Strange but True: On the Counter-Intuitiveness of the Extended Mind Hypothesis

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Journal of Consciousness Studies


The Extended Mind Hypothesis (hereafter, EM) strikes many as counter-intuitive. It is the claim that there are parts of the world, outside of human bodies, that are literally parts of human minds. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, EM rests on a plausible idea: that the world itself is minded when parts of it are functionally equivalent to parts of human minds. But even that idea can seem counter-intuitive.
In this paper, we assess two intuitive criticisms of EM recently expressed by Sam Coleman (Coleman, 2011). The first is that the examples of extended mind offered by advocates of EM are not parts of minds, because subjects are not 'conscious' or 'immediately aware' of those parts of the external world. The second is that the principle at the heart of the argument for EM is biased in favour of EM. We argue that both of these intuitive criticisms of EM fail. Our ultimate aim is to suggest that the counter-intuitiveness of EM is not a barrier to its acceptance.
Our paper has three parts. In part 2, we sketch the Functional Equivalence Argument for EM (hereafter, FE). In parts 3-4, we explain and undermine these two intuitive criticisms of EM. We conclude by indicating what we think is really at stake in debates about EM.


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