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Philosophical Explorations

Vol. 15, No. 2, June 2012, 147 164

Cognitive practices and cognitive character


Richard Menary

ARC Centre for Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders, Department of Philosophy,
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

The argument of this paper is that we should think of the extension of cognitive abilities
and cognitive character in integrationist terms. Cognitive abilities are extended by
acquired practices of creating and manipulating information that is stored in a
publicly accessible environment. I call these cognitive practices (2007). In contrast to
Pritchard (2010) I argue that such processes are integrated into our cognitive
characters rather than artefacts; such as notebooks. There are two routes to cognitive
extension that I contrast in the paper, the rst I call artefact extension which is the
now classic position of the causal coupling of an agent with an artefact. This
approach needs to overcome the objection from cognitive outsourcing: that we simply
get an artefact or tool to do the cognitive processing for us without extending our
cognitive abilities. Enculturated cognition, by contrast, does not claim that artefacts
themselves extend our cognitive abilities, but rather that the acquired practices for
manipulating artefacts and the information stored in them extend our cognitive
abilities (by augmenting and transforming them). In the rest of the paper I provide a
series of arguments and cases which demonstrate that an enculturated approach works
better for both epistemic and cognitive cases of the extension of ability and character.
Keywords: cognitive practices; cognitive character; extended cognition; epistemic
virtue

1. Introduction
In this paper, I defend an integrationist account of the extended nature of cognitive abilities
and cognitive character. Pritchard (2010) has recently argued that the extended mind is
compatible with recent work in epistemology. For example, in discussing the by now
classic case of the memory-impaired Otto and his notebook (Clark and Chalmers 1998),
Pritchard (2010) states that as long as Otto is integrating this information resource into
his cognitive character, integrated cognitive processes can count towards Ottos genuine
cognitive abilities or capacities1 (145). I argue that the processes which integrate interpreted
information2 that is stored publicly, in a notebook, for example, and interpreted infor-
mation3 which is encoded in the brain are governed by learned or acquired cognitive prac-
tices (Menary 2007). These practices often require careful and active structuring and
retrieval of information from our environments (and as such are not found exclusively
under the skin). For example, Otto is epistemically (or cognitively) virtuous because
he diligently maintains the quality and reliability of the information in his notebook.

Email: richard.menary@mq.edu.au

ISSN 1386-9795 print/ISSN 1741-5918 online


# 2012 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13869795.2012.677851
http://www.tandfonline.com
148 Richard Menary

This practice of epistemic diligence is part of Ottos cognitive character. Consequently,


notebooks, personal computers and so on are certainly resources, but it is the active
manipulation of the information stored in the resource that constitutes the cognitive
process and can count towards a genuine cognitive ability.
The argument presents a way of distinguishing between two ways of establishing that
cognition is integrated. The rst is what I call artefact extension (AE), which is the idea that
an artefact gets integrated into the cognitive system through the right kind of causal coup-
ling (Clark and Chalmers 1998; Clark 2008, 2010) and which puts it on a functional par
with in-the-head cognitive processes (Wheeler 2010). The second is what I call encultu-
rated cognition (EnC), which is the idea that our cognitive abilities are transformed by a
cognitive species of cultural practices, which I call cognitive practices (Menary 2007).
What we are able do is augmented and transformed by the acquisition of cognitive practices
(Menary 2007, 2010a)4. Based on this view, it is the cognitive practices for creating, main-
taining and manipulating information stored in artefacts, such as notebooks, that are inte-
grated into our cognitive characters. This is an instance of cognitive niche construction5
and maintenance (Sterelny 2003, 2010), but one that goes beyond a merely embedded or
scaffolded account of cognitive abilities. The practices themselves are part of the cycle
of cognitive processing on this account and not merely causally supportive of in-the-
head processes.
The difference between AE and EnC is that the former is not terribly concerned with the
actual practices by which we manipulate publicly available information. As such, it is often
interpreted as the claim that artefacts such as notebooks and iphones are part of our cognitive
systems because we are causally connected to them6. Critics have been puzzled by this claim,
how could my causal connection to my iphone make it part of my mind? (Adams and Aizawa
2001, 2008, 2010) Those in favour of AE rely upon a principle of parity, in which the external
artefacts function in such a way that we ought to call them cognitive (Clark 2008; Wheeler
2010). AE thereby becomes a kind of extended functionalism, in which the functions are
specied at an abstract and common-sensical level (Clark 2008; Wheeler 2010).
By contrast, I argue that Pritchards (2010) account of integrated cognitive abilities and
weak cognitive agency ts well within an EnC framework, primarily because cognitive
practices are reliable belief-forming processes and it is these and not artefacts that are inte-
grated into cognitive character. Pritchards arguments are more closely aligned to EnC than
they are to AE; his arguments can be contrasted with those of Vaesen (2011), who presents a
case in which an artefact is causally responsible for our beliefs, but is not thereby integrated
into our cognitive character. In cases like these, we are outsourcing complexity and proces-
sing to an artefact. This is what I call cognitive outsourcing and it is to be contrasted with
cognitive practices and cognitive diligence.
In Section 2, I outline some of the central terms in the debate: system and cognitive
system, cognitive integration and cognitive practices, ability/capacity and process and
types of extension. In Section 3, I give a brief account of Pritchards arguments and
examples which establish a weak account of cognitive agency, requiring only that an
agents cognitive abilities are to some extent involved in producing cognitive success
(i.e. the reliable formation of true beliefs). In Section 4, I look at the reasons for weak
agency being sufcient to account for integrated cognitive abilities and I contrast an AE
account of the Otto case with an EnC account. I argue that EnC provides a better
account of the Otto case, by looking at the actual practice of memory notebook use by
memory-impaired patients in clinical case studies (Sohlberg and Mateer 1989). In
Section 5, I examine the role of cognitive diligence in a series of cases parallel to those
of Pritchard (2010) and Clark and Chalmers (1998). The cases illustrate the importance
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 149

of cognitive practices to the concepts of cognitive ability, cognitive agency and cognitive
character. The cases also illustrate the importance of EnC when considering cases of
epistemic and cognitive extension.
In Section 6, I argue that these cognitive abilities to create, maintain, manipulate and
deploy information for cognitive success are what really count when considering integrated
cognitive abilities and cognitive character. Consequently, cognitive agency depends upon
integrated cognitive abilities in a different way than it does upon the reliability of artefacts
or the environment. I suggest that this may be a problem for an artefact-based account of cog-
nitive extension and its relationship to epistemological concerns. However, before I proceed
with the argument, I explain how I understand some of the core concepts in this debate.

