Thinking with things: An embodied enactive account of mind–technology interaction

Dissertation, University of Wollongong (2019)
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Technological artefacts have, in recent years, invited increasingly intimate ways of interaction. But surprisingly little attention has been devoted to how such interactions, like with wearable devices or household robots, shape our minds, cognitive capacities, and moral character. In this thesis, I develop an embodied, enactive account of mind--technology interaction that takes the reciprocal influence of artefacts on minds seriously. First, I examine how recent developments in philosophy of technology can inform the phenomenology of mind--technology interaction as seen through an enactivist lens. Second, I show how an enactive account of remembering can improve operationalizations of the memory palace mnemonic through virtual reality devices. Third, I draw on virtue ethics to argue that an enactivist approach allows us to better grasp the morally shaping aspects of artefacts by looking at social robots. Fourth, I fend off an underlying metaphysical concern about enactivism by arguing that an embodied, enactive account is compatible with the multiple realization of cognitive processes. This principle is often seen as a crucial test favouring accounts such as extended functionalism over enactivism and I argue that some forms of enactivism pass this test as well. Finally, I conclude by considering what the future relationship between enactivism and functionalism may have in store for the study of mind--technology interaction.

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Anco Peeters
Radboud University


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