The Cure for Cognitive Hiccups
(HEMC, HEC, HEMC …)
Human cognitive processing, EXTENDED claims, may at times loop into the environment surrounding the organism. Such a view should be contrasted with a nearby, but rather more conservative, view according to which certain cognitive processes lean heavily on environmental structures and scaffoldings but do not thereby include those structures and scaffoldings themselves. This more conservative view, ably championed in a series of papers by Robert Rupert (2004, 2006, in press-a, in press-b) may be claimed to capture all that can be of philosophical or scientific interest in such cases and to avoid some significant methodological dangers in the bargain. What positive value, it may be asked, flows from the adoption of the extended perspective? And isn’t there a danger, in embracing such (often transient) larger wholes, of losing our practical and theoretical grip on the very minds—the minds of more or less stable individual agents persisting through time—that we hoped better to understand?
I shall argue, by contrast, that (in the relevant cases) it is the conservative view that threatens to obscure much that is of value and that a robust notion of cognitive extension thus earns its keep as part of the emerging picture of the active embodied mind. To make this case, I first