Extended animal cognition

Synthese 203 (5):1-22 (2024)
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According to the extended cognition thesis, an agent’s cognitive system can sometimes include extracerebral components amongst its physical constituents. Here, we show that such a view of cognition has an unjustifiably anthropocentric focus, for it tends to depict cognitive extensions as a human-only affair. In contrast, we will argue that if human cognition extends, then the cognition of many non-human animals extends too, for many non-human animals rely on the same cognition-extending strategies humans rely on. To substantiate this claim, we will proceed as follows. First (Sect. 1), we will introduce the extended cognition thesis, exposing its anthropocentric bias. Then, we will show that humans and many non-human animals rely on the same cognition-extending strategies. To do so, we will discuss a variety of case studies, including “intrabodily” cognitive extensions such as the spinal cord (Sect. 2), the widespread reliance on epistemic actions to solve cognitive tasks (Sect. 3) and cases of animal cognitive offloading (Sect. 4). We’ll then allay some worries our claim might raise (Sect. 5) to then conclude the paper (Sect. 6).

Author Profiles

Marco Facchin
University of Antwerp


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