Embraining Culture: Leaky Minds and Spongy Brains

Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy (2) (2011)
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Abstract

We offer an argument for the extended mind based on considerations from brain development. We argue that our brains develop to function in partnership with cognitive resources located in our external environments. Through our cultural upbringing we are trained to use artefacts in problem solving that become factored into the cognitive routines our brains support. Our brains literally grow to work in close partnership with resources we regularly and reliably interact with. We take this argument to be in line with complementarity or “second-wave” defences of the extended mind that stress the functional differences between biological elements and external, environmental resources in putative cases of extended cognition. Complementarity defences argue that many of the kinds of cognition humans excel at can only be accomplished by brains working together with a body that directly manipulates and acts on the world [Rowlands (1999); Menary (2007); Sutton (2010)]. We argue that complementarity and functionalist defences of the extended mind aren’t opposed, but that complementarity considerations can provide much needed and hitherto under exploited leverage in defending EMT. Moreover, the developmental work we will describe adds extra weight to the complementarity case for EMT.

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