Distributed Cognition, Neuroprostheses and their Implications to Non-Physicalist Theories of Mind

Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy 26 (1):123-142 (2021)
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This paper investigates the notion of ‘distributed cognition’—the idea that entities external to one’s organic brain participate in one’s overall cognitive functioning—and the challenges it poses to the notion of personhood. Related to this is also a consideration of the ever-increasing ways in which neuroprostheses replace and functionally replicate organic parts of the brain. However, the literature surrounding such issues has tended to take an almost exclusively physicalist approach. The common assumption is that, given that non-physicalist theories (chiefly, dualism, and hylomorphism) postulate some form of immaterial ‘soul’, then they are immune from the challenges that these advances in cognitive science pose. The first aim of this paper, therefore, is to argue that this is not the case. The second aim of this paper is to attempt to elucidate a route available for the non-physicalists that will allow them to accept the notion of distributed cognition. By appealing to an Aristotelian framework, I propose that the non-physicalist can accept the notion of distributed cognition by appealing to the notion of ‘unitary life’ which I introduce, as well as to Aristotle’s dichotomy between active and passive mind.

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Jean Gové
University of St. Andrews


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