Sunday, 8 June 2014

Extended Mentality: What It Is and Why It Matters

University of Miami, Department of Philosophy


OVERVIEW: Does it matter if (some) mental processes extend into the subjects's environment. The notion of mattering is an elliptical one: something matters only to someone and in some way. A tacit assumption in the recent debate is that the question of whether mental processes extend should be decided by way of its implications for cognitive science. The persons to whom it matters and who should be charged with adjudicating the issue are, accordingly, cognitive scientists and philosophers of cognitive science. I shall argue against this assumption. What is really at stake is a philosophical vision of the nature of mentality that can, to a considerable extent, be elaborated independently of developments in cognitive science.

    Rowlands, M. (2009). Enactivism and the extended mindTopoi28(1), 53-62.
    Rowlands, M. (2009). Extended cognition and the mark of the cognitive. Philosophical Psychology22(1), 1-19.
    Rowlands, M. (2010). The new science of the mind. Mit Press.

Professor Rowlands will also be giving a special talk Wednesday evening July 16 on animal rights:

    Rowlands, M. (2013). Animal rights. Blackwell


  1. Why is the manifest image distinctive from the scientific image?

  2. In the cybernetic approach to cognition, the one also extensively used in robotics as one example, there is a line drawn between mental states and cognitive states. It is mental states that require intentionality and subjectivity in the sense that mental states are somebody's states. I would like to ask whether you see mental states as necessary to the understanding of cognition or is it possible to differentiate between theories of cognition and theories of mind where only the latter require the explanation of subjective mental states.

  3. Une question sur le processus cognitif. Une acétate indiquait qu'un processus P est un processus cognitif sous diverses conditions. On parle d'une représentation d'un état. C'est quoi cette représentation?

    Translation :
    Question about the cognitive process. The point 4 indicated that P is a process if it belongs to the subject of the representational state. What is this representational state?

  4. The concept "intrinsic intentionality" hides an assumption that there is an a priori integral entity in which this intentionality inheres. Scientifically looking after such an entity will probably fail to find it. It seems that the mental entity that can have an intrinsic intentionality is a fictional construction whose existence is very tricky if possible at all to prove. This point was already argued extensively in Buddhist philosophy but not only. The continental philosophical tradition does not warrant a an a priori integral entity which is the subject of feelings or mental states.

  5. Dear Mark, Thank you very much for your deep presentation ! I have three questions : (1) Could we say that intentionality is a utilitarist and/or interactive version of semantic relatedness? (2) Is it possible to give a definition of intentionality in a computational version, in description logic? (3) If not, what logical formalism can we use?

  6. 1. "Cognitive contents can be false and even empty". How can a cognitive content be "empty"? What do you mean by that?
    2. When you talk about "non-derived" intentionality, what does this mean? "non-derived" from what? Is there such a thing as "derived" intentionality?
    3. The constructive nature of visual processing makes evident that the retinal image is not a representation but rather a first sensorial "impression" of the world. More of a "sensation", than a "perception". Is mere sensation part of cognition? It may be not considered a cognitive process as a whole, but that doesn't mean it isn't involved in the process that leads to a representation. If normativity comes only downstream, does that mean that cognition is only dependent on top-down processes? What happens with all the bottom-up information flow that shapes the "rules" we apply to representations afterwards in our lives? Isn't that a part of cognition as well?

    1. 1. In logic, the statement "The current king of France has red hair" is neither true nor false. It is not true because the king of France does not exist. It is not false because that would mean the negation of the sentence (e.g. "The current king of France does not have red hair") is true, but that is not true either. Such cases are called "vacuously true" or "empty."

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I, too, am somewhat confused about non-derived intentionality. If we are talking about intentionality in the husserilian sense, then what that entails is an aboutness. If we are to discuss "derived" intentionality as perhaps a causal relationship connecting objects of intentional content, then, what we are trying to get at with non-derived intentionality is "the first mover" so to speak. The cosmology of intentionality. In this way, I agree with vveitas' comment in that, I think we end up dicussing the biological fitness of "primal" intentionalities, which could be though of as derived...from our genes...which are dervied from matter...which are derived from...the big bang?

