Saturday, 2 January 2016

11a. Clark, A. & Chalmers, D. (1998) The Extended Mind.

Clark, A. & Chalmers, D. (1998) The Extended MindAnalysis. 58(1) 


Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? The question invites two standard replies. Some accept the demarcations of skin and skull, and say that what is outside the body is outside the mind. Others are impressed by arguments suggesting that the meaning of our words "just ain't in the head", and hold that this externalism about meaning carries over into an externalism about mind. We propose to pursue a third position. We advocate a very different sort of externalism: an active externalism, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes.

60 comments:

  1. I want to preface this by saying that I think Clark and Chalmers' paper takes a very interesting and thought-provoking perspective, and I enjoyed reading it. However...

    “In all these cases the individual brain performs some operations, while others are delegated to manipulations of external media. Had our brains been different, this distribution of tasks would doubtless have varied”

    I’m a little confused by the notion that cognition is actually everything we are doing and what we are doing it with. The way I’ve thought about it is that, as discussed in class, cognition is the capacity to do all that we can do. But it’s not the “doing” itself and it certainly isn’t the external tools that make the doing easier or possible. It seems like Clark and Chalmers are just changing the definition of what a mind is and what cognition is, but for what point and purpose?

    “If we retain internal structure but change the external features, behavior may change completely”

    I feel like this could just as well be an argument for why external environmental features are NOT a part of the mind. Moreover, if every external tool that I use to assist me in a task is part of the mind, then what is not? The most puzzling thing about this view is that I agree with almost everything they are saying, but I still can't bring myself to accept that a notebook is part of my cognition. With this model, it seems to me like there is no input or output, just extensions of minds. Otto’s notebook becomes Otto’s memory itself, instead of just an input to be cognitively processed. But if I’m comparing the cognition that is occurring in my brain to a notebook that I’ve solved a math problem on, my mind exists regardless of that notebook. My thoughts are grounded and have meaning, and feel like they have meaning. But meaning and feeling don’t exist in the notebook alone, without a mind to interpret its contents. Would Clark and Chalmers be advocates for the systems reply in Searle’s Chinese room?

    I’m wondering where Clark and Chalmers would draw boundaries in this theory. If say, I don’t know the answer to a math problem and I ask a friend to help me with the answer, is this friend now a part of my active external cognition? Is the person who taught him how to solve such a math problem also now a part of my cognition or a part of my mind? If these external features/people didn’t exist in the environment, my behaviour (solving a math problem) would change completely.

    What I’m having trouble with here is the implication of transhumanism. I’m not sure at what point bionic enhancements become a part of (instead of an aid to) cognition and the human experience.

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    1. Hey Riona

      You pretty much nailed a lot of the questions I had in response to this article (unfortunately I’m now a bit redundant as a result, but I’ll try to expand on some of the things you’ve said instead).

      In particular I shared your question about the Systems Reply, and whether Chalmers would be a proponent of it. When you lay it out in simple terms, it seems as if the answer is yes: Chalmers argues that Otto’s belief/understanding/what-have-you exists in his notebook - his extended cognition - and not without it. If we draw parallels to the System’s Reply, the argument is quite similar: Searle alone doesn’t understand, but the conjunction of Searle and all the written rules does. What confuses me then is that Chalmers (based on the Dennett reading) is 'the Captain of the B team’, the creator of the Hard Problem, and thus would seem to be the anti-Systems-Replier. So I thought maybe the difference is perhaps that for Otto, the information in the notebook is entirely grounded, thus has meaning? In other words, it felt like something when Otto first learned the address, it felt like something for him to be aware that he would forget it, thus it felt like something to elect to write it down, and it feels like something to retrieve it from the book and have the words written there have meanings and connection to their referents . So maybe that resolves the issue of whether Chalmers would advocate the Systems reply? (I.e. I think he would not - if that makes sense).

      I also share your issues with ‘where to draw the line’, particularly with respect to your math problem/friend example. If i read it right, Chalmers and Clark seem to suggest that this line is some sort of function of the reliability/reproducibility with which you use your friend to solve math problems of that nature, and that just seems so wildly arbitrary to me that it feels like I’m missing something...

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    2. Hey Adrienne and Riona,
      I agree that it seems as though Chalmers and Clark are twisting the meaning of 'mind' and 'cognition' so as to fit their proposed thesis !
      Fiona you mentioned "meaning and feeling don’t exist in the notebook alone, without a mind to interpret its contents", which i find particularly pertinent and frustrating with regards to the article !
      To put in a nutshell what they argue in the paper: "If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part
      of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is (so we claim) part of the cognitive process." and they defend this by saying that the external tools "play an active causal role", without which the cognitive performance would be lacking. By this standard though it would indeed seem that Searle's 'chinese pen pal' program is part of his cognition despite Searle having shown that "If (computational simulations of verbal cognition) can be done purely computationally, that does not mean that the computations are cognizing" and it would seem that Chalmers and Clark are arguing for the cognition to be taking place in the entirety of the 'coupled system', including the external media providing the 'epistemic action' (which seems to be not much different from categorical perception coupled with both supervised and unsupervised learning...)

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    3. Essentially why are they hell bent on making actions that seem like forms of tool use into inherent parts of cognition? I am also unsure as to what exactly the use of 'belief' affords to the argument as it seems to confuse things unnecessarily, as well as to lend itself particularly well to their argument where other forms of cognition would not (if im learning a new language for example and using my phone to look up words it would not seem to me that my phone would be part of my own cognitive process but rather a tool for gain of information (or if you prefer, reduction of uncertainty))

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    4. On a final note, they titled their paper "the extended mind", and make the express point that because consciousness is inherently internal it does not mean that cognition ought to be as well ("So the mere fact that external processes are external where consciousness is internal is no reason to deny that those processes are cognitive."), yet due to the video recording on consciousness from week 10, i was under the impression that mind was synonymous to consciousness, in which case their title could also be called 'the extended consciousness' which would also amount to being called 'the extended feeling' and would be contradictory to most points they are making !

      My question here is : are the words listed in week 10 as being equatable to consciousness (and by extension feeling) Stevan-Says-equatable or (by now) somewhat universally-agreed-upon-equatable? It seems as though its Stevan Says (because others do not seem to have adopted the method of talking only about feeling and letting other words slide) but then what would the arguments be for not letting go of the other words and still maintaining that they are not talking about the same thing?

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  2. “Epistemic actions alter the world so as to aid and augment cognitive processes such as recognition and search.”
    Are Chalmers and Clark suggesting that there is a limit that our mind can do on its own, related to some cognitive load that leads it to extend? That the active extension is helpful to us or is it that it is necessary? Because there seem to be parts of the paper where they suggest that there may be a far too complicated pattern of inputs and outputs so active extension makes more simple sense. But, just because something is complicated does that make it wrong? I’m confused.

    “In these cases, the relevant parts of the world are in the loop, not dangling at the other end of a long causal chain. Concentrating on this sort of coupling leads us to an active externalism, as opposed to the passive externalism of Putnam and Burge.”

    Where does the loop end, can the loop be infinitely large, or does it have to only be limited to the things we are using in our active externalism at the present second? I suppose this lends itself to the question the authors pose in the footnote “is mind in the present?” because then you’d have to consider the loop to include things from your past.

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    1. "For example, the waiter at my favorite restaurant might act as a repository of my beliefs about my favorite meals (this might even be construed as a case of extended desire). In other cases, one's beliefs might be embodied in one's secretary, one's accountant, or one's collaborator."

      Doesn't this just sound like the explanation of an extreme science-fiction movie wherein we all share one mind? I definitely think these ideas are interested but to say that our mind is embodied in others seems like a bit of a stretch to me..

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    2. I also think this statement seems a little sci-fi and far-fetched. Although it is perfectly possible that a waiter may know my favorite dish, I don’t think this implies that he is ‘acting as a repository of my beliefs’. If, for example, I went to another restaurant and got food poisoning from my ‘favorite’ dish, which made me update my own beliefs about how much I liked that food, the waiter would have no way of accessing this updated feeling. When I returned to the restaurant, the waiter would still try and serve me my previous favorite food. I would have to update him on the new situation. In comparison, beliefs inside my mind are constantly accessible for updates, re-interpretations and adjustments. Internal storage in the mind seems very different to external storage.

