Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


If meanings 'just ain't in the head', where are they? From traditional to active externalism

Piotr Konderak (Lublin, Marie Curie Sklodowska University)

Putnam and Burge as externalists started the discussion on the content of thoughts (and meanings), rejecting the Cartesian approach. Their stance, however, relying on distal and historical external factors, was too conservative for several contemporary philosophers of mind. These philosophers presented more radical version of externalism (locational externalism, environmentalism or extended mind hypothesis) holding that the mind (as well as cognitive processes) extend beyond the boundary of a body of an individual agent. So, before proceeding with the discussion on alleged (extended) mental content and (extended) meanings, I will present the Extended Mind Hypothesis (co-called Second Wave). To settle the scene, I will distinguish two versions of externalism:
what-externalism (explaining the content and phenomenal quality of mental states) and why-externalism (answering the question: by what processes or “vehicles” mental states are enabled) (Hurley 2010). These distinctions in fact illustrate the transition from traditional to active externalism.

Active externalism (Menary 2010) in its radical version holds that some cognitive processing is constituted by active features of the environment. Active externalism requires that meanings extend into the world creating “hybrid (mental-social-physical) entities”. I will present some arguments for and against the stance.

Finally, trying to answer a question where does language (and linguistic meanings) fit into the picture of extended mind I will discuss shortly the view on language as a cognitive niche (Clark 2005).


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