2. Preliminary considerations
In this section, I briey consider what I take to be the core concepts at play when consider-
ing the possibility of integrated cognition. These concepts are systems and cognitive
systems, cognitive integration and cognitive practices, ability/capacity and process, and
types of extension causal coupling and EnC.

2.1 Systems and cognitive systems


A system is a relatively stable entity that is composed of a set of interacting parts that
exchange energy and sometimes information and matter with an environment. Cognitive
systems are determined by a set of relationships between components. These relationships
also determine that something is a system component. One can identify a number of
potential relationships between components: structural, functional and behavioural.
When the system components are structurally related, they may share structural properties
or they may involve hybrid structures which are ubiquitous in nature (Dawkins 1982;
Turner 2000). System components may have functional relations; for example, one com-
ponent may depend upon the functionality of another for its own successful functioning.
Given inputs to the system, system components combine to produce behavioural outputs.
The functions of components of a system can differ, with different components perform-
ing different functions required for the proper operation of the system. It seems clear that all
system components must contribute (non-trivially) to the behaviour of the system (Rupert
2009). In an integrated system (something of a tautology), components are integrated by
these kinds of relationships. The questions left to ask are whether the system is open
(e.g. biological systems) and whether it is unbounded. Very open systems share energy,
information and matter with their environments and they are constantly interacting with
their environments. Organisms are quite clearly open systems. Unbounded systems can
be, potentially, expanded with no limit, although the expansion may be functional rather
than structural. Cognitive systems are clearly not closed, but it is an unresolved question
whether they are both open and unbounded. I think that there are good reasons for thinking
that they are open and unbounded7.
One of the reasons for this is the relationship between neural plasticity and a structured
cognitive and developmental environment. The cognitive system is unbounded because we
can gain new abilities which are not xed by our evolutionary endowments. Learning to
read and write is a wonderful, cognitive, example of the brains plasticity. Recent work
in cognitive neuroscience (Dehaene 1997, 2007) gives us a very clear picture of how the
plasticity of the brain in learning allows for the redeployment of neural circuitry for
functions that were not specied by biological evolution. In other words, these neural
150 Richard Menary

circuits acquire new culturally specied functions, functions that have only existed for
thousands and not millions of years. However, the functions of the new interconnected
circuits are dependent upon the cultural practices which determine these functions.
Consequently, not only is the brain an open system, but it is also functionally unbounded,
and its functions can be extended beyond those that we are endowed with by evolution.
As Dehaene (2009) himself puts it, Writing created the conditions for a proper cultural
revolution by radically extending our cognitive abilities (307).

2.2 Cognitive integration and cognitive practices


Cognitive integration is a position that I have developed over recent years (Menary 2006,
2007, 2009, 2010a, 2010b), which takes cognitive systems to be integrated wholes that have
interacting parts, but these parts can include neural, bodily and environmental components.
One way to understand integration is to focus on the coordination dynamics of interacting
components of a system. The components here might be processes, or they might be
structures. The global behaviours of a system are a product of the coordinations between
system components (which may themselves be complex systems). The system is constituted
by its components and their interactions, and its successful functioning requires all its proper
parts to be in good working order. We often nd this kind of relationship in nature, where
organisms become deeply integrated with parts of their environment, such that they
become part of the phenotype (they come under selective pressure). Nature is no stranger
to the kind of hybrid integrated system that is at the core of cognitive integration.
The interesting thing about dynamical work on cognition is that the interacting com-
ponents of cognitive systems are sometimes located spatially outside the central nervous
system of an organism. However, because the system components coordinate with one
another to produce the global behaviour of the system, it does not matter that some of
the components are not located within the skin of the organism. Cognitive practices as pro-
cesses and informational structures can be system components even though they are not
under the skin of the organism. Cognitive practices are just these culturally endowed
bodily manipulations of informational structures. The practices are normative, there are
right and wrong ways to do them, and they are often encoded as rules or procedures to
be followed (especially for the neonate or the novice). However, once they are internalised,
they are enacted without the need for reference to these rules/procedures. Take, for example,
the case of writing from the previous subsection.

2.3 Ability/capacity and process


A cognitive process is some activity that allows for the achievement of cognitive success,
such as remembering something or perceiving something. One can understand processes
in computational terms as the execution of instructions or as performing mathematical
operations according to an algorithm. Classical cognitive science thinks of cognitive
processes in these ways, but one might also think of processes as dynamical, as the
spread of activation in a neural network, for example.
Some abilities require a faculty8 that allows performance in some domain. So, one has
an ability to perceive if one has the requisite sense and that sense is functioning normally.
Some cognitive abilities might be innate, because they depend upon these faculties, but
some might also be acquired, such as mathematical abilities or the ability to ride a bike.
It is likely that most cognitive abilities are mixed; they depend upon sensory and brain
functions and learning or training. The ability to speak and comprehend a natural language
and the ability to read are hybrid abilities in this way; they depend upon domain general
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 151

faculties such as hearing and seeing, but also on an acquired competence to recognise and
understand, for example, spoken language and written language. Processes and abilities are
related in that an ability to do something implies processes that do the causal work required
for the exercise of the ability. So, my ability to do multiplication implies that there are the
right kinds of processes that can perform mathematical computations. I have deliberately
made this denition location neutral; it may well be that the processes that perform
mathematical computations turn out to be cognitive practices bodily manipulations of
mathematical symbols in a shared environment.