      I agree external storage could be a useful tool (which humans have used for thousands of years) to jog memories, but I think it is perfectly possible to keep the two ‘repositories’ distinct. An important difference is how the information is accessed. The information held in external storage systems (outside my mind) requires use of my senses to interpret the input before I can use it in a useful way. Learning to interpret this input takes time and cognitive resources. For example, you need sight to read information or use visual cues. And you need to know how to connect these external sensory experiences to previously acquired knowledge about how to make sense of them. Whereas, internal storage does not rely on sensory experience for retrieval. A good test could be imagining losing all your senses. Only your ‘internal cognition’ would remain accessible. It is possible for external information to enter into this internal mind, but there seems to be a clear transfer between the two different systems.

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  3. - In regards to having a better access to information, the author makes a distinction between high-bandwidth link and low-grade connection; what is the so-called link in this case? Is it consciousness? If so, does this suggest that consciousness is a continuous spectrum and not discrete states? In this case, then doesn’t that also mean we can never be truly unconscious of something, but only ever get approximate to it? Or is this the grounding link? Grounding our beliefs to an extended cognitive agent? What is the grounding link referring to then? Connecting a symbol to a referent? What is connecting? What does it mean to connect/ground/to provide a link?

    - I think this also ties in with evolution as well, as we want not just our genes to be passed on, but all that we’ve learned and experienced too so we extend our mind to things in the environment, like books or audio recordings, through language. However, like the authors said, language is not a mirror of inner states but a complement to them, so with the other-minds problem, it is up to our interpretation of the things in the environment to give rise to minds of others, or else everything in the environment would just be symbol systems or without meaning.

    - I’m a little confused with what constitutes as being part of the core cognitive system rather than an add-on. So add-ons are coupled with cores, but is never part of the core, like language, and these add-on cognitive processes are portable, whereas the core is not? So core cognitive processes are those subjective to an individual and not to others? In that case, isn’t that just thinking and feeling? Do add-ons have to always be active then, and when they’re not active, then they’re not part of the system? The authors also point out the extended cognition is a core cognitive process, so that mean that the ability to extend your feelings onto a thing in the environment is something innate, or does core not have to be innate? Doesn’t that also mean zombies lack the capacity for core cognitive processes?

    - How can twin Otto be a twin if every aspects are the same, except one Otto makes a mistake in copying down the location of the Museum? Does this not suggest that both Ottos are separate individuals and are not twins? How can the twins have physically distinguishable behaviors if the external features of the environment they perceive are the same? Twin Otto shouldn’t be able to make a mistake if the other Otto doesn’t either, so I fail to see why the two has different notional content, unless the example was that they have different notional contents and that the word “twin” was just used for convenience.

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  4. ‘How much cognition is present in these cases? We suggest that all three cases are similar. Case (3) with the neural implant seems clearly to be on a par with case (1)’
    This statement elicited an immediate sense of: ‘no.’ What does ‘on par’ entail, when cognition, as we have come to define it, is whatever is going on in our minds that is letting us do what we do – if the implant acts as an accessory device, capable of near ‘robotic’ capacity processing, it is augmenting our neuronal capacity in a way that I think would exceed our traditional definition of cognition.

    ‘Epistemic action, we suggest, demands spread of epistemic credit. If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is (so we claim) part of the cognitive process. Cognitive processes ain't (all) in the head!’
    Perhaps I am simply not understanding, but this feels like a reach at best. The argument here rests on the understanding that the process is NOT done in the head, therefore, we are able to discern it as separable. Is this an attempt to allow the neural implant to be equated to cognition?

    ‘But not every cognitive process, at least on standard usage, is a conscious process. It is widely accepted that all sorts of processes beyond the borders of consciousness play a crucial role in cognitive processing: in the retrieval of memories, linguistic processes, and skill acquisition, for example. So the mere fact that external processes are external where consciousness is internal is no reason to deny that those processes are cognitive.’
    I find this counterexample to be weak. Equating unconscious cognition to the ‘cognition’ crafted by an external device still cannot break away from the internal versus external generation problem. I know the that the retrieval of memory, etc. are internally generated because they form through my cognition, while the external options falls victim to the other minds problem.

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  5. 1. “The brain (or brain and body) comprises a package of basic, portable, cognitive resources that is of interest in its own right. These resources may incorporate bodily actions into cognitive processes, as when we use our fingers as working memory in a tricky calculation, but they will not encompass the more contingent aspects of our external environment, such as a pocket calculator. Still, mere contingency of coupling does not rule out cognitive status. In the distant future we may be able to plug various modules into our brain to help us out: a module for extra short-term memory when we need it, for example. When a module is plugged in, the processes involving it are just as cognitive as if they had been there all along.”

    I’m not sure I can agree with this analogy. The problem is that the memory device isn’t cognition itself. It may facilitate a cognitive process (short term memory), but that doesn’t mean the device itself is cognitive.

    2. “Language may be an example. Language appears to be a central means by which cognitive processes are extended into the world. Think of a group of people brainstorming around a table, or a philosopher who thinks best by writing, developing her ideas as she goes. It may be that language evolved, in part, to enable such extensions of our cognitive resources within actively coupled systems.”

    I’m not sure I understand what the authors mean by extending a cognitive process into the world? Language is more than sound waves that dissipate – interpreters who understand the meaning of those sounds are required for language and transmission of information. And how or why would this make cognition “extended” anyway? It seems to me that Clark & Chalmers are trying to redefine what we already know as cognition to be “extended cognition”.

    3. “An analogy may be helpful. […]The fish swims by building these externally occurring processes into the very heart of its locomotion routines. The fish and surrounding vortices together constitute a unified and remarkably efficient swimming machine. Now consider a reliable feature of the human environment, such as the sea of words. This linguistic surround envelopes us from birth. Under such conditions, the plastic human brain will surely come to treat such structures as a reliable resource to be factored into the shaping of on-board cognitive routines. Where the fish flaps its tail to set up the eddies and vortices it subsequently exploits, we intervene in multiple linguistic media, creating local structures and disturbances whose reliable presence drives our ongoing internal processes. Words and external symbols are thus paramount among the cognitive vortices which help constitute human thought.”

    Clark & Chalmers keep describing the fact that we interact with the outside environment and citing this as evidence that cognition is external. But to me it just sounds like they are describing regular cognition and I see no reason to make the jump to externalizing it. Am I missing something?

    4. “If this is right, we can even construct the case of Twin Otto, who is just like Otto except that a while ago he mistakenly wrote in his notebook that the Museum of Modern Art was on 51st Street. Today, Twin Otto is a physical duplicate of Otto from the skin in, but his notebook differs. Consequently, Twin Otto is best characterized as believing that the museum is on 51st Street, where Otto believes it is on 53rd. In these cases, a belief is simply not in the head.”

    Actually, I interpret this differently. There is no belief at all until Otto checks his notebook. When he checks his notebook, he is cognizant of the information within it. Besides, here Clark & Chalmers seem to equate information with cognition. I don’t think they are the same though. I think that information is necessary for cognition but it’s not sufficient in and of itself.

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  6. 11a.

    “Even if one were to make the portability criterion pivotal, active externalism would not be undermined. Counting on our fingers has already been let in the door, for example, and it is easy to push things further. Think of the old image of the engineer with a slide rule hanging from his belt wherever he goes. What if people always carried a pocket calculator, or had them implanted? The real moral of the portability intuition is that for coupled systems to be relevant to the core of cognition, reliable coupling is required. It happens that most reliable coupling takes place within the brain, but there can easily be reliable coupling with the environment as well. If the resources of my calculator or my Filofax are always there when I need them, then they are coupled with me as reliably as we need.”

    I can’t help but think of cell phones when I read this. We rely on our cell phones more and more these days to help us accomplish many tasks that we previously would rely on our brains and bodies for. For example, we make “to do” lists and set reminders so that we can give our working memory a rest and rely on a device to remind us instead. Our phones have become extra storage for our memory in a way, because we rely on them to store information so that we can forget it and move on. Just looking at my phone now, my maps app can remember how to get places, my calculator can do math for me, my running app can tell me where I went incase I wasn’t paying attention while running (which surprisingly does happen), and I even have an app to remind me what I ate all day. Without realizing it, I rely on my phone to hold these memories so that I have working memory space to learn other information. My phone is almost always on me, but even if it were not, I still would take Chalmers’ view and say that it is a part of my “Extended Cognition”. It may not physically be a part of my brain, but I once was using my brain to store these memories and now I rely on a device to do it instead.

    This brings me to my second thought when reading this paper. As technology expands to allow us to do more and more things with it, and to rely on it more, are we using our brains less? Does it enable us to use extra brain energy on more advanced things? I think that many arguments could be made as to whether relying more on technology and less on our brain itself is a positive or negative change. I think that Chalmers would argue that extended cognition through any means is a positive change, because he says that language may have evolved for that reason. He also says “the brain develops in a way that complements the external structures, and learns to play its role within a unified, densely coupled system.” Given the example of cell phones, would children’s brains developing to “complement” their external phones, develop less?

