternative worthy of serious consideration.


Cognitive engagement Intrinsic content Instantiative vehicles of content Mental states externalism Moderate active externalism Parity principle Process externalism Radical externalism Synergic coordination Transformative vehicles of content 



This work was supported by a grant from Kyung Hee University in the year 2011. An early draft of the manuscript was presented at the Interactivist Summer Institute in Syros, Greece (July 30, 2011) as well as at the Korean Society of Analytic Philosophy (April 28, 2012). I thank the participants for their helpful comments and for their encouragement. I would also like to thank Alex Levine and Hyundeuk Cheon for reading an early version of the manuscript, Andy Clark and Dan Weiskopf for helpful personal communication, and two anonymous referees for this journal for their tremendously helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyKyung Hee UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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