2.4 Types of extension


In what ways do our cognitive abilities become extended?9 By extension, I mean that the
exercise of the cognitive ability in question includes some physical cognitive processes that
are not brain bound. A further condition is required: the processes in question must be inte-
grated into the processing routines for completing cognitive tasks. The relationship is not
merely one of contingent causality the process merely aids in completing a cognitive
task. It is a relationship of cognitive integration: part of the core set of processing routines
that directly lead to completing a task. Here are two ways in which abilities do not get
extended:
Cognitive outsourcing: We can simply get someone or something to do the processing for
us. This is a clever strategy, but hardly an extension of our cognitive abilities10. It is a kind of
cognitive outsourcing without integration into our actual cognitive processing routines.
Ofoading complexity: We can ofoad complex cognitive processes to the world,
thereby saving on the costs of complex cognitive processing. This move was popular in
the 1990s and was the original motivation for the concept of an epistemic action (Kirsh
and Maglio 1994). However, simply dumping information into the environment or
performing actions that support or aid online cognition is embedded and not extended
cognition11. Embedding simply allows that cognition is sometimes supported by aids in
the environment, not that they extend it.
Here are two distinct but potentially compatible ways that extension can be thought of:
Causal coupling: It is the coupling of internal cognitive processes with external pro-
cesses. The idea is something close to that of functional integration (or at least it ought
to be). Causal integration between internal processing cycles and external processing
cycles is so tight that the external cycles become a dynamical part of the overall processing
cycle. This denition is open enough that the processes could be manipulations of environ-
mental structures or could be the actual causal dynamics of these structures themselves.
Therefore, some processing may be conducted by physical manipulations of environmental
structures and these manipulations are an extension of cognitive ability. However, causal
coupling is usually explained in terms of functional parity: if external processes are
functionally equivalent (although physically dissimilar) to internal processes and if they
were done in the head, then we would call them cognitive and then these external processes
extend our cognitive abilities; this is usually referred to as the parity principle (Clark and
Chalmers 1998).
The functional integration via causal coupling is supposed to ward off the threat of
cognitive outsourcing, but this will be a source of some tension in both Clarks functionalist
AE and Pritchards extended reliabilism, because causal coupling does not guarantee
integration into cognitive systems or into cognitive character.
Enculturated cognition: These are cognitive processes best performed by bodily
manipulating information structures. The main extension of our cognitive processes is by
152 Richard Menary

processes that are part of a cultural practice; this is the position adopted by cognitive inte-
gration (Menary 2007)12. Many of these practices involve artefacts such as tools, writing
systems, number systems and other kinds of representational systems. These are not
simply static vehicles that have contents, but are active components embedded in dynamical
patterns of cultural practices. These practices originate in the world and the practices that
govern them are also in the world. These artefacts and practices are products of cultural
evolution, evolving over faster timescales than biological evolution. Writing systems, for
example, are only thousands of years old, and there is no gene for writing. However, cul-
tural practices and representations can get under the skin and transform the processing and
representational structure of cortical circuitry (see above and Dehaene 1997, 2009; Menary
2010a, 2010b). This is the clearest possible case of the extension of a cognitive ability; the
inside is transformed to be more like the outside (as a kind of reverse parity principle).
In these cases, the processing routines cross from the world into the brain, our cognitive
abilities are enculturated: we get to be readers and writers, mathematicians and so on by
a process of transforming existing cognitive abilities to perform new, cultural, functions.
Before moving on, I would like to make absolutely clear what I take to be the core
senses of the central terms of art. In the cognitive cases, I use integration to indicate
when there is a process of compositional or functional integration of processes and struc-
tures into a system. Similarly, I also use integration to indicate when a reliable cognitive
process is integrated into the cognitive character of an agent. However, the concepts of
system and character are different; cognitive character concerns reliable belief-forming
processes, but the concept of a system outstrips that of character. A cognitive system
includes a wider variety of processes and structures and should not be confused with
cognitive character.
I use extension to mean distribution, cognition is distributed across brain, body and
world13. I take it that both AE and EnC accounts of extension are working with this de-
nition and that AE and EnC propose different ways in which extension by functional inte-
gration might occur. The second is the egregious interpretation of extension to mean that
cognition is rst in the head and then gets extended out into the world as if cognition
could leak out of the brain as it is sometimes put. I do not hold to the egregious interpret-
ation at all and have warned against it for some time (Menary 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010c).
Therefore, throughout this paper, I use integration to indicate an instance of functional
integration and extension for an instance of the transformation (extension) of cognitive
abilities by a non-brain-bound process. When I am talking about AE extension, I mean
the equivalent of functional integration, but by a different route to EnC. I do not use
extension in the egregious sense.
This concludes the preliminary discussion of the central concepts. In the next section, I
outline Pritchards epistemological approach to cognitive ability, character and agency and
begin to assemble the argument for EnC.

3. Pritchard on cognitive ability, character and agency


Pritchard (2010) begins his discussion with a fundamental condition that Knowledge is the
product of cognitive ability (134). This is a condition of adequacy and any epistemological
theory should comply with such a condition. For example, it is not sufcient for knowledge
to be produced by some reliable belief-forming process; it must have been produced by a
cognitive ability of the cognitive agent (Pritchard 2010, 134). The ability condition applies
more generally across cognitive cases; cognitive success (such as remembering) must have
been produced by some cognitive ability of the agent. This seems perfectly intuitive; we
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 153

expect cognitive agents to have cognitive success because they have the requisite abilities to
perceive, remember and so on. In crediting an agent with cognitive success, we credit him
or her with the relevant cognitive ability which played a central part in the cognitive success
of the agent (see Pritchard 2010, 135).

In crediting an agent with knowledge we are thus, amongst other things, crediting her with
having a relevant cognitive ability which played some key part in the production of the
target true belief. (Pritchard 2010, 135)

Knowledge requires cognitive ability and this cognitive ability has directly led to the
formation of a belief. However, there are many examples of true belief formation
without a corresponding ability and without effort on the part of the agent to form the
belief. Pritchard looks at several cases:
Take the example of Temp, Temp forms his beliefs about the temperature in the room he
is in by checking the thermometer. Unbeknownst to Temp, the thermometer is faulty, but
a thermostat is manipulated by someone in another room to match the reading on the
thermometer every time Temp moves to look at it.
Temp does not know what the temperature in the room is because his reliability does
not reect his cognitive ability at all, but merely the helpful assistance of the hidden
helper (Pritchard 2010, 135). This is an example of the reliable belief-forming process
being external to the skin of the cognitive agent.
Now take the case of Alvin, he has a brain lesion; this lesion has the side effect of
randomly (but reliably) allowing Alvin to perform complex arithmetical sums (Pritchard
2010, 136). Again, this is an instance of the reliable production of belief not being due
to a cognitive ability. In this case, the reliable belief-forming process is, as it were,
under Alvins skin, but it, nevertheless, still fails to adequately meet the ability condition.
So, what will meet the condition?