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    1. Hi Amanda,

      I think there's a difference between saying your phone is needed for you to do all that you do, and saying that your phone is actually a part of your extended cognition. While I have no problem agreeing with you that your phone has fundamentally changed the way you perform mental actions, such as recalling a date, performing a calculation, etc., I believe it's a giant leap to take from saying this, to saying your phone is cognizing in itself.

      As we learned in class, cognition is what allows us to do what we do. And a common feature of cognizers is having a conscious feeling associated with thought. So are you comfortable saying that your iPhone experiences feeling, understanding, consciousness, etc.?

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    2. Hi Maya,

      Sorry for any confusion. When I said my phone was a part of my extended cognition I did not mean that it is cognizing in itself. It requires our brain power to help us cognize, but when we use it, our phone takes on some of the tasks of cognizing that we would otherwise be doing on our own. So it aids us, but I am not saying it is conscious. I don't think that Chalmers was referring to consciousness when he talked about extended cognition either, because he related extended cognition to fake limbs extending our physical capacity and also gave an example of writing things on paper as extended cognition. I don't think he would argue that the paper had consciousness.

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  7. What exactly is Clark and Chalmers' "belief"?

    Is belief = feeling?

    The authors introduce Otto and Inga - the former requires an external notebook to hold a belief that "the museum is on 53rd street", while the latter uses an internal memory system to hold a belief that "the museum is on 53rd street". If belief is feeling, then an obvious difference between Otto and Inga is that Otto, try as he might, will never have a conscious feeling associated with knowing where the museum is. Although he reaches the same destination is Inga, he does not share the same feeling as Inga does.
    Chalmers and Clark's seem like behaviourists - they are comparing the performance of the two (arriving at the museum) but are ignoring feeling. They don't address the hard problem, how and why do we feel what we do, they only address the easy problem - how and why we do what we do.
    I feel like I'm echoing a sort of Chinese Room Argument here. Ultimately, Otto, who doesn't understand where the museum is, acts just like Searle who doesn't understand Chinese. Otto, like Searle can arrive at the correct destination, indistinguishably from Inga. But the ultimate difference between Otto and Inga (or Searle and a native Chinese speaker) is that Otto and Searle have no real understanding, or feeling associated with producing their output.
    (Of course the CRA is testing T2 verbal capacity but I think the metaphor is still valid).

    Is belief more than feeling?

    In this case, belief could be analogous to meaning. As we discussed in class, meaning is greater than feeling in that it arises through a sense, referent and feeling. So through symbol grounding (that is, connecting symbols to their real world sensorimotor referents) and feeling, wouldn't we hold beliefs about everything we hold sensorimotor connections to? That is, in the eyes of Chalmers and Clark, would cognition extend to everything we attribute meaning to?

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    1. Hi Maya,

      I completely agree. Throughout the entire reading, I was trying to deduce what exactly they meant by ‘belief.’ Even more, Chalmers brings up the difference between ‘occurrent beliefs’ and ‘non-occurrent beliefs.’ An occurrent belief is one that is currently in thought or while one is conscious; however, this is all seems to be a more complicated way of saying feeling. Essentially, a belief is the feeling one has when we are thinking/doing. As we’ve said before in this class, there are no unfelt feelings or unfelt mental states. So it should follow that all believing is occurrent believing, and non-occurrent believing does not exist (i.e. it is not part of cognition, rather it would be a vegetative state).

      If belief is feeling, then I feel their argument come apart at the seams. It is true that we can rely on various inputs from our external environment to aid in our cognitive functions – we use external devices such as notebooks, laptops, phones, and calculators to get things done. However, when it comes to the feeling associated with everything we can do, I do not think that we can outsource this capacity to external things. In my opinion, the nature of feeling leads to the conclusion that it cannot be distributed or occur outside my head.

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    2. Hi Melissa,

      I think you make a really strong point in your second paragraph, having not been clear with the use of the word 'belief' can really hinder the argument!

      I thought that non-occurrent beliefs are beliefs (or feelings?) you have about something that are changed or deleted. For example, thinking a museum was located on a certain street but then realizing that it actually is located on another street. I am not sure if thats right, just thought I should put it out there. Does anyone have an answer to this?

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    3. Hi Maya

      I do find the authors use of "belief" is a little ambiguous, but I am wondering what you mean by:

      "Otto, try as he might, will never have a conscious feeling associated with knowing where the museum is."

      Upon drawing on his notebook and reading the address to the museum, wouldn't Otto know where the museum is? And upon this knowledge he would then feel that he knows where the museum is and as a result walk to that address? It is true that in the absence of the notebook, he would lack the "feeling" of knowing where the museum is, or even knowing where the museum is at all for that matter, but with additional external information, Otto can then be conscious of the museum's location.

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    4. I agree, I think that once both Otto (through his notebook) and Inga (through her mind) have retrieved the information of the address of the museum that both would have the same feeling of knowing where the museum is (since both are inputs required to cognize). However, the belief was previously offline for both of them before the moment when it is in a felt online state.

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  8. Our definition of cognition it that it is “the mechanism that allows for the capacity for us to do all it is we can do”. I suppose the word in question here that would allow us to consider “extended cognition” as cognition hinges on what qualifies as a mechanism. Clark and Chalmers give examples of calculators and notepads as tools that we can consider as part of the mechanism that allows for the capacity to do everything we do, since by using them we can do more things. They make the hypothetical that if these tools were simply integrated in the brain then surely we would consider the use of them as part of cognition. But therein lies the problem, they are not part of the immediate mechanism that is the brain. As soon as the impulses in our nervous system cause an interaction with the environment there becomes a clear boundary between what is the mechanism and what is external to it. Once we are clear on this, this article becomes merely an issue of semantics and what each party means when they say cognition, if this is not clear then the definition of mechanism is what is being debated. Neither of these cases warrants any further discussion on the topic and instead requires each party to create a definition of cognition and of extended cognition and be satisfied with that. I of course would not argue that by interacting with our environment we can do more and thus satisfy the inclusion that whatever tool we use would allow the capacity for us to do all we can do. Instead I would argue that the internal mechanisms alone allow us to use such external tools to accomplish such goals. Yes, we rearrange scrabble tiles in order to help us think better but the mechanism at hand isn’t the rearranging working in tandem with our brain, but instead our brain interacting with the world in a way as a strategy that allows different inputs to facilitate different outputs.

    “Of course, one could always try to explain my action in terms of internal processes and a long series of "inputs" and "actions", but this explanation would be needlessly complex. If an isomorphic process were going on in the head, we would feel no urge to characterize it in this cumbersome way.[*] In a very real sense, the re-arrangement of tiles on the tray is not part of action; it is part of thought.”

    Clark and Chalmers pre-emptively defend against this method of attack but they offer no real defense. They simply say that the action itself is thought. But what does that mean? If action is part of the mechanism of cognition then how does it fit in? In this example does it act as a form of physical symbol manipulation? Surely the computational powers in our brain could do that already and that would not require a “needlessly complex” explanation. Any other explanation is reminiscent of the homunculus problem.

    “the mere fact that external processes are external where consciousness is internal is no reason to deny that those processes are cognitive.”

    We could model our memory as a person with Alzheimers who carries a note pad, but this doesn’t tell us how memory works and the mechanism behind it. It is more reasonable to think of the notepad problem as one where an internal mechanism has the capabilities to use external cues to either reactivate old memories or to create new ones as a store. That we use a notepad does not matter, what matters is that the capacity to use it was already ingrained and that is what separates “extended cognition” from what we previously discussed as cognition.

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    2. Hi Jordan,

      I think that debate, as you frame it, about what does or does not qualify as a mechanism glosses over the deeper issue.

      “Our definition of cognition it that it is “the mechanism that allows for the capacity for us to do all it is we can do”. I suppose the word in question here that would allow us to consider “extended cognition” as cognition hinges on what qualifies as a mechanism. Clark and Chalmers give examples of calculators and notepads as tools that we can consider as part of the mechanism that allows for the capacity to do everything we do, since by using them we can do more things. They make the hypothetical that if these tools were simply integrated in the brain then surely we would consider the use of them as part of cognition. But therein lies the problem, they are not part of the immediate mechanism that is the brain. As soon as the impulses in our nervous system cause an interaction with the environment there becomes a clear boundary between what is the mechanism and what is external to it. Once we are clear on this, this article becomes merely an issue of semantics and what each party means when they say cognition, if this is not clear then the definition of mechanism is what is being debated. Neither of these cases warrants any further discussion on the topic and instead requires each party to create a definition of cognition and of extended cognition and be satisfied with that.”

