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Extended Cognition (Lecture 2)

Andrea Polonioli

University of Edinburgh
a.polonioli@sms.ed.ac.uk

November 13, 2014

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Wrapping up
Brief recap...

Common justifications of HEC seem to rely on functionalism


Rupert, Adams and Aizawa claim that extended and internal cognitive
processes are not functionally equivalent
But their fine-grained functionalism leads to chauvinism, which is a
problem for them!

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Plan for today

The reductio ad absurdum of functionalism


Looking for alternative justifications of HEC

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Plan for today

The reductio ad absurdum of functionalism


Looking for alternative justifications of HEC

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

We have to avoid two dangers, namely chauvinism and liberalism

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum
Sprevak articulates a different argument against HEC

Rupert, Adams and Aizawas fine-grained functionalism might lead to


chauvinism

But opting for coarse-grainded functionalism does not really offer better
prospects

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

A dilemma for functionalist theories


If functionalist theories set the parameter too fine, then Intelligent
Martians are not allowed and functionalism leads to chauvinism
If functionalist theories set the parameter too coarse, then Intelligent
Martians are allowed, but functionalism leads to an absurd
proliferation of extended cognitive processes

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

CC add three conditions to functionalism to mitigate HEC:


The [external] resource be reliably available and typically invoked
Information thus retrieved be more-or-less automatically endorsed. It
should not usually be subject to critical scrutiny (unlike the opinions
of other people, for example). It should be deemed about as
trustworthy as something retrieved clearly from biological memory
Information contained in the resource should be easily accessible as
and when required

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

According to Sprevak, CCs move does not work


These conditions are violated by actual and possible cases of internal
cognitive resources. This creates a problem for HEC: Why, if internal
resources are allowed to violate them, should external resources not
be? What justifies the differential treatment? (2009, 516)

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum
The problem of rampant cognitive extension
By considering appropriate Martian scenarios, one can argue that if I step
into a library, I instantaneously acquire millions of beliefs. By browsing the
internet, I instantaneously acquire billions of beliefs. If we swap our
address book, we instantaneously swap our beliefs (Sprevak 2009, 518)

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

Overly extended cognition:

Suppose I have a computer containing a program to calculate the


dates of the Mayan calendar 5000 years into the future
Now imagine an intracranial process following the same algorithm as
my computer
By the MI, the Martians intracranial calculation process counts as
cognitive
By PP, the functionally equivalent process in my computer is an
extended cognitive process by which I am able to calculate the dates
of the Mayan calendar

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

PP, MI and functionalism lead to rampant cognitive extension


But such a version of extended cognition is clearly implausible
This shows that functionalism is in deep trouble
And then CC are in trouble too, given that they justifed HEC on
functionalist grounds

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Sprevaks reductio ad absurdum

This is not the end of the dispute...


Some argue that PP should not be seen as a corollary of functionalism
Some claim that Sprevaks argument relies on a stronger version of
the Martian intuition than that generally assumed by functionalism
But others have also justified HEC on different grounds

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Plan for today

The reductio ad absurdum of functionalism


Looking for alternative justifications of HEC

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Alternative justifications of HEC

Not all of the advocates of HEC appeal to functionalism

For instance, Sutton (2010) distinguishes first-wave and second-wave


arguments for HEC

The latter refer to complementarity approaches:


These investigate the many different ways in which diverse
components of a cognitive system intermingle and function together
in triggering, driving and forging complex cognitive behaviour

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Alternative justifications of HEC

Here we will focus on one argument for HEC

Not clearly distinguished from the functionalist argument by CC

It does not appeal to metaphysics, but rather to scientific practice

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Alternative justifications of HEC

Instead of arguing for HEC from the armchair

Some authors have argued that HEC is justified by its explanatory


pay-off for cognitive science

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Alternative justifications of HEC

HEC and scientific practice


Thus, in seeing cognition as extended one is not merely making a
terminological decision; it makes a significant difference to the
methodology of scientific investigation. In effect, explanatory methods
that might once have been thought appropriate only for the analysis of
inner processes are now being adapted for the study of the outer, and
there is promise that our understanding of cognition will become richer for
it (Clark and Chalmers, 10)