As a number of epistemologists have noted, the answer to this question lies in the extent to
which the reliable belief-forming process is integrated within, and therefore a part of, the cog-
nitive character of the agent, where an agents cognitive character is her integrated web of
stable and reliable belief-forming processes. (Pritchard 2010, 136)

The integration of reliable processes into the cognitive character of an agent adequately
meets the ability condition. Such a process would not just be a matter of luck or contin-
gency. Integration allows for cognitive agency, because one can now credit, to a signicant
degree, cognitive success to cognitive agency (Pritchard 2010, 136). This now brings us to
the discussion of cognitive agency.
Pritchard provides two accounts of cognitive agency, one weak and the other strong:
(COGA STRONG) S knows that p iff Ss true belief that p is the product of a reliable
belief-forming process which is appropriately integrated within Ss cognitive character
such that her cognitive success is primarily creditable to her cognitive agency.
(COGA WEAK) If S knows that p, then Ss true belief that p is the product of a reliable
belief-forming process which is appropriately integrated within Ss cognitive character such
that her cognitive success is to a signicant degree creditable to her cognitive agency.
The conditions differ in the extent to which cognitive success is creditable to cognitive
agency (Pritchard 2010, 137). Furthermore, this is the test by which one can determine
whether cognitive success is produced by cognitive ability and whether a reliable
belief-forming process is appropriately integrated within an agents cognitive character
such that it counts as a bona de cognitive ability (Pritchard 2010, 137).
154 Richard Menary

In Pritchards two examples, the cognitive success of Temp and Alvin is not due to their
cognitive agency. Temps cognitive success is due to the reliability of the occupant of an
adjacent room; hence, Temp fails to satisfy either COGASTRONG or COGAWEAK.
The source of Alvins success is also due to something external to his agency14 (Pritchard
2010, 137). So, we would have to say that Alvins beliefs were produced by a process
within the skin that was not integrated into his cognitive character. We can easily
imagine similar scenarios, where an implant or parasite might control belief production
without being integrated into our cognitive characters.
However, Temp and Alvin could become aware of why their beliefs are true and exploit
the reliability of the processes by which they are formed. Pritchard thinks that this would
amount to integration into their cognitive character, because in both cases success is primar-
ily creditable to their cognitive agency. This will become important later when we consider
the case of Otto, because Ottos success is due to his cognitive agency in a different way
from that of Temp and Alvin.
The issue which now concerns us is whether the stronger or weaker version of the
condition is the one that should apply across cases like these. Pritchard thinks that there
are a number of examples that militate against the stronger version of the agency condition.
Take the example of Roddy, he sees a sheep in a eld and forms the belief that there is a
sheep in the eld. However, Roddy is actually looking at a hairy dog, but there is also a
sheep in the eld, which Roddy cannot see, so his belief is true (but this is by luck).
Take the case of Barney, he sees a barn and forms the belief that there is a barn in front
of him, and there is; however, all the other barns that Barney sees are just facades, but he
still believes them to be barns, so at best his belief is luckily true15.
Jenny16 gets off a train and asks the rst person she sees for directions to her destination.
This person turns out to be knowledgeable and reliable, and Jenny forms a true belief about
the area. However, there is not much cognitive agency on the part of Jenny; her belief is
dependent upon the favourability of her epistemic environment she asked someone
reliable.
The environment plays an important role in these cases; according to Pritchard, the
environments are either epistemically favourable or unfavourable and this makes a
difference to the epistemic standing of the beliefs formed by the agents.

The moral thus seems to be that while sometimes the exercise of very little cognitive ability can
sufce for knowledge, equally sometimes the exercise of a great deal of cognitive ability can
fail to sufce for knowledge, with in each case the crucial factor being the friendliness of the
cognitive environment. (Pritchard 2010, 142)

This favours a weak account of cognitive agency, because this account allows for the
interplay between the extent of the cognitive ability required for knowledge and the epis-
temic favourableness of the environment . . . (Pritchard 2010, 142). The weak account
allows the extent of cognitive ability to range from quite a lot to not so much and thus
covers cases such as Roddys where there is a fair degree of cognitive agency involved
and those such as Jenny where there is not.
Can the weak agency model be applied to cases of cognition other than belief for-
mation? It looks likely, when I have my diary close by, it is much easier to remember
my daily schedule, or perhaps a businesswoman is completely dependent upon her personal
assistant to remember her daily schedule of meetings. Is this really the model of cognitive
agency that Pritchard is after? The claim is that I do not exhibit much cognitive ability or
agency when I have my diary at hand, and the businesswoman does not exercise her ability
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 155

to remember, her assistant does that. This sounds more like the outsourcing or ofoading
model than either AE or EnC. Is it the case then that for cases of cognition, rather than
for those of belief formation, a stronger form of agency is required? In the next section, I
argue that this does not have to be the case. Instead, I show how the ability condition
and weak cognitive agency can be consistent with an EnC approach to cognition in
general. Then, I go on to show, in Section 6, how an EnC approach to belief formation
can also be consistent with weak cognitive agency.