      The whole issue in contention is what, whether internal or external to the brain, constitutes the mechanism of cognition, i.e. whatever causal processes allow us to do what we are able to do. If something external to the brain plays a crucial causal role in allowing us to do what we are able to do, then it is part of the cognitive mechanism. To define a mechanism as something strictly internal is simply to beg the question. Clark and Chalmers contend that confining the scope of our investigation to the internal portion of the mechanism is arbitrary and leaves out things that do in fact play a causal role in allowing us to do what we can do. This is the point in contention; the fact that one can arbitrarily use a definition of mechanism which requires some sort of internal unity does not mean that it is a mere issue of semantics. Rather, using such a definition will simply prevent them from engaging properly with the issue at hand.

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  9. I really enjoyed reading this paper! I thought it was very fascinating and intriguing.

    I think that Clark and Chalmers were trying to make a point that humans very frequently separate themselves (whats going on in their minds) from their surrounding environment. Clark and Chalmers were trying to emphasis that we should not do this; one should not constantly try to separate what happens inside one's head from what happens in the outside environment surrounding one’s head. This is because a belief can exist anywhere (either in a brain or in a journal). However this still doesn’t seem to solve the questions what is feeling and where does feeling occur? I don’t think that a feeling can occur in a journal. Can it?

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    1. Hey Lucy, your comment touched upon something I found interesting throughout the article, which is how all of this relates to Searle’s CRA.

      one should not constantly try to separate what happens inside one's head from what happens in the outside environment surrounding one’s head.

      First, I think you’re right about what Clark and Chalmers are suggesting with this article. But I would even take it one step further. It’s not just that one should not make this separation, it’s that one cannot make this separation (contrary to popular opinion). What’s happening in the outside environment (following your example, a belief in a journal) is a direct and necessary part of what’s happening inside one’s head. So much so that they are part of the same system, the system that generates thoughts. As Clark and Chalmers put it:

      After all, we are in effect advocating a point of view on which Otto's internal processes and his notebook constitute a single cognitive system. From the standpoint of this system, the flow of information between notebook and brain is not perceptual at all; it does not involve the impact of something outside the system. (page 8)

      To me, this suggests that we shouldn’t even consider the belief in the journal as part of the outside environment, but as part of the internal system. The direct flow of information between it and your mind connects the two intrinsically. But you’re right, none of this answers the big question here:

      I don’t think that a feeling can occur in a journal. Can it?

      And this is where the explanations Searle offers in his CRA come into play. When I first read Searle’s article, I found myself subscribing to one the Systems Replies, as it seemed to me Searle was only part of the bigger system that actually does the understanding. Searle provided the cognition, the rulebook provided the instructions, etc., and all that added up to “understanding.” But to counter these replies, Searle provides a similar argument to the one Clark and Chalmers provide here. He says that the rulebook is irrelevant. He could memorize them all, but he would still not understand Chinese. Even if they are written on paper, they are still an integral part of the cognizing system, to the point that they cannot be separated. Which is why he does not understand Chinese, even with these rules. The rules alone cannot provide an understanding of Chinese if it is not already there.

      So same as with Searle, there is no difference between the notes in Otto’s notebook and a memorized version of them. And we can finally begin to answer your question. Just like Searle’s rulebook cannot create understanding, the notes in a journal cannot create feeling in and of themselves. Or, to put it bluntly, feeling cannot occur in a journal. However, the journal is a necessary part of the system in which feeling does occur. There needs to be something more for understanding than just the instruction manual, and there needs to be something more for feeling than just the journal. It is only a component of the unitary system that feels. And the fact that it’s a unitary system is important too. That is why I don’t get the same feeling Otto does when he looks at his notebook: I am not a part of the unitary system.

      Anyways, that’s just what I gathered from the reading, and I hope this clears things up for you!

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    2. Hey Alex ,

      As usual, your reply here is somewhat infuriating because it really hits the nail on the head and captures pretty much everything I wanted to say haha. Going through this article, I arrived at a very similar conclusion, but there's still some logical points that I'm not satisfied with, so maybe you'll be able to help clarify my thoughts here.

      Basically, I agree with everything you say up until just like Searle's rulebook cannot create understanding, the notes in a journal cannot create feeling in and of themselves . On first read of the article, I completely agreed with your conclusion here. But are we not missing a pretty fundamental difference between the two scenarios? Namely: none of the symbols in Searle's Chinese room are grounded, whereas the notes in Otto's journal most certainly are. For Searle, although the rules are written in English, even by memorizing the hypothetical rule-book, the systems reply is impossible because the symbols remain entirely ungrounded and thus unable to generate the feeling of understanding. Otto's notebook, however, contains notes that he wrote for himself, in his native language, from his own memory, and thus when he reads them there is unquestionably feeling/understanding (barring the point where his Alzheimer's is so advanced that he no longer remembers what the words on the page refer to).

      So in this case, there is a substantial difference between Searle memorizing the symbols and rules, and Otto memorizing the information in his notebook. This isn't to say that I am on board with extended cognition - my intuition tells me that it just doesn't make sense, and the boundaries are so arbitrary as to make the whole concept something of a moot point. But this point of logic still bothers me - if we're to use Searle's CRA/the Systems Reply as a refutation of extended cognition, how do we get around this important difference? (Note: not a rhetorical question, I would really love a nice logical answer because I'm somehow unable to find it).

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    3. Hey Adrienne, thanks for the reply. I know the comparison is not perfect, and your explanation for why these situations are not exactly the same is right on point. I struggled with this issue while writing up the post myself, but it had already gotten way longer than I wanted it be, so I just decided to hope no one called me. Well done there.

      As to how do we get around this important difference, let’s think about Otto’s notebook from the perspective of someone who is not Otto. As you mention, Otto’s notebook contains notes he wrote for himself and from his own memory, so there is definitely feeling there. But that feeling is only there for Otto. You didn’t write those notes and solidify your feeling within them like Otto did, so you wouldn’t have access to that feeling the same way Otto does. This all goes back to the idea that the notes in the notebook are not feelings themselves, just a way to access feelings. They are a part of the system, but without the rest of the system, you do not have that feeling. Even if you were to replace Otto at his job (let’s say he got fired and left you his notebook), and you could interpret the notes well enough to do the job correctly, you still wouldn’t be feeling the same thing Otto feels when he looks at the notebook.

      Now, this isn’t a perfect answer to your question. There’s still the fact that in the above situation, there is still some feeling going on (even if it isn’t the same feeling), while with Searle, there is no understanding going on at all. But on closer examination, we see these two circumstances are not so different after all. There is some understanding happening with Searle (he understands the instructions and what to do with them), this is just not the same understanding that actually speaking Chinese would entail. Similarly, there is some feeling going on as you interpret Otto’s notebook (each of the individual notes makes you feel a certain thing), but this is not the same feeling that Otto gets from his notes. Both you and Searle are solving a piece of the puzzle, as demonstrated by the correct output in both cases, but you’re not getting the whole thing. To do that, you would need to either speak Chinese or be Otto.

      All the thought experiments aside, I wasn’t really trying to argue that Searle’s CRA could serve as a refutation of extended cognition (although now I see how my post kind of turned into that). But you’re right, we would need to get around this problem for that to be the case. I’m still not entirely sure what the right answer to this question is, I just wanted to talk about the relationship between these two ideas, and I’m glad it stirred up similar thoughts in someone else!

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  11. Since Clark and Chalmers frequently refer to Burge and Putnam’s arguments for externalism, but never explain these arguments, I’ll try to give a brief overview of them for those who are unfamiliar with them.

    This externalism differs greatly from standard variety advocated by Putnam (1975) and Burge (1979). When I believe that water is wet and my twin believes that twin water is wet, the external features responsible for the difference in our beliefs are distal and historical, at the other end of a lengthy causal chain. Features of the present are not relevant: if I happen to be surrounded by XYZ right now (maybe I have teleported to Twin Earth), my beliefs still concern standard water, because of my history. In these cases, the relevant external features are passive. Because of their distal nature, they play no role in driving the cognitive process in the here-and-now. This is reflected by the fact that the actions performed by me and my twin are physically indistinguishable, despite our external differences.

