Making Sense of Sense-Making: Reflections on Enactive and Extended Mind Theories

Abstract

This paper explores some of the differences between the enactive approach in cognitive science and the extended mind thesis. We review the key enactive concepts of autonomy and sense-making. We then focus on the following issues: (1) the debate between internalism and externalism about cognitive processes; (2) the relation between cognition and emotion; (3) the status of the body; and (4) the difference between ‘incorporation’ and mere ‘extension’ in the body-mind-environment relation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The notion of precarious conditions comes from Ezequiel di Paolo: “By precarious we mean the fact that in the absence of the organization of the system as a network of processes, under otherwise equal physical conditions, isolated component processes would tend to run down or extinguish” (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007, p. 487). See also Di Paolo’s paper in this special issue.

  2. 2.

    For discussion of how autonomy pertains to these systems, see Thompson (2007) and the further references contained therein.

  3. 3.

    See Di Paolo, this issue, for an excellent critical discussion showing how the parity principle “relies both on simple prejudices about inner and outer as well as on intuitions about cognition” that “are inevitably tied to the boundaries between inner and outer that it wishes to undermine.”

  4. 4.

    Here we are speaking at the level of individual cognition/emotion. For social cognition and its dynamics, see De Jaegher and Di Paolo (2007).

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Acknowledgment

The work of the second author was supported by the AHRC (Grant Number ESF/AH/E511139/1) and forms a part of the CONTACT (Consciousness in Interaction) Project. The CONTACT project is a part of the ESF EuroCORES Consciousness in the Natural and Cultural Context scheme.

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Correspondence to Evan Thompson.

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Thompson, E., Stapleton, M. Making Sense of Sense-Making: Reflections on Enactive and Extended Mind Theories. Topoi 28, 23–30 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-008-9043-2

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Keywords

  • Enaction
  • Extended mind
  • Autonomy
  • Sense-making
  • Emotion
  • Embodiment
  • Incorporation