Taxonomy of the Mind (by Timo Tiuraniemi, with responses)

By Timo Tiuraniemi

There are basically four possible EM positions:

1. EM-all-the-way: There is no relevant distinction between the external and the internal: basically all cognition and concepts associated with the mind (beliefs, desires, fears etc.) are extended outside the skull.
2. Vast EM: While there are regions where you should limit cognition and the mind to the brain, those cases (e.g. doing arithmetics in one’s mind) are the exceptions, not the rule.
3. Original EM: There are speculative and real life scenarios where an individual uses an external resource to the extent that the individual and device are so tightly connected or coupled, that it becomes more meaningful to talk about them as a single cognizing system than as separate entities. The original example is Otto and his notebook, Lauri and his iPhone would be another.
4. Intracranial: It is always possible and useful to make the distinction between the external and the internal, i.e. intracranial. Only the brain does cognition even if the brain obviously is causally connected to the external world in innumerable ways.

Response by Lauri Järvilehto

1) I do agree that it makes sense to make differentiations with respect to the locale of cognitive processes. That is to say, of course we can say there are internal and external cognitions in the sense that if you put somebody on a desert island, you have mostly only internal cognitions.

2) But I think the “paradigm shift” we have been talking about with respect to EM is to think in sense of functions. And in this sense, unless we can specify a distinct *functional* criterion with respect to which we can classify internal and external cognitions, we should *begin* with the point of view that cognition (or mind) is systemic, having local components that are both internal (intracranial) and external (the internet, books, the walls of your house etc.).

Therefore it appears to me that there are two legitimate ways to approach EM that, to my eye, seem to explain the differences with defining EM.

1) Mental function (thinking, memory etc.) is a result of brain activity, some of which can be replaced with something external to the brain.

2) Mental function is a result of systemic organization of the organism and its environment, where we cannot draw tight boundaries between the brain and other components.

Item 1) is basically the Clark/Chalmers view, and coincides roughly with the item 3. on Timo’s taxonomy above. Item 2) is basically the organism-environment systems theory view, and coincides to a great extent with item 1. on Timo’s taxonomy.

Response by Timo Järvilehto

This is also the difference between Andy Clark and me as you can see in the discussion from over 10 years ago:

Andy’s commentary to my target article

And my response:


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