    Clark and Chalmers are referring to Putnam and Burge’s contribution to the debate over whether mental contents are internal or external to the mind. ‘Mental contents’ are whatever a thought or belief or other mental state is about. This ‘aboutness’ has been referred to as ‘intentionality.’ This is the proper philosophical sense of ‘intentionality,’ and it should not be used as a weasel word for consciousness. The issue at hand is whether the intrinsic properties of a mental state alone are enough to encompass what that state is about (internalism), or whether an appropriate relationship to the environment is required for a mental state to be about something in that environment (externalism). In order to argue for externalism, Putnam proposes a “Twin Earth” thought experiment. The premise is that there are two planets, Earth and Twin Earth, which are indistinguishable in every way except that whereas “water” on twin Earth has the chemical structure ‘H2O,’ it has the structure ‘XYZ’ on Twin Earth. However, they are physically indiscernible in every way to the (somewhat primitive) people on the planet. Suppose, now, that on these two planets there are two indiscernible people. Their brains are structurally the same, but one has grown up on Earth, and the other on Twin Earth. If the Earth resident suddenly found himself on Twin Earth, saw a puddle of Twin-water and expressed his belief that it was water, he would be incorrect. But if the Twin Earth resident pointed at the same puddle and expressed the same belief, he would be correct. Since both are the same internally, the fact that the truth conditions of their beliefs and the propositions that express them are not the same means that the contents of these beliefs must be determined, at least in part, by factors external to them: namely, the causal history of their interaction with the things that their beliefs are about. Burge extends this argument to show how the external social context of language also determines the contents of beliefs and thoughts.

    Clearly, this problem of how words and mental contents in general get their meanings is related to the symbol grounding problem.

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  12. Many questions this week:

    In the first example of the mental rotation task the authors suggest that Case 1 (mental rotation) is similar to Case 3 (neural implant which rotates). I however, intuitively think that the mental rotation in Case 1 more at par with the choice to internally rotate the shape in Case 3. In addition, the authors suggest that the computer rotation of Case 2 is similar to the internal rotation in Case 3 but again, my intuition is that the computer (Tetris like) rotation is more similar to the neural implant rotation. After reading the full article I agree that the mental rotation in case 1, the computer rotation in case 2 and the neural implant in case 3 all perform the same function, however I do think we can recognize that there is a difference between the manipulation of an image that can be perceived (for example by other people) versus the manipulation of an image in someones head (that cannot be perceived by other people).

    “In fact, even the mental rotation cases described in scenarios (1) and (2) are real.” To follow up on the previous comment…I agree with this quote. I don’t think the argument is whether the rotation is “real” or not, it is whether it occurs in the environment or in the “mind/brain”

    What is epistemic credit? It is not defined clearly

    “Our thesis is that this sort of coupled process counts equally well as a cognitive process, whether or not it is wholly in the head.” Once again, I agree with this statement to an extent. However, I think its fair to say that cognitive processes can be coupled, but that does not necessarily mean that all of them are coupled, or that it is necessary for all to be coupled, mostly because of the advent of language. As the article state, Inga doesn’t need externalisation but Otto does!

    “This is reflected by the fact that the actions performed by me and my twin are physically indistinguishable, despite our external differences.”
    This quote is with reference to Putman and Burge’s theory of passive externalization. To clarify; is this saying that when Twin Renuka is on Twin Earth with external feature of XYZ, Twin Renuka will treat XYZ like water because her history is driving her cognitive processes rather than her current “passive” external features? If so why would this be?
    Continuing with Putnam and Burge, they emphasize the “historical context” or “history” of the features of external stimuli, but if they are never paying attention to the “here and now” how can one formulate any sense of history?


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  13. Continuing.....


    “Once we recognize the crucial role of the environment in constraining the evolution and development of cognition, we see that extended cognition is a core cognitive process, not an add-on extra.”
    I agree that the external environment can be a core part of cognition rather than an “add-on” (for example language). But this quotation makes it seem as though tools/technology can play a role in the evolution of cognition. This seems a little far fetched considering the rate at which tools and technology in general are designed, used and then become obsolete. How could evolution possibly be shaped by things that barely last years let along thousands generations of human life.

    “And just as Inga had her belief even before she consulted her memory, it seems reasonable to say that Otto believed the museum was on 53rd Street even before consulting his notebook”
    Again, parts of this statement I accept but others I completely disagree with. I agree that both Inga’s consultation of her memory and Otto’s consultation of his notebook are cognition despite the fact that one is coupled to the environment and the other isn’t. What I do not agree with is the statement that both of them “believe” that the gallery is at 53rd street before consulting either their memory or their notebook. Why would this be the case at all? Wouldn’t the consultation of their memory/notebook provide this belief? If it was the case that they just “believed” the gallery was on 53rd street, why would they bother consulting the memory/notebook at all?
    - on a related note, does belief just mean the same thing as “cognition?”

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  14. I have a problem with the internal logic of “active externalism”.

    “In these cases, the human organism is linked with an external entity in a two-way interaction, creating a coupled system that can be seen as a cognitive system in its own right. All the components in the system play an active causal role, and they jointly govern behavior in the same sort of way that cognition usually does. If we remove the external component the system's behavioral competence will drop, just as it would if we removed part of its brain. Our thesis is that this sort of coupled process counts equally well as a cognitive process, whether or not it is wholly in the head.”

    My problem stems from the definition of what a “coupled system” (required for active externalism) is: “All the components in the system play an active causal role”. Yet in the examples given (e.g., writing down things on paper), the external components don’t seem to play any active role. To me, paper plays no active role, as it can’t be seen as an active agent in the situation. The entirety of the real cognitive processes are still done by the brain. The paper is just a visual reminder of our previous steps (sentences in a text, mathematical equations, etc.)

    Similarly, the claim that “if we remove the external component the system's behavioral competence will drop” bugs me. The competency (capacity) won’t drop. We probably would just be slower. Anything that could not be done without the external component (e.g., extremely complex calculations) would not be part of our won competence (capacity), but rather would be the component’s. For example, I can ask my computer to do things for me that I could not do, but that means those competences are the computer’s, not mine.

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    1. Hi Hernan,

      I think we feel the same way about this article. I was not especially impressed by their reasoning because I found that they were stretching the definition of 'cognition' (which implies felt cognition) too far.

      "Yet in the examples given (e.g., writing down things on paper), the external components don’t seem to play any active role."

      I agree. In another way, I would say that there is no feeling conferred to the paper by virtue of the fact that it is a tool employed by the user. There is no cognitive capacity conferred just because the paper is being used. When the user feels something, it is not as though the paper is part of that felt state.

      "The entirety of the real cognitive processes are still done by the brain."

      Absolutely. The brain is the seat of cognition and feeling, and it cannot extend beyond that. If the paper is removed from the equation, as you say, it will only remove the cognitive enhancement that was previously applied by the tool, not remove some disembodied, nebulous extended cognition.

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  16. “What about socially extended cognition? Could my mental states be partly constituted by the states of other thinkers? We see no reason why not, in principle. In an unusually interdependent couple, it is entirely possible that one partner's beliefs will play the same sort of role for the other as the notebook plays for Otto.[*] What is central is a high degree of trust, reliance, and accessibility. In other social relationships these criteria may not be so clearly fulfilled, but they might nevertheless be fulfilled in specific domains. For example, the waiter at my favorite restaurant might act as a repository of my beliefs about my favorite meals (this might even be construed as a case of extended desire). In other cases, one's beliefs might be embodied in one's secretary, one's accountant, or one's collaborator.[*]”

    In this passage, the authors push their ideas of extended cognition too far. The case of an interdependent couple is not the same as Otto and his notebook. In Otto’s case, it is he who stores information in his notebook and it is he who interprets the information at a later time. The notebook contains translations of Otto’s thoughts and once on paper remain unchanged meaningless symbols until Otto is able to interpret them. This differs from “socially extended cognition” in that another individuals mind is not a blank slate to transfer one’s thoughts onto into meaningless interpretable symbols. When you “embody” your beliefs onto another person, that person is interpreting your words and cognizing them, giving meaning to them in relation to their mind. At this point, there is already a division between where your mind ends and the others begins, at least in relation to this belief. This division is developed further when you access your “repository,” because at this point the repository, or other person’s mind, has cognized your belief and is re-expressing it in their interpretation, resulting in some sense, a loss of autonomy for the belief. I do agree that a great deal of influence can occur on two minds and you can store information that originated from your mind within others, but this interaction does not broaden to the point that you can embody your mind in another’s. There is a division that develops once a belief is interpreted by another entity and a clear distinction between impressing a belief onto a person and writing a belief on a piece of paper in meaningless symbols.