4. EnC and the ability condition: the case of Otto and Inga
One does not have to embrace cognitive outsourcing. The classic example of extended
cognition involves the memory-impaired character Otto and his notebook. What I show
is that this case ts very nicely within an EnC account. Ottos proceduralised manipulations
of the information structures in his notebook are constitutive of some of the cognitive
processes for remembering. Consequently, Ottos success is to a signicant degree credi-
table to his cognitive agency and some of his success is due to his signicant training in
the manipulation and maintenance of his memory notebook. I now turn to the example
of Otto and Inga.
First of all take the case of Inga, she hears that there is a cool Rothko exhibition at the
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York and she decides to go there. Inga recalls the
location of the MOMA from biological memory, which causes her to go to 53rd street. Inga
makes use of a long-standing biological memory that MOMA is on 53rd street. Now, con-
sider the case of Otto, he has onset of Alzheimers and carries with him a notebook for the
retrieval of information. He has all sorts of useful information about places and people,
addresses and names, etc. Otto takes his notebook with him wherever he goes and refers
to it frequently. Upon being told of the same exhibition as Inga, he decides to go, but
Otto retrieves information from his notebook concerning the location of MOMA. This
causes him to go to 53rd street.
The AE theorist holds that Ottos notebook plays the role of dispositional memory in
Inga, as such the two cases are on a par. We should count the process of Ottos retrieving
information from his notebook as a cognitive process (or part of a coupled process) even
though that process is not located in his brain. This is the case only if Ottos notebook
plays the same role for Otto that biological memory plays for Inga. We might be inclined
to think that the information in Ottos notebook is reliably available to him and guides his
actions in just the sort of way that beliefs are usually supposed to. The information is
available and functions just like the information that constitutes non-occurrent beliefs;
the only difference is the location of the information.
Do Ottos beliefs count as knowledge? Pritchard thinks so because the notebook and its
information are sufciently integrated into Ottos cognitive character to meet the weak con-
dition on cognitive agency. However, this is not the whole story. Otto is epistemically vir-
tuous; his continuous updating, accessing and deploying of the information in his notebook
require a high degree of cognitive diligence. Pritchard refers to Otto as epistemically virtu-
ous (Pritchard 2010, 145); he wants to remember correctly and he wants to form true
beliefs. However, Ottos epistemic virtue is not simply due to the reliability of his environ-
ment, it is due to his cognitive agency. It is due to this diligence that the information in
Ottos notebook is integrated into his cognitive character. I take cognitive diligence to be
doing the job that Pritchard demands for the Temp and Alvin cases and also for the Otto
case, namely Recall that we noted above that Temp and Alvin could integrate their reliable
belief-forming processes into their cognitive character, and thereby be in a position to
156 Richard Menary

acquire knowledge through these processes, by coming to know both that the target
belief-forming process is reliable and what the source of this reliability was. This is just
what Otto has done; however, while his (non-extended) memory is failing and so cannot
be trusted, he knows that he can generally trust what the notebook tells him and why
(Pritchard 2010, 145).
The interpretation of this point is important. For when we ask what the reliable belief-
forming process is that is integrated into Ottos cognitive character, we recognise that it is
really the process of writing in the information, updating it and maintaining it and having
context-sensitive retrieval methods for deploying it and achieving cognitive success. These
processes are cognitive practices. The notebook itself, qua process, does not do any of this
work, Ottos manipulation of the information does. Ottos cognitive diligence ensures his
cognitive success.
Pritchard recognises the potential problem here when he discusses a similar case where
Otto has a device that simply feeds him information and which he trusts unquestioningly;
Pritchard (2010) rightly concludes that we would not deem Ottos cognitive success as
being to any signicant degree creditable to his cognitive agency, but rather treat it as credi-
table to some feature external to his cognitive agency (i.e. the source of the reliability of the
device in question) (145). This seems to intuitively explain why we do not think that the
notebook is part of Ottos mind. The information and its manipulation are all credited to
Ottos agency, because of the extended cognitive abilities he has, but the abilities are
extended by the cognitive processes that he has acquired and it is these that are integrated
into his cognitive character rather than the notebook itself. The notebook might be part of
Ottos cognitive system for remembering as a structural relationship to both the information
in the notebook and the processes that manipulate that information, but I think that the
notion of cognitive character is not identical to that of cognitive system17.
The interpretation I give here appears to conict with Clarks own interpretation of the
Otto case. He provides criteria for the inclusion of a resource, like a notebook, in a cognitive
system as follows:

(1) The resource is reliably available and typically invoked,


(2) Information retrieved is automatically endorsed,
(3) It should be deemed as trustworthy as something retrieved from biological memory, the
information is easily accessible. (Clark 2010, 46)

The glue-and-trust criteria are standardly taken to be the benchmark for AE. For
example, Palermos (2011) argues that Clarks criteria of glue and trust and causal
coupling seem jointly to ensure the integration of the external artifacts within ones
overall cognitive mechanism (756). The diligent application of cognitive practices
appears to conict with Clarks criteria. Here, we have a potential point of conict
between an artefact-based extension (AE) and a practice-based integration (EnC). The
conict springs from the apparent need for artefacts and causal coupling to be unconscious
and not based upon the conscious application of routines. Retrieval of information from
the notebook should be like18 retrieval of information from biological memory, in that it
should be automatic and unconscious, without an intermediate step of endorsing the infor-
mation consciously. However, the conict is an illusion since the cognitive practices as
belief/memory-forming processes are themselves proceduralised and not a matter of con-
sciously following instructions. This can be demonstrated by looking at how real-world
clinical patients learn to structure and deploy their memory notebooks.
The Otto case is a thought experiment and as such is not meant to be empirically
detailed. By contrast, there is a wealth of information about actual clinical practice for
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 157

patients with traumatic brain injuries, dementia and other forms of memory impairment. In
the rehabilitation of memory disorders, an inuential technique is to train patients to incor-
porate the use of a memory notebook into their daily routines. In their classic study, Sohl-
berg and Mateer (1989) explain how patients with cognitive and memory decits due to
brain injury are trained to incorporate a set of procedures for deploying a memory book.
In our clinic, systematic use of a functional compensatory memory book system is
viewed as a set of rule-governed actions or procedures. Effective memory book use requires
that the patient consistently and correctly record and refer to information in the book. These
rule-based actions must be acquired and made automatic through structured, sequenced
training and repetition (Sohlberg and Mateer 1989, 873).
The patients learn the cognitive practices until they become proceduralised processes of
consistent and correct recording of and referring to information. This, I suggest, is an
example of cognitive diligence, but cognitive diligence that is proceduralised. The
memory book and the procedures for information recording and retrieval are fully inte-
grated into the patients cognitive life. The outcome of instruction needs to be skill acqui-
sition with enough uency or efciency to allow appropriate skill application in different
environments (i.e. spontaneous, independent use of memory notebook across settings)
(Sohlberg and Mateer 1989, 874).
Tate (1997) (a clinical neuropsychologist) argues that The memory notebook probably
lends itself best to approximating the way in which nonbrain-damaged people use their
memories. Memory notebooks are more than appointment diaries. They are very exible
with regards to their contents and are tailored to the individual patients everyday require-
ments (913).
For example, a memory notebook might be split into the following sections (Sohlberg
and Mateer 1989):
Orientation narrative autobiographical information
Memory log diary of daily information and charts recording what the patient has done
Calendar appointment scheduling
Things to do intended future actions
Transportation maps, transport schedules and information on frequented places,
work, shops, banks and possibly even museums of modern art
Feelings log chart for feelings relative to specic incidents or times
Names names and identifying information for people
Today at work necessary information to complete work duties.

