Conclusions: Mind as Mashup
Richard Dawkins, at the start of his classic treatment of the extended phenotype, encourages readers to try a “mental flip” (1982, 4–5). Whereas before we saw only whole organisms (albeit replete with smaller parts and themselves forming and re-forming into larger groups and wholes), we are now to imagine those bodies falling transparent so as to reveal the near-seamless play of replicating DNA. Through this special lens, the spider’s web appears as a proper part of the spider’s extended phenotype, and the organism emerges as no more (and no less) than an adaptively potent nonrandom concentration of DNA. This perspective, Dawkins suggests, is not compulsory nor can it be simply proved or disproved by experiment (1982, 1). Its virtues lie rather in the different ways of seeing familiar phenomena that it may breed in the flip of perspective that invites us to view the larger organism– environment system in a new and illuminating light.
Work on embodiment, action, and cognitive extension likewise invites us to view mind and cognition in a new and, I believe, illuminating manner. Such work invites us to cease to unreflectively privilege the inner, the biological, and the neural. This in turn should help us better understand the nature and importance of the inner, biological, and neural contributions themselves. The human mind, viewed though