The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Berlin Workshop with Shaun Gallagher and John Protevi

Posted in Seminars by Hanne De Jaegher on February 28, 2011

The Socially Extended Mind,

Freie Universität Berlin, 21-22 March


From the workshop website:

Philosophical approaches to the ‘extended mind’, most rigorously advocated in recent years by Andy Clark, centre around the idea that human mentality is constitutively dependent upon external structures functioning as indispensable “scaffolds” of cognitive processes. In particular, a broad range of tools such as computers, calculators, symbol systems as well as a host of external storage devices have been invoked as cognitive extensions. However, so far, neither the nature of more complex and distributed social structures, arrangements and institutions relevant to cognitive extensions, nor the domain of emotion has received sufficient attention.

Most theorizing within the ‘extended mind’ approach focuses on the causal coupling of an individual’s cognitive processes with narrowly circumscribed environmental items or structures. The broad contexts in which these tools themselves are enmeshed and on which their use and functioning often depend are not explored. Likewise, the institutional backgrounds and human communities, with their specific structures and arrangements in which individual cognizers at any time dwell, have not appeared on the radar of most scholars. Similary, although human emotions are constantly shaped, informed, channelled, and regulated by external structures of various kinds – for example by different media, works of art, arranged spaces, communal practices, technologies and certainly by language – ›extended emotion‹ has not been a topic of discussion. The workshop will address these lacunae in interrelated ways with the aim to extend ‘extended mind’ theory and give it a more realistic and theoretically well-founded outlook.


Speakers: Shaun Gallagher, John Protevi, Michele Merritt, Somogy Varga, Mason Cash, Hanne De Jaegher, Jan Slaby, Martin Hartmann, Christian von Scheve


Organiser: Jan Slaby



2 Responses

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  1. Marieke said, on March 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    The workshop was very inspiring. Beside the good selection of speakers, there were a number of participants that are very active in the field of enactive or extended mind philosophy and others that provided an informed outside perspective, e.g. from social science or from critical theory in philosophy.

    Recurring topics were (non-exhaustive list):
    a) the social vs. the cognitive – can there be cognition without sociality and if not how is social different from cognitive? How do the two concepts relate? How do extended mind theories deal with the “cognitive bloat” of social extension?
    b) Responsibility, norms and participation in society. If the collective exerts power over the individual, what happens to personal liability and responsibility? How does an enactive view on values and norms translate to a political or moral agenda?
    c) Human sociality and language: is it a transition that introduces something radically new and what does this consist of? How does language influence conscious experience and what is it’s role in human level cognition?
    d) Individualism vs. Collectivism: Social roles (e.g., gender roles, cultural identity, the idea of normal and pathological minds) are negotiated between individuals. They enable and constrain individual sense making at the same time – how can we manage the conflicts that arise between our personal values and those of our social surrounding?
    e) the example of the legal system as a “mental institution” with autonomy. Is it a typical or a special case, how does it relate to other social phenomena, institutionalized or not, such as marriage or gender roles?

    I am looking forward to the papers that come out of this workshop.

    • Tom Froese said, on March 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Wow, sounds very interesting indeed!

      I’ve wondered about topic e) before. I think legally institutionalized social entities have a qualitatively different kind of autonomy than non-institutionalized social entities. Institution makes the social entities importantly independent from the ongoing realization via human activity.

      I’m looking forward to the papers as well!

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