Outsourcing Concepts: Deference, the Extended Mind, and Expanding our Epistemic Capacity

In J. Adam Carter, Andy Clark, Jesper Kallestrup, Orestis Palermos & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Socially Extended Knowledge. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Semantic deference is the apparent phenomenon whereby some of our concepts have their content fixed by the minds of others. The phenomenon is puzzling both in terms of how such concepts are supposed to work, but also in terms of why we should have concepts whose content is fixed by others. Here I argue that if we rethink semantic deference in terms of extended mind reasoning we find answers to both of these questions: the minds of others can be understood to play a role in storing the semantic knowledge underpinning our concepts without undermining their functionality, and this ‘outsourcing’ of semantic knowledge greatly expands our overall knowledge-bearing capacity, both at the level of the individual and the community. I conclude that deference in fact affords stronger grounds for a social expansion of knowledge than standard extended mind reasoning permits.

Author's Profile

Cathal O'Madagain
Universite Mohammed VI Polytechnique


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