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Alternative justifications of HEC

HEC and scientific practice


The central thread of the argument would seem to be this: a taxonomy
that includes overarching cognitive kinds - kinds that cut across the
organisms boundary - provides the most empirically powerful framework
for research in cognitive science (Rupert, 406 - 407)

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Inference to HEC

Inference to the best explanation (IBE) is a method for selecting


between rival hypotheses
IBE says: Infer the hypothesis that best explains the empirical data
A crucial method for justifying hypotheses in science

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Inference to HEC
Darwin and evolution by natural selection
It can hardly be supposed that a false theory would explain, in so
satisfactory a manner as does the theory of natural selection, the several
large classes of facts above specified. It has recently been objected that
this is an unsafe method of arguing; but it is a method used in judging of
the common events of life, and has often been used by the greatest natural
philosophers

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Inference to HEC

Lavoisier and the existence of oxygen


I have deduced all the explanations from a simple principle... the oxygen
principle... Once this principle was admitted, the main difficulties of
chemistry appeared to dissipate and vanish, and all the phenomena were
explained with an astonishing simplicity

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Inference to HEC
Fresnel and light as a wave
Thus reflection, refraction, all the cases of diffraction, colored rings in
oblique incidences as in perpendicular incidences, the remarkable
agreement between the thicknesses of air and of water which produce the
same rings; all these phenomena, which require so many particular
hypotheses in Newtons system, are reunited and explained by the theory of
vibrations and influences of rays on each other

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Inference to HEC

IBE uses explanatory virtues as symptoms of the truth

What are the explanatory virtues?


Scope
Simplicity
Elegance
Unification
Fruitfulness
IBE assumes that explanatory virtues are a guide to the truth

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Inference to HEC

The best has to be good enough


IBE selects between rival hypotheses
There has to be a clear winning explanation
We have to be capable of detecting the best explanation

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Inference to HEC

An IBE can be defeated by:


New empirical data
Thinking up a new rival explanation

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Inference to HEC

Two main candidates:


Hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC)
Cognition is scaffolded by the environment. Explanations of cognition
involve that scaffolding. Moreover, cognition extends into the scaffolding

Hypothesis of embedded cognition (HEMC)


Cognition is scaffolded by the environment. Explanations of cognition
involve that scaffolding. However, cognition does not extend into the
scaffolding. Cognition is a purely internal process: the external scaffolding
in which cognition is embedded is non-mental

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Inference to HEC
According to Clark, HEC wins explanatory value race because
HEC yields unified explanation (e.g., unifies Otto and Inga)
Conclusion: HEC is the best explanation

Therefore, we should conclude that HEC is true

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Inference to HEC

From explanatory value to existence?


The explanatory value of transcranial cognitive kinds
By using the belief notion in a wider way, it picks out something more akin
to a natural kind. The notion becomes deeper and more unified, and it is
more useful in explanation. (Clark and Chalmers, 1998, p. 14)

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Inference to HEC

Clark and Chalmers claim that transcranial kinds unify the psychological
explanation of Otto and Inga

Treating Ottos extended state as a belief unifies the psychological


explanation of Otto and Inga:
It allows one to see a common psychological action at work,
irrespective of whether the agent relies only on internal resources, or
off-loads work onto the environment

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Inference to HEC: Replies (1)

Rupert: fine-grained details are precisely what cognitive science should


uncover

Adding transcranial kinds obstructs progress in cognitive science rather


than aids it.

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Inference to HEC: Replies (2)

Sprevak: whatever explanatory value transcranial kinds bring to cognitive


science, they do not select between HEC and HEMC

Suppose that transcranial kinds are hybrid kinds (part mental, part
non-mental):
Hybrid kinds are compatible with HEMC
Hybrid kinds also appear equipped to take on the explanatory duties
described above
The explanatory benefits Clark and Chalmers describe for transcranial
kinds stem from their transcranial nature, not from their supposedly
mental nature

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The End

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