    I do agree with the author’s that there is an active interaction with our mind and the environment and that our mind can be coupled to agents in the environment, but I believe their ideas of “active externalism” are too broadly applied. If meaning was constrained just to inside our head, then wouldn’t there be a conflict in understanding how to ground symbols to their referents, with regards to the symbol grounding problem?

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  17. Is otto a complete cognizer without his notebook?

    Dr. Harnad consistently defines cognition as whatever it is “that allows us to do what we can do”, sometimes prepending “whatever is inside an organism”. Let’s leave out this addition for a moment and consider the implications of this definition for the possibility and utility of allowing the notion of extended mind. Otto without his notebook is certainly an autonomous module - like the toaster - but Otto with his notebook is perhaps the sandwich making machine. If we have a requirement for Otto that he be able to find the museum then why do we deny him the tools that enable him to do so (which is a cognitive) task. If it’s for the sake on avoiding arguments about unnecessary extension, then we can choose to do that at any level.

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    1. I’m a bit confused about what you’re saying… What do you mean by “any level” in terms of denying Otto tools which are source of unnecessary extension? What are they? Because in terms of extension, all I see are internal (mind) and external (outside world). And if experiences in the outside world can be internalized, isn’t it the case that it doesn’t matter whether he has a physical or mental notebook? In which case taking away his hypothetical mental notebook would indeed make him less of a cognizer, because what is being taken away is some of him experience with the world. Does this make any sense?

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    2. Hi Nirtiac,

      I'm not sure Professor Harnad was meaning for that definition of cognition ("whatever it is that allows us to do what we can do") to pertain to external objects in our environment. I mean if we think about it that way then... if we consider the example of a human having to be slowly replaced by non-human parts to make up for a non-functioning part in their brain/body, at what point does the cognizing they are now capable of doing (thanks to new robotic parts) become attributed to these said parts alone and not to the natural parts? When we try to answer the question of how it is we do what we do, aren't we trying to answer the question of how is it that our human brain is capable of generating cognition? (I'm more addressing the hard problem here and not the easy problem where we reverse-engineer).

      Also, if it is said that cognition is supposedly extended into the environment (in Otto's case the notebook), we can never know for sure whether or not it is actually part of a cognizing system as we have no way of empirically testing this (testing if any relative degree of cognition can be assigned to the notebook)? Otto is still a cognizing being with or without the notebook.

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  18. After reading this article, I am left unable to stomach the ideas put forth. Fundamentally, I don’t think cognition can exist outside of the brain since this entire course has operated on the basis that cognition is things that go on in our head that allow us to do what they do. However, I’ll try to break down precisely why I think idea of active externalism is flawed.

    Let’s start with the example of Otto:
    "The alternative is to explain Otto's action in terms of his occurrent desire to go to the museum, his standing belief that the Museum is on the location written in the notebook, and the accessible fact that the notebook says the Museum is on 53rd Street; but this complicates the explanation unnecessarily” (Clark & Chalmers 1998).

    In contrast to the view held by Clark and Chalmers, I would state that this is exactly what is going on, and that Otto simply does not have this belief that the Museum is on 53rd. They keep saying that the parsimonious explanation is that Otto believes that the MOMA is on 53rd and this simply isn’t true because, in Alzheimer’s Disease especially, people do not have this semantic information to form the belief. Therefore, they must consult the notebook and the heuristic belief Otto uses must be that the MOMA is located on whatever address is written in the book. I am sure that Clark and Chalmers are using “belief” as the know-all, be-all of cognition, which is why they continue to resort to this, but I do not care too much about this term. Rather, Clark and Chalmers, by trying to extend cognition externally, have created a homoncular problem. They are not explaining the processes in the brain that allow us to cognize and this flaw is most illustrated in their explanation that the consultation of this notebook is "akin to information flow within the brain" (Clark & Chalmers 1998). Well if this is true, wonderful! Cognitive scientist have discovered how the brain has worked if they are able to explain how Otto uses the notebook. However, this is not possible, and cognitive scientist must search for how Otto manipulates the information in the notebook to translate it into his desire to walk to 53rd street to go see the MOMA. This process of manipulation must be occurring in Otto’s head since no external device is doing it for him, thus extended cognition cannot exist. It onerously attempts to include more things in cognition, detracting cognitive scientist from what they actually ought to be doing, which is finding out what in our heads allows us to do what we do.

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  19. “Epistemic action, we suggest, demands spread of epistemic credit. If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is (so we claim) part of the cognitive process. Cognitive processes ain't (all) in the head!

    All the components in the system play an active causal role, and they jointly govern behavior in the same sort of way that cognition usually does.”


    Yeah, so I think the idea of active externalism is not so much about cognition. In the three examples given in the beginning of the paper, I find it hard to believe that the physical objects involved (the button, neural implant) begin to start feeling, just because they are being incorporated into a person’s projects. When the author talks about epistemic credit, I pretty much have no idea what he/she means. All I can say is that sure, technology has made the barrier between brain and technology more and more grey. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the technological pieces involved are feeling.

    I do think this idea applies to computation, however. These pieces of technology are becoming part of the hardware of the computer. The hardware of a computer (according to computationalism) is implementation independent. So Mac or PC can do word processing, and I can rotate geometrical objects in my head or with a button. Certainly, the button doesn’t start feeling, though.

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  20. This was a very interesting paper to say the least!
    I wanted to make the distinction between epistemic and pragmatic action because I didn’t fully understand this at first. Actions that change the world are pragmatic whereas actions that change the nature of our mental tasks are epistemic. For example, in Tetris people offload cognitive computation onto the external world to ease up the difficulty of the mental task at hand. This is an epistemic action because it changes the nature of our mental tasks. Epistemic actions: reduce memory involved (space complexity), reduce number of steps in mental computation, and reduce the probability of error of mental computation.

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  21. • Kid sib:
    • So while many people use externalism to say that the mind is external and part of the world because there are things with meaning outside of the mind in the world, this view says that the environment shapes the way the mind works because of the interaction between the two.
    This is their view of extended cognition: they suggest cognition is happening in all cases to the same degree, there is not “more cognition” happening in one case just because it is happening inside of a brain
    The human organism is linked with an external entity in a two-way interaction creating a coupled system that is seen as a cognitive system in it’s own way.
    This is a very important point to emphasize especially given what they say later about how human reasoners have always (and do always) rely on external environmental aids – such as pen and paper for long division and so on. I really like that this article addresses the fact that any cognition is not a mind based thing – it goes so far beyond the dualism we seem to have observed being so contentious in this class (i.e Fodor – why are we looking in the brain, Harnad – Symbol grounding problem). This article ties together a lot of the problems of the earlier ones for me and it makes me feel more convinced that cognition is at least partially computation

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    1. " But the advent of language has allowed us to spread this burden into the world. Language, thus construed, is not a mirror of our inner states but a complement to them. It serves as a tool whose role is to extend cognition in ways that on-board devices cannot. "

      I like this idea of language having evolved as a way of extending cognition into the world to use as a tool for coupling in social interaction - especially given things like the hand to mouth hypothesis that theorize that language came about because of the use of tools and grooming.

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  22. Sorry if this is excessive quoting but I had quite a few points I was confused about or disagreed with:

    “Clearly, Otto walked to 53rd Street because he wanted to go to the museum and he believed the museum was on 53rd Street. And just as Inga had her belief even before she consulted her memory, it seems reasonable to say that Otto believed the museum was on 53rd Street even before consulting his notebook.”

    What? How could either of them believe the museum was on 53rd street without consulting their memory (or notebook) first? Doesn’t make any sense.

    “To say that the beliefs disappear when the notebook is filed away seems to miss the big picture in just the same way as saying that Inga's beliefs disappear as soon as she is no longer conscious of them.”

    “no longer conscious of them” here seems to simply mean not thinking about them. This is just about feeling, not attention.

    “The alternative is to explain Otto's action in terms of his occurrent desire to go to the museum, his standing belief that the Museum is on the location written in the notebook, and the accessible fact that the notebook says the Museum is on 53rd Street; but this complicates the explanation unnecessarily.”

    Not so! It feels like something different to remember than to know you can’t remember and that you have the knowledge in a notebook.

    “The moral is that when it comes to belief, there is nothing sacred about skull and skin. What makes some information count as a belief is the role it plays, and there is no reason why the relevant role can be played only from inside the body.”

    Now I’m definitely in disagreement. If we are simply talking about the mind and not doing, then we are talking about feeling. If we were to say that someone had never seen the sky, then one day went outside and looked up, we wouldn’t say that the sky being blue is part of our mind. It is just that this sensory information allows us to feel what it feels like to see a blue sky, in the same way we are able to feel what it feels like to learn knowledge from writing scribbled on a notebook. And so sensory information from the notebook shouldn’t be considered any more a part of our mind than a blue sky.