  7. My naïf question is about Rules and especially the nature of these rules if we assume that they play a role in cognitive process, intentionality and normativity ?

  8. As I understood an argument, the question of cognition is basically a question of 'original intentionality'. Then, original intentionality is something that is based on 'non-derived rules' and is 'always in the head'. So it seems that extended cognition is a nonsensical term. So at the end I did not really understood whether the speaker considers extended condition / collective intelligence / group minds as something 'real' in a sense of being worth to discuss.

    My own objection to line of thinking (as far as I understood it), is that non-derived rules/representations do not exist, whether they are inside the mind or outside it. Otherwise, humans did not evolve (or: were 'derived', so all internal rules in their minds have causal reasons). Do you think that is the case or do I miss something?

  9. On Mark Rowlands on the Mark of the Mental

    The mark of the mental is whether it is felt -- not whether it is "about." If it is not felt, it is not mental.

    A better way to put it is that the difference between externally interpreted "aboutness" and "original aboutness" is, again, whether the "aboutness" is felt.

    (A sentence in a book can be interpreted as being about the cat being on the mat, but the "aboutness" is not in the book: it is in the mind of the interpreter. "Original aboutness" is what it going on in the mind of the interpreter. Having a mind means being able to feel. Only felt aboutness is original aboutness: To say and mean something feels-like something. Intended meaning is felt intended meaning.)

    Guarantee to me that something cannot feel, and I can guarantee to you that it does not have "original aboutness" (it has no mind). And if it says anything, it does not mean anything. Nothing it says means anything -- to it, regardless of whether it can be interpreted as meaning something to us.

  10. How would you re-define the manifest image in simple words? Can you give examples and contrast them with the concept of scientific image?

  11. Is there an agreed upon definition of cognition in philosophy, cognitive science, or across both? It appears to not. Harnad argues that feeling is part of cognition, whereas Halpin commented that consciousness or feeling is not necessary for cognition. Without an agreed upon definition, which appears to be the case, I don’t know how we can argue for a ‘Mark of the Cognitive’.

    Dr. Rowlands mentioned ‘intentionality’ and ‘aboutness’ as Marks of the Cognitive. Does intentionality mean that an entity acts a certain way with the intention of achieving a result? In this case, bacteria and computers have intentionality. But, if intentionality means that an entity acts a certain way to alter their consciousness or what they feel, than bacteria and computers would not have intentionality. He also mentioned ‘aboutness’ as a characteristic of intentionality. What does aboutness mean? I have no common-sense understanding of this word.

  12. If cognition is defined by intentionality that is representation, do you think that there is different forms of representation in order to explain things that we could have in mind that are not representation?

  13. Really interesting talk! What caught my attention was that Professor Rowlands seems to adopt the inverse approach to, say, Fodor, by explaining representation in terms of intentionality, rather than the other way around. My question for Professor Rowlands is whether he can motivate this (very interesting) switch in perspective. A follow-up question is whether or not intentionality requires a naturalistic account if it is to be used to explain representation.

  14. Thank you MARK ROWLANDS. Could you answer yes or no. My question is: Your intentionality is to reduce the distance between the manifest and image scientific?

  15. I feel maybe I should have pressed on the group minds issue.

    For other people: I told Prof. Rowlands that I thought his framework couldn't properly account for group cognition, pointing out that his New Science of the Mind drew a very individualistic of group minds; and he distanced himself from this account and said he didn't have an account of group minds.

    Still, I think that it's precisely the problem. A "phenomenocentric" account of cognition is condamned either to a big split in the concept of cognition between individual and macrocognition (and then you need 2 types of memory, 2 types of representation, etc.) or to developing a phenomenology of group cognition, and you're in danger of projecting attributes belonging to the individual on the group (as I believe The New Science of the Mind was doing.