Philospot

Philosophy
UserpicFodor v Clark, part deux
27.02.09

Fodor's first objection turns on the idea that the extended mind is committed to the claim that the mind has parts. For example, Fodor quotes (disapprovingly) from David Chalmers introduction to Clark's book, where he (Chalmers) claims that his iPhone is part of his mind. Fodor then points out some conceptual difficulties associated with this claim. 

I actually think there is some mileage to this objection. I have thought for some time that Clark and Chalmers claim (from their paper 'the extended mind') that the sentences in Otto's notebook should be counted amongst Otto's belief-tokens is an unfortunate way of developing the extended mind thesis. Among other things it commits you to the claim that one and the same belief-token (note: not belief-type) can be owned or possessed by more than one subject - for example if Otto is not the only one using the notebook. I think this is a deeply problematic entailment (for reasons I won't inflict on you here).

Happily, the version of the extended mind I developed does not make this claim (in fact, it denies it). My version is formulated in terms of processes rather than states. Otto's token manipulation of the notebook can count as part of the process of his remembering the location of the museum - a genuinely cogniitive part of an overall process of remembering that also incorporates inner processes. However, anyone else's manipulation of the notebook automatically counts as a different process-token - even if the same token sentence is manipulated in the same way at the same time. 

The thesis of the extended mind should eschew any claim that the mind has external parts. Indeed, I think there are two things wrong with the label 'extended mind'. The first is the word 'extended'; the second is the word 'mind'. Properly understood, the thesis is not that the mind has extended parts - it is not a thesis about the mind at all. It is the thesis that cognitive processes can be legitimately be thought of as comprising both internal (neural) processes and activities of manipulating, transforming and/or exploiting suitable environmental structures. So, there is nothing in my version of he extended mind that commits me to the 'mind has external parts' interpretation attacked by Fodor. This keeps the razors from my wrists (see previous post) at least for the weekend. I'll read on with trepidation, after I take care of some business at the Stade de France tonight ( see post before previous post). 

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