The Extended Mind and the range of our mental states
This is one of my more recent papers, which was recently accepted to the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology’s (SSPP) 2013 annual meeting. It looks at whether The Extended Mind hypothesis can account for cognitive states other than beliefs that aren’t usually discussed, such as desires and fears.
The extended mind hypothesis (henceforth EMH) says that cognition, and thus our minds, extends beyond the boundaries of our skin and skulls. Proponents of EMH mean this to be a claim about cognition in general, a claim that should hold for all of our propositional attitudes, but the claims thus far have focused almost exclusively on beliefs. I claim that the neglect of other propositional attitudes poses a significant problem for proponents of EMH. Through a series of examples that attempt to extend attitudes such as desires or fears, I’ll show that even if EMH ends up being true, it is at best a claim about extended beliefs, not extended cognition. These examples will further show that much of the appeal of EMH rests on a conflation of propositional attitudes with propositional content, a confusion only made possible by the focus on belief.