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How Otto did not Extend His Mind, but Might Have: Dynamic Systems Theory and Social-Cultural Group Selection

Date: 3:30pm PST December 2, 2016 Location: JRHH 202

JRHH 202

I start with the back-story on Otto, his career as a NASA scientist, when Otto supersized his embodied mind, embedding it in the natural and social-cultural environments and extending it to both, thereby creating with them, extended and distributed cognitive agents. I explore how this happened, arguing that four major objections to extended cognition: (1) the mark of the cognitive, (2) the function-identity fallacy, (3) cognitive bloat, and (4) scientific irrelevance lose much of their sting in the case of distributed cognition, the extension of cognitive agency to a group of cognitive agents, such as a scientific research team. However, I claim that a crucial fifth challenge, that advocates of the extended mind commit the causal-constitution fallacy, has yet to be satisfactorily addressed. I focus on Spyridon Palermos’ use of dynamic systems theory to refute this charge and I argue that his appeal to dynamic systems theory as a criterion of system-constitution fails. Instead, I suggest a social-cultural group selection hypothesis for understanding system-constitution. But, I leave it for another day to elaborate that hypothesis’ empirical plausibility.

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