    They seem to argue that this conclusion shouldn’t be valid due to “standard non-occurent beliefs” but what does this really mean?

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    1. “Clearly, Otto walked to 53rd Street because he wanted to go to the museum and he believed the museum was on 53rd Street. And just as Inga had her belief even before she consulted her memory, it seems reasonable to say that Otto believed the museum was on 53rd Street even before consulting his notebook.”

      What? How could either of them believe the museum was on 53rd street without consulting their memory (or notebook) first? Doesn’t make any sense.”

      I had difficulty rationalizing this too. It feels like something to remember that the museum was on 53rd street. Regardless of whether the information is accessed through our memory (like Inga) or the notebook (like Otto who does not have memory capacity), it feels like something when this memory is being felt online (and since felt states are mental states, it is part of our mental state), which helps us make decisions and navigate in the world. However, much of the ongoing activity in our brains is offline data that provides the inputs in order for us to feel like we remember. In this case, the notebook and offline memory capacity are inputs for what it feels like to remember (i.e. recalled to consciousness). That being said, I still think that we would require access to these inputs in order to think/feel like we want to go to the museum and think/feel like the museum is on 53rd street. So, while I do not believe that these offline inputs are part of our mental state of thinking/feeling, I believe that we need access to the inputs in order to feel like we know these things.

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  23. Charlmers presents the idea of active externalism in which objects within the environment function as a part of the mind. He basically says that it is arbitrary to say that the mind is contained only within the boundaries of skull. The mind is linked with the environment, creating a coupled system that can be seen as a cognitive system in its own right. Active externalism is based on the relevant external features (of the environment) that have a direct impact on the organism and its behavior. The environment is as relevant as internal features of the brain. We have discussed in this course the “Mind and Body Problem” which is a widely debated issue. Now, we add the environment, making the problem the “Mind, Body and the Environment Problem” and that there is no distinction between the three. This new “problem” is a big one to unravel.
    I am actually quite fond of this argument of the extended mind and active externalism. It makes a lot of sense to me. The brain and mind must be a part of this dynamical system coupled with the environment in order to function. Imagine no environment at all, and just being in a dark room. There would not be much for the brain to do, the mind to think about except for darkness and nothingness. So, it’s seems perfectly plausible that the environment is a key proponent to the cognitive system.
    Being a big player of Scrabble myself, I like the Scrabble example that Chambers uses. “The word choice on the Scrabble board is an outcome of an extended cognitive process involving the rearrangement of tiles on my tray.” Clearly, the brain interacts with the environment. Thinking about the tiles outputs the action to arrange the letters in a certain way. Cognition here is coupled with the environment. The scrabble player think and cognizes about what it sees in the visual field in the environment, which in turn results in more thinking about how to interact with/change it.
    The one thing I do not understand in this paper is the concept that the requirement that cognitive processes be portable. What does he mean by portable? I’m not sure if I fully grasped this but what I think it means is that the problems with coupled systems is that they are too easily decoupled and those cognitive processes that constantly stay coupled become portable… meaning that anywhere you are regardless of environment, a certain cognitive process is coupled with its original environment. Is my understanding correct?

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  24. Whoa, I found this article really fascinating and was wondering why we hadn't brought it up earlier in the course...I remember somebody asking on the first or second class whether cognition is all in the mind and the question was kind of lost/ never fully addressed...

    Nevertheless, I had two relatively formed questions by the end of the article
    1) When the argument of active externalism is extrapolated such that the water in which a fish swims in not only informs cognition but considered extended cognition, then where does that really take the field of cognitive science and perhaps even our understandings of computation? While the article is very much open ended and does recognize profound implications for the study of cognition, and while the previous question is very much a rhetorical one, it certainly begs the exploration of cognition itself. While certain computational theories are just that-theories, most cognition that we understand humans to do or animals/ robots etc do not occur in a vacuum and without context, so really, what role does context play in the face of extended cognition and active externalism?

    2) In the case of Otto (with notebook) and Inga (without notebook) where does the cognitive capacity/ functions of physically picking up the book, looking for and acquiring the information come into the equation? Because, while the book, for our purposes, is just as reliable as Inga's internal beliefs, there are distinctively different cognitive functions at play when one accesses internal beliefs versus external information. Perhaps these differences are moot when pertaining to active externalism, but it certainly complicates the internal VS external paradigm and is worth exploring.

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  25. “How much cognition is present in these cases? We suggest that all three cases are similar. Case (3) with the neural implant seems clearly to be on a par with case (1). And case (2) with the rotation button displays the same sort of computational structure as case (3), although it is distributed across agent and computer instead of internalized within the agent. If the rotation in case (3) is cognitive, by what right do we count case (2) as fundamentally different? We cannot simply point to the skin/skull boundary as justification, since the legitimacy of that boundary is precisely what is at issue. But nothing else seems different.”

    It seems like extended cognition is a form of externalization of optionally mental processes. That is, cognition is set as something that happens within the body/mind, but also results from interaction with the outside world. However I’m not quite sure I agree with the structure of the argument presented here.
    First of all, in terms of the argument structure. Say the two sides to case 3 are 3r (r for regular cognition) and 3n (for neural implant). 3r and 3n are different. In the argument, it says that 3n and 1 are similar, 2 and 3n are similar, so it has to be the case that 3r and 2 are similar (i.e. not fundamentally different). There is a gap in this reasoning, 3r enters where it was previously absent and conclusions are drawn which don’t have a logical basis. (This is not to say that the argument doesn’t hold, simply less so)
    Secondly, it is set as a new/innovative idea, however the idea of a neural implant working as fast as a computer seems very similar to Searle’s Chinese Room argument at the stage in which he internalizes the room process. In his arguments, Searle attempts to show that internalizing a “doing”/non-conscious process is not enough to yield cognition. In case 1, the reasoning seems cognitive as the person is mentally rotating the shapes. In case 2, the reasoning is either cognitive or enabled by a physical interaction with the world. Case 3 is an internalization of case 2, therefore can also be seen as the result of some interaction with the world.
    To be completely honest I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I don’t per se find this argument wrong or disagree with it, but there’s something that bugs me that I can’t quite put my finger on. It just seems like rather than being completely new and innovative, this argument for the extended mind is just a reformulation of previously formulated ideas, as it seems like it has been agreed that cognition at least in part results from interaction with the world (although there are other things as well that are involved). It just seems like whether the rotation operation is purely mental or enabled by some sort of computer/neural implant, it is still just about doing the right thing with the right kind of thing in a sense, and the actual rotation computation method does not make much of a difference in terms of the cognition that occurs. Because the rotation itself is not what solves the problem of where to put the shape. The rotation is what results from the input information (the interaction with the world), but solving the problem of where to put it.
    Therefore it seems like this argument is simply saying that cognition is a combination of mental/mind and interactions with the outside world (by that, I mean the world outside of the body), so in the end it’s not that different from the ideas of Searle and others. After all, don’t we (possibly) get the meaning of words from how they interact with the world? So maybe it’s not that different from the externalism view, because it doesn’t seem like that view is denying any internal mental processes. It’s just stating that there is some externalization of the mind (so it doesn’t have to be 100% external either).
    Maybe my entire mini-essay is pointless, because the paper is simply formulating an idea that Searle & Co would agree with. I’m disagreeing with its novelty, but there really is nothing wrong with the argument itself, an idea is simply being put on paper…

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  26. “Much of the appeal of externalism in the philosophy of mind may stem from the intuitive appeal of active externalism. Externalists often make analogies involving external features in coupled systems, and appeal to the arbitrariness of boundaries between brain and environment. But these intuitions sit uneasily with the letter of standard externalism. In most of the Putnam/Burge cases, the immediate environment is irrelevant; only the historical environment counts. Debate has focused on the question of whether mind must be in the head, but a more relevant question in assessing these examples might be: is mind in the present?”
    At times I found this paper quite confusing, however this above quote I feel summed up some points very well: the problems with Putman and Burge’s ideas with standard externalism – the present environment is insignificant, only the past environment – and the attractiveness of active externalism of the constant loop and intermingling of brain and environment. When thinking about whether the mind is in the head, I agree with externalism. I do not think the mind is just in the head, nor do I think it could be. I think the brain has a capacity and our environment provides us with so much stimuli that it would be impossible to have the mind only in the head, it must have a place to exist outside. In terms of whether the mind is present, I agree with active externalism. I think it is a loop. Reactions I feel is a clear example of the mind needing to be present. However, historical environment and historical experience are definitely important and play into the loop, they are not it.

