Bryce Huebner, Philosophy Department, Georgetown University
Andy Clark has often appealed to a growing range of empirical data supporting the claim that cognition relies on extracranial features of the world. I resist this claim, and argue that there is something deeply amiss in existing arguments for extended cognition: they do not provided an empirically plausible strategy for distinguishing between cognitive systems, the environments that they inhabit, and the information that they exploit. In solving this ‘boundary demarcation problem’, I argue, we must focus on the integration of computational mechanisms, and then explain how an interfaced network of components yield robust patterns of system-level goal-directed behavior. This perspective can help us to see why most appeals to extended cognition are theoretically and empirically implausible; but I argue that it also helps to demonstrate the ways in which mechanisms that cross-cut bodily boundaries can be interfaced to produce a cognitive system. Specifically, I argue that the transactive memory systems—when they are properly grounded by an account of the neurological mechanisms that facilitate episodic remembering—constitute a case of genuinely extended cognition.
Friday, May 25th, 3p.m., Room W-5215