The memory notebook has a complex structure and the information must be constantly
updated and deployed in everyday behaviours. The practices for updating and retrieving
information in the notebook can function as declarative and prospective memory (remem-
bering to do things that were intended to be done), which are the forms of memory that
the patients have most difculties with. The glue-and-trust criteria do not explain why
this is the case. The rule-governed procedures for recording and referring to information
in the notebook, the cognitive practices, do. The actual practices of memory-impaired
patients show how reliable belief-forming processes are integrated into the cognitive char-
acter of the agent. Furthermore, the adoption of these, proceduralised, practices allows the
patients to perform cognitive tasks which they would otherwise simply be unable to do
their success is primarily due to cognitive agency, but also to the culturally endowed
cognitive practices and the scaffolding by clinicians.
In the next section, I re-evaluate Pritchards epistemic cases in terms of the concepts of
cognitive practices (as cognitive abilities) and cognitive diligence.
158 Richard Menary

5. Cognitive practices and cognitive diligence


In this section, I argue that the EnC account of general cognition can be applied to the kinds
of epistemic cases that interest Pritchard. I provide a set of examples of diligent cognitive
agents who employ cognitive practices that epistemically inspect the environment, thereby
demonstrating that these are their reliable belief-forming processes. The argument so far
has been that the process of integrating information that is available internally and
externally is governed by learned or acquired cognitive practices (Menary 2007).
These practices often require careful and active structuring and retrieval of information
from our environments (and as such are not found exclusively under the skin). Virtuous
epistemic agents diligently maintain the quality and reliability of the information in the
environment. They create, maintain, check and manipulate that information.
One way of maintaining epistemic diligence is through epistemic inspection: testing the
information retrieved from the environment against the environment. In other words, it is a
kind of self-corrective practice, correcting errors and updating information as it arises. This
requires a much more interactive conception of cognitive and epistemic agency. Seeing a
sheep or a barn does not involve a lot of interaction with the environment, inspecting a
sheep or a barn does. Roddy and Barney just see what is in front of them and form a
belief. However, take the parallel cases of Charlie and Chris.
Charlie is a barn inspector; he has checked over many, many barns during his career.
When placed in the unfriendly barn facade environment, he is not fooled even on a
casual glance by the facade. His ability to inspect and test information and his background
knowledge of barns are integrated into his cognitive character.
Chris is a sheep farmer; he has shepherded sheep all his working life. He knows that
when you see a hairy shape on the hillside, it could be a sheep or a sheepdog. He can
test this hypothesis by using the standard dog trainers whistles and calls to see if the
hairy shape responds. His abilities and knowledge concerning sheep and sheep dogs are
integrated into his cognitive character.
Diligent cognitive agents have cognitive abilities for inspecting, testing and correcting
the informational structure of the environment and/or the beliefs they have formed about it.
Therefore, they are not dependent upon the favourability of their epistemic environments.
One could reformulate the examples so that Charlie and Chris are fooled perhaps by
making the barn facades near perfect, or the sheepdog deaf and very sheep like.
However, there is still the difference between seeing and initiating an inspection or
inquiry, as fallible epistemic agents we may still not form a true belief or may be susceptible
to Gettier style luck, but self-corrective testing is a reliable method of belief formation.
I do not deny that the Roddy and Barney scenarios are possible and, therefore, I do not
deny that they point to a weak account of cognitive agency. The main point that I would like
to make here is twofold. First, diligent cognitive agents like Charlie and Chris have abilities
and knowledge that they have acquired and which they maintain. They actively engage
these abilities when they achieve cognitive success. They have the same basic faculties
as Roddy and Barney, they can see, but Charlie and Chris also have domain-specic
abilities which Roddy and Barney do not they have acquired cognitive practices for
epistemically inspecting the environment. Second, these abilities are deeply entrenched
cognitive characteristics in Charlie and Chris; their livelihoods depend upon exercising
their abilities and achieving a high degree of cognitive success because of them. Like
Otto, Charlie and Chris are instances of diligent cognitive agents whose cognitive abilities
are integrated into their cognitive character. However, these cases also t with Pritchards
weak cognitive agency. Their agency is due, at least in part, to the reliability of the processes
of inspection their culturally endowed cognitive practices.
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 159

One further aside before continuing: when can we tell that the right degree of cognitive
diligence is being deployed in a situation? We can think of cognitive diligence as a mean
between cognitive obsessiveness and cognitive laxity. The diligent agent avoids obsessively
checking the veracity of a judgement even when the evidence clearly points to an outcome
and does not bother to inspect or check the veracity of his or her judgement at all. Context
matters; sometimes we might want to be very, very careful (bordering on obsessive), and on
others, we might perform only the most cursory of checks19.
Is Jenny sufciently cognitively diligent? Her case does depend upon the reliability of
the epistemic source; however, she does not check the reliability of the source; she depends
upon the epistemic favourability of the environment call her lucky Jenny. If she arrived in
a town where the denizens took great delight in giving misinformation to travellers, then she
would be in trouble. Perhaps she might arrive in a culture where it is normal to think that it is
impolite not to try to give directions even if the source does not know anything about where
the destination is located. Again, we can imagine Jenny being epistemically diligent, by
only approaching people who appear to be local (maybe she is a good judge of character)
or diligently reading up on the cultural mores of the place to which she is travelling call
her diligent Jenny. Therefore, diligent Jenny exhibits more cognitive ability for cognitive
success carefully choosing an informant, checking on the nature of the cultural environ-
ment to which she is travelling and so on.
An AE account of Ottos notebook appears to be in a position similar to that of lucky
Jenny; he depends upon the reliability of the epistemic resource. On the EnC account, Otto
does not simply rely upon his epistemic source, but he is also the agent who updates, main-
tains and controls the information stored in it he is also diligent. He is a master of the
relevant cognitive practices (or at least competent in them). Therefore, Otto is more like
Charlie and Chris or diligent Jenny; he has culturally extended abilities that are integrated
into his cognitive character, and it is from these abilities that he achieves cognitive success.
Consequently, Otto, Charlie, Chris and diligent Jenny are all cases better suited to an EnC
account, but who, nevertheless, fall under Pritchards criterion of weak cognitive agency.
Since I have provided parallel cases of epistemic diligence, let me also provide some
non-epistemic cases parallel to those of Otto and Inga. Let me introduce you to Zachary
and Sophie, who share similarities with Otto and Inga, but are also importantly different:
Zachary has normal memory, but has produced a reliable system of restoring and
retrieving information in his notebook. He has a complex database of information and he
has developed simple methods for creating, storing and retrieving the entries at will and
then deploying them to complete cognitive tasks such as remembering where he is supposed
to be at a particular time and what he is supposed to be doing20.
Sophie has developed amazing techniques of memorisation by using a clever mnemonic
system of the kind deployed since antiquity. She has organised her knowledge according
to the spatial layout of a building, with different rooms associated with different
elements of her knowledge. She merely has to imagine moving through the building and
visiting different rooms where she can retrieve memories and facts at will and deploying
them to complete cognitive tasks such as remembering the date of birth of King Henry
the VIII.
Zachary displays cognitive diligence with regard to his cognitive environment (his cog-
nitive niche). He has structured and maintained the informational structures that can be cog-
nitively deployed (he has not, therefore, simply ofoaded complexity onto the environment
or outsourced cognitive load). He has developed cognitive abilities and skills for creating,
maintaining and deploying these structures; his cognitive abilities are extended because
they are enculturated. He is a diligent cognitive agent, actively structuring his cognitive
160 Richard Menary

niche and thereby becoming more cognitively powerful. Zacharys abilities are proper parts
of, and therefore integrated within, his cognitive character.
Sophie also displays cognitive diligence, but with regard to her inner cognitive niche.
She has created, structured and maintained the structures that can be cognitively deployed.
She has developed cognitive abilities and skills for creating, maintaining and deploying
these structures; her cognitive abilities are extended because they are enculturated. She is
a diligent cognitive agent; she actively structures her inner cognitive niche and thereby
becomes a more powerful cognitive agent. Sophies abilities are proper parts of, and
therefore integrated within, her cognitive character.
There is real parity between these cases; the cognitive agents diligently structure and
maintain a cognitive niche that requires genuine cognitive abilities on their part. The
abilities are of the same kind: creating, maintaining and deploying structures to complete
cognitive tasks; they are instances of EnC. These abilities are cognitive practices. The
cognitive abilities, whether they concern manipulating information that is within the
skin, or without, are integrated into the cognitive characters of both Zachary and Sophie.
Furthermore, this EnC account of cognitive character and agency stands in contrast to an
AE account. In the nal section, I warn against an outsourcing interpretation of AE and
argue that artefacts are not integrated into our cognitive characters.

6. Artefacts and cognitive outsourcing


I have shown that the EnC account makes a stronger case for extension in both cognitive
and epistemic cases, but EnC also explains how reliable cognitive processes are integrated
into cognitive character. That they do so without producing the usual puzzles about how a
notebook could be part of my mind is also to their credit. A nal point that I raise is the
necessity for AE accounts to avoid the problem of cognitive outsourcing. The cognitive out-
sourcing problem is amply illustrated by a case presented by Vaesen (2011)21. Vaesens
(2011) target is to provide a case which contravenes the normal conditions for credit the-
ories of knowledge: knowing that p implies deserving epistemic credit for truly believing
that p. Vaesen argues that extended cognition cases can provide examples of knowledge
without credit. However, the actual case that he presents is not a case of extended cognition,
it is a case of embedded or scaffolded cognition22. While I do not dispute the conclusion
that the case contravenes the credit theory, it is not a case of true belief as a result of
extended cognitive abilities. To see why this is so, let me outline Vaesens case.
Vaesens (2011) test case is best framed with an opening analogy: Suppose Franz, our
lousy archer, hits a target, not through skill, but thanks to a bow and arrow set, neatly
installed on a tripod, perfectly aimed at the target, and equipped with a simple shoot
button. Knowledge might be like this; hitting the target, while all relevant cognitive
work was delegated to external aids (517 8). This is cognitive outsourcing, an intelligent
strategy, but not part of the actual cognitive processing of the task. We should contrast
this with the case of the memory notebook; the notebook itself is a passive storage
medium that must be actively structured and manipulated during the processing of a
memory task. The diligent structuring and manipulation are not a case of outsourcing or
mere scaffolding, they are instances of EnC. The cognitive abilities in play are enculturated
and thereby extended. Now, contrast the memory notebook case with the following case
from Vaesen (2011):

SISSICASE: Sissi is a baggage inspector she uses a post 9/11 baggage scanner which period-
ically throws up false positives to maintain the alertness levels of the human inspectors. There
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 161

is a signicant increase in the alertness levels of inspectors using the post 9/11 scanners. When
the inspector clicks on the image of the false positive a message pops up on the screen
false alarm: you were being tested! If no message appears the inspector knows that the
image is real.