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  27. I feel as if C & C are asserting thing’s they find obvious & state them as facts.

    I mean, what are beliefs? We can say they’re propositions with true or false conditions. I was particularly intrigued by the part where C & C discuss occurent beliefs (part 4), which is basically a belief that is currently in thought, but they also suggest that non-occurent beliefs are still beliefs that a person holds. But is a belief, by definition, an accessible proposition with a truth condition?
    If I write down a proposition in my notebook, it doesn’t necessarily imply that I believe it…? There seems to be an “extra” layer, some extra sense of “actually” believing it. It’s as if the feeling part is the missing component of a proposition to make it a belief?

    I am trying to understand whether it makes sense to say that someone has a belief without it being an occurent belief? I think C & C are right when they say there isn’t much difference between storing a given proposition in a notebook and in our internal memory, but I am not sure I would call these beliefs…
    We could all write several propositions in our notebooks, all with certain truth conditions, and we could store them in our memory, but can we truly call these beliefs? I could have all these proposition stored in my memory, but I don’t necessarily believe all of them, and I could retrieve them from memory without believing them. It seems that accessing a proposition with a truth condition isn’t sufficient to be a belief – we’re still missing the believing component—the feeling part?

    Lets say I hold the belief that consciousness equates awareness. But then, I was in a car accident and developed amnesia. So I now carry around a notebook with me at all times. Now, if people ask me what I think of consciousness, I report awareness. But when I look at my notebook, I see that I wrote down that consciousness equates feeling. So would C & C say that the proposition written in my notebook was my belief all along, and that I was wrong to believe that consciousness is awareness?

    I think beliefs are feelings; they can only exist if they are felt. Propositions with truth/falsity conditions aren’t beliefs – whether they’re in our internal memory or written in a notebook.
    I don’t know if any of this makes any sense…

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  28. "If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is (so we claim) part of the cognitive process."

    Here they are suggesting that the process of using the physical rotation of blocks in Tetris in order to determine where to put that respective block is a cognitive process, since if this were done mentally we would consider it a cognitive process. But I think that's the whole point. If it's done in your head it's a cognitive process. The physical rotation of a block is the physical rotation of the block. The decision to physically rotate that block is a cognitive process. Whether we are seeing the block being rotated in front of our eyes (and then processing what we see in our heads) or seeing the block being rotated in our heads: these are both cognitive processes that happen in our heads.

    "If we remove the external component the system's behavioral competence will drop, just as it would if we removed part of its brain."

    Obviously if you remove visual stimuli (i.e. the block at different angles), then the task will take longer to complete since the brain will have to generate its own stimuli (by imagining it). But the cognition is still happening in the brain.
    The rest of the paper continues to go on about this idea of cognition happening externally and external features, etc. And throughout these arguments I remain unconvinced. Obviously we use things in the world to have cognition about but I don't believe that cognition happens outside the brain. Perhaps I'm missing some key points but these are my thoughts after reading the paper.

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  29. Active externalism states that cognition is highly driven by processes happening in a person’s environment. Active externalism states that mental processes do not only happen in the brain but encompass certain environmental factors that are necessary for the happening of these mental processes.
    The authors of the paper give examples of a notebook for an Alzheimer’s patient and the unusually interdependent couple where either the book or the partner help the person in remembering things. At the end of the paper, the authors address the question as to which extent should things in the environment be considered as part of the cognitive process of the individual. They outline the fact ‘’a high degree of trust, reliance, and accessibility’’ is central to a process being part of the cognitive functioning of an individual.
    It is difficult to assess, however, where is the borderline of things that can be part of a person’s cognitive processes according to this criteria. According to the three characteristics listed above, almost any object or person present in the environment could me part of a particular person’s mind or cognitive processing machinery as the person could simply go and access/ consult these objects or people.

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  30. This paper was really interesting and possibly one of my favorites.
    In their first thought experiment, I’m not sure I would count case 3 as being cognitive. I agree with them that there is no difference between case 2 (where the computer outside of the brain performs the rotation) and case 3 (where the computer implant inside the brain performs it), but I wouldn’t call either cognizing. In 3, the implant is computing the rotation just like a computer – it isn’t feeling and the individual would be feeling anything b/c they’re not doing the rotation. Without the feeling can we have cognition? In 2 it’s the same thing, the computer rotates the object and the person doesn’t feel what it’s like to rotate the object because they’re not doing it. The computer itself is performing a manipulation but it isn’t cognizing. In the long-division example on paper also, nothing outside of the brain is cognitive. While the letters are being drawn on the page outside of the brain, how the writing is being done and understood (and feeling both of these) is going on only inside the brain.
    If somehow an implanted computer chip could do and feel, then it would be cognizing and we would have cognition OR if an implanted computer chip in you could do and somehow you could feel this doing then that would work also. But the doing alone, whether it’s inside the brain or not is not cognition if not accompanied by feeling.

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  31. Honestly, it’s a wonder that this course has not triggered an identity crisis haha.

    What this paper reminded me of was people who are plugged into a machine in order to survive. Sometimes their families decide to unplug them and then they die. Is this the same as euthanasia? I read a book by an ethicist (at McGill!) named Margaret Somerville. She said that the way we see “ourselves” and the technologies we use is very important to understanding bioethics. In this case, if we saw the machine as external, invasive (but helpful), then unplugging a person is simply returning them to their “natural” state, an act of omission. If however the machine is seen as fundamental to the person now, then unplugging the person is like chopping of their arm and an active act of killing.

    This paper reminds me of that. Specifically, the implications of active externalism seem so broad, so unpredictable, it scares me.

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  32. I take issue with this paper on the very principle of the way we have defined cognition. Cognition is the processes happening inside us which confer our performance capacity. Not only does this include our sensorimotor capacity, but it also includes our capacity to feel. In an ideal world, a complete causal explanation of cognition should explain feeling as well.

    In this paper, the 'extended mind' is discussed. Using the example of Inga and Otto, the authors describe a case in which memory storage is either internal (for Inga, in her brain) or external (for Otto, suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, using his notebook). The authors go on to suggest that this internal and external memory are very similar, and that accessing the latter is still a form of cognition - albeit an example of an extended mind.

    Feeling however, throws a wrench right into these hypotheses. Indeed feeling restricts cognition to that which is subjectively experienced by an individual. Feeling cannot include Otto's notebook. The notebook is not included in Otto's feelings. I'll concede that the notebook is a tool that Otto employs to 'enhance' his cognitive capacities, but at no point does this generate a new 'extended cognition'. Otto still has the feeling of reading a piece of paper, and that feeling is confined to him in the same way that Inga's feeling of recall is confined to her.

    The addition of peripheral cognitive enhancers does not 'stretch' feeling beyond the feeler. That's just absurd.

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  33. I remember watching this Chalmers TED talk a few years ago and finding it fascinating, so its great to look back at it again with an actual solid understanding of the background theory and some of the issues that might surround it too thanks to this class and others.

    After reading through the comments I must admit that I am a little bit torn. I have to agree with the earlier comments made by Adrienne and Riona about how Systems Reply-esque things are (though I dislike the logic of the Systems Reply, I am actually drawn to this idea of extended cognition). On the other hand, I think what piff puff mentioned about euthanasia and how technology can begin to truly become an integral part of our life is an interesting step in the right direction.

    I think that this notion of extended mind shouldn't be blown wildly out of proportion. If we take this too far, we can start saying EVERYTHING is somehow a facet of our cognition. However, as they state: "one might argue that what keeps real cognition processes in the head is the requirement that cognitive processes be portable" - but beyond portability, there is also the requirement of something being reliably present at hand for the individual. Simply writing something down on a piece of paper one time wouldn't necessarily be an extension of cognition, rather, I feel that the object in question acting as an extension of the mind would have to be something consistently relied upon in such a way that it basically becomes natural to the individual to depend upon it. I feel like, for one to become wholly dependent upon something in such a way that it could be legitimately considered an extension of that individual's mind, that something would have to accommodate some sort of cognitive limitations (ex Otto's Alzheimers limiting his memory capacity).

    Some philosophers of mathematics argue for something similar to this notion of extended mind. They argue that the act of physically writing as one solves an equation is an integral part of mathematical cognition, because without writing down the work, it would be impossible to even solve the problem (try dividing 2345 by 90758 in your head). This quote was taken from a paper by Clarke 2008 and I feel it ties into the theme of this paper:
    "Consider this famous exchange between the Nobel Prize-winningphysicist Richard Feynman and the historian Charles Weiner. Weiner, encountering with a historