Predictive processing and extended consciousness: why the machinery of consciousness is (probably) still in the head and the DEUTS argument won’t let it leak outside


Consciousness vehicle externalism is the claim that the material machinery of a subject’s phenomenology partially leaks outside a subject’s brain, encompassing bodily and environmental structures. The DEUTS argument is the most prominent argument for CVE in the sensorimotor enactivists’ arsenal. In a recent series of publications, Kirchhoff and Kiverstein have deployed such an argument to claim that a prominent view of neural processing, namely predictive processing, is fully compatible with CVE. Indeed, in Kirchhoff and Kiverstein’s view, a proper understanding of predictive processing mandates CVE. In this essay, we critically examine Kirchhoff and Kiverstein’s argument. Our aim is to argue in favor of the following three points. First, that Kirchhoff and Kiverstein’s emphasis on cultural practices lends no support to CVE: at best, it vindicates some form of content externalism about phenomenal content. Secondly, the criteria Kirchhoff and Kiverstein propose to identify a subject’s phenomenal machinery greatly overgeneralize, leaving them open to a “consciousness bloat” objection, which is an analog of the cognitive bloat objection against the extended mind. Lastly, we will argue that the “consciousness bloat” problem is inbuilt in the very argumentative structure of the DEUTS argument. We will thus conclude that, contrary to the philosophical mainstream, DEUTS is not the best argument for CVE in the sensorimotor enactivists’ argumentative arsenal.

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