If Sissi notices an image of a bomb on the scanner and no false alarm warning appears, then
she forms the true belief that the piece of luggage contains a bomb (Vaesen 2011, 523).
Vaesens (2011) conclusion is that the most salient causal feature to the effect of true
belief is external to Sissi (523). Consequently, Sissi does not deserve credit for the
belief, and the success of her belief is attributable to the scanner. Vaesens point then is
that Sissis cognitive abilities and her cognitive character have not changed, but the way
that the scanner functions has, and it is this new function of the scanner that is causally
salient to her forming the belief. There are two things that I would like to say about this.
The rst is that at least as Vaesen presents it, this is not a case of extended cognition; it
is delegation or at best ofoading and is, therefore, an example of embedded or scaffolded
cognition. If the non-neural processes are not integrated into Sissis normal processing rou-
tines, then her cognitive abilities have not been extended and here the integration must be
consistent with Pritchards criterion of weak cognitive agency. Second, it is not clear to me
why Sissi should not be given credit for forming the belief, even if her attention is being
scaffolded by the false signal algorithm. She has to recognise bomb-like images (even
false ones) and she has to be able to manipulate images to be able to check whether the
image presented is false or not. This requires a fair amount of cognitive diligence on
Sissis part, even if that diligence is being scaffolded or augmented. I suspect that the
main stumbling block for credit theories of knowledge is that they take the individual to
be the prime location of belief-forming processes, whereas the processes that produce
knowledge are very often distributed across agents and their cognitive niches and some-
times across groups working collaboratively.
The ability to manipulate the tool is part of my cognitive character; it is an ability that I
have to maintain by diligence. The processes inside the tool are not part of my cognitive
character in the same way; they are not abilities of mine, they are abilities of the tool. I
do not have to maintain them by epistemic or cognitive diligence. Vaesens example
shows why it is a mistake to think that tools themselves can be part of the cognitive
character of an agent.
What if the tool is physically a part of me and connected up with the nervous system and
brain?23 I would not want to rule out bionic eyes and ears and potential silicon implants in
brains. I imagine that they will be able to do low-level sub-personal processing that is
required to be able to do higher level cognition one cannot see without sub-personal pro-
cesses in the brain. However, I think that it is unlikely that there will be implants that can do
higher level cognition; they are, therefore, merely structural and causal enablers. Pritchard
appears to agree with this when he denies that the example of Otto who is reliant on a
resource that simply feeds him information without his having any cognitive diligence
would count as a case of cognitive success being due to his cognitive agency.
Cognitive agents are masters of various practices that probe the environment for infor-
mation and for updating, maintaining and controlling the information stored in epistemic
sources. Consequently, it is really these abilities that are integrated into cognitive character
and which confer epistemic agency. The epistemic resources notebooks, etc. are not
integrated into the cognitive character of agents as such, except as the objects of the
manipulative abilities of these agents. Consequently, Ottos notebook is not part of his
cognitive character.
162 Richard Menary

7. Conclusion
A weak conception of cognitive agency is consistent with the position I have developed
here. However, the position is inconsistent with an AE account of cognitive character
that artefacts can be part of our cognitive character. Cognitive character, as Pritchard
rightly notes, involves the integration of reliable epistemic abilities and processes. The
kinds of abilities that we nd in the Otto case are more like the actively engaged diligent
cognitive agents we nd in Charlie, Chris, diligent Jenny, Zachary and Sophie. Artefacts
might play a role in these cases, but likely only as enablers.
An EnC account of cognitive character holds that abilities and processes are encultu-
rated and that they transform and extend what the cognitive agent can do. Outsourcing
our cognitive abilities to artefacts is an intelligent strategy, but not a case of cognitive
integration. We need to avoid the outsourcing problem; EnC does so while at the same
time doing justice to the principles of cognitive integration.

Acknowledgements
This research was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery grant: Embodied Virtues
and Expertise. The author thanks audiences at the University of Hertfordshire and the epistemology
and extended mind workshop at the University of Edinburgh. The author also thanks Duncan
Pritchard and Krist Vaesen.

Notes
1. I follow Pritchard in talking of abilities rather than of capacities.
2. I take interpreted information to be something like a written sentence, or a diagram, or a string of
a code in a computer programme and so on. Natural information may well surround us in the
ambient array of light or waiting to be discovered in natural relationships such as the number
of tree rings and the age of a tree and so on, but I would not be considering natural information
here.
3. I just use information for short from here on.
4. Hutchins (2011) and Roepstorff, Niewohner, and Beck (2010) have called for an articulation of
enculturated cognition. My account of enculturation is based on prior work on cognitive prac-
tices and the transformation of cognition by immersion in cultural practices in ontogeny
(Menary 2006, 2007, Chapters 47; also see Menary 2008 for an account of cognitive trans-
formation by narrative practices and 2010a, 2010b for more on practices and transformation).
5. Many species construct their niches to some extent, beavers and their dams, termites and their
mounds (Laland, Feldman, and Odling-Smee 2003). The niches confer a selective advantage on
the species. Humans are niche constructors par excellence; in particular, they construct cognitive
niches which include tools, representations and systems for cooperative actions (Sterelny 2003).
6. Albeit a kind of reciprocal causal relationship.
7. I cannot give a comprehensive set of reasons here, but see Menary (2007) for a book length
argument for why they are open and unbounded.
8. I avoid the talk of modules here since their discussion would take us too far aeld.
9. I have no track of the talk of the mind getting extended from the brain into the world or Adams
and Aizawas (2010) weird metaphysics of cognitive processes extending into tool. I have no
idea what this means or do I know who holds such a position (see Menary 2010c for a discussion
of this point).
10. See Menary (2007, 48 50) for a discussion.
11. See Rupert (2009), Sterelny (2010) and Menary (2010a) for a discussion.
12. But also see Hutchins (2011) and Roepstorff, Niewohner, and Beck (2010), who have indepen-
dently postulated a hypothesis of enculturated cognition. However, the analysis that I give is
based on the account of cognitive practices as cultural practices and cognitive transformations
from Menary (2006, 2007, Chapters 4 7) and Menary (2010a, 2010b).
Cognitive Practices and Cognitive Character 163

13. It can also mean that our abilities have been extended, in terms of what we can do now, by the
resulting transformation of our abilities a la Dehaene.
14. Even if it lies under the skin of the agent.
15. In this case, Barneys reliable perceptual faculties cannot discriminate between barns and barn
facades; therefore, his belief is unsafe.
16. The original example is due to Lackey (2007).
17. See the earlier discussion in Section 2.
18. Remember that AE leans on a principle of functional parity.
19. If the informational source is very reliable and we know this, Otto would be an example.
20. We can imagine that Zachary uses a system that employs some of the methods of the memory
notebook system for memory-impaired patients. While Zachary is not memory impaired, his life
requires him to perform a lot of different tasks and to store and retrieve a lot of information.
This is a case of processing that is better done in the world as retrieving and organising the
information by using the brain alone are just too inefcient.
21. I am not trying to provide a critique of Vaesens case against credit theories here, I merely aim to
show that this case is not one of cognitive extension, but of cognitive outsourcing.
22. To be fair to Vaesen, he does point out that this is a very weak form of extended cognition.
23. See Pritchards (2010) tempo case where Temp now has a thermometer grafted into him
physically.

Notes on contributor
Richard Menary works in the Centre for Cognition and Its Disorders and the Department of
Philosophy at Macquarie University in Australia. His research is primarily in the philosophy of
cognition and cognitive science. He has published numerous books and papers on embodied and
extended cognition including Cognitive Integration (2007), and the Extended Mind (2010). He is
currently working on an empirical and conceptual project on how our brains become enculturated.

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