Two Versions of the Extended Mind Thesis
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According to the Extended Mind thesis, the mind extends beyond the skull or the skin: mental processes can constitutively include external devices, like a computer or a notebook. The Extended Mind thesis has drawn both support and criticism. However, most discussions—including those by its original defenders, Andy Clark and David Chalmers—fail to distinguish between two very different interpretations of this thesis. The first version claims that the physical basis of mental features can be located spatially outside the body. Once we accept that the mind depends on physical events to some extent, this thesis, though not obvious, is compatible with a large variety of views on the mind. The second version applies to standing states only, and has to do with how we conceive the nature of such states. This second version is much more interesting, because it points to a potential tension in our conception of minds or selves. However, without properly distinguishing between the two theses, the significance of the second is obscured by the comparative triviality of the first.
KeywordsExtended mind Functionalism Vehicle externalism Standing states
Versions of this paper were presented at the Universities of Groningen and Oxford, and as part of the Rudolf Carnap lectures at the University of Bochum. I am very grateful for the audiences for their comments, and especially for the opportunity in Bochum to present these ideas in detail. I greatly benefited from comments by an anonymous reviewer. Research leading to this paper was supported by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement no. FP7-238128, and by the Hungarian National Innovation Office’s programme NKTH ERC_HU, within the project BETEGH09.
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