Neuromedia, Cognitive Offloading, and Intellectual Perseverance

Synthese 200 (1):1-26 (2022)
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This paper engages in what might be called anticipatory virtue epistemology, as it anticipates some virtue epistemological risks related to a near-future version of brain-computer interface technology that Michael Lynch (2014) calls 'neuromedia.' I analyze how neuromedia is poised to negatively affect the intellectual character of agents, focusing specifically on the virtue of intellectual perseverance, which involves a disposition to mentally persist in the face of challenges towards the realization of one’s intellectual goals. First, I present and motivate what I call ‘the cognitive offloading argument’, which holds that excessive cognitive offloading of the sort incentivized by a device like neuromedia threatens to undermine intellectual virtue development from the standpoint of the theory of virtue responsibilism. Then, I examine the cognitive offloading argument as it applies to the virtue of intellectual perseverance, arguing that neuromedia may increase cognitive efficiency at the cost of intellectual perseverance. If used in an epistemically responsible manner, however, cognitive offloading devices may not undermine intellectual perseverance but instead allow us to persevere with respect to intellectual goals that we find more valuable by freeing us from different kinds of menial intellectual labor.

Author's Profile

Cody Turner
University of Notre Dame


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