Phenomenal transparency and the extended mind

Synthese 200 (4):1-25 (2022)
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Proponents of the extended mind have suggested that phenomenal transparency may be important to the way we evaluate putative cases of cognitive extension. In particular, it has been suggested that in order for a bio-external resource to count as part of the machinery of the mind, it must qualify as a form of transparent equipment or transparent technology. The present paper challenges this claim. It also challenges the idea that phenomenological properties can be used to settle disputes regarding the constitutional status of bio-external resources in episodes of extended cognizing. Rather than regard phenomenal transparency as a criterion for cognitive extension, we suggest that transparency is a feature of situations that support the ascription of certain cognitive/mental dispositional properties to both ourselves and others. By directing attention to the forces and factors that motivate disposition ascriptions, we arrive at a clearer picture of the role of transparency in arguments for extended cognition and the extended mind. As it turns out, transparency is neither necessary nor sufficient for cognitive extension, but this does not mean that it is entirely irrelevant to our understanding of the circumstances in which episodes of extended cognizing are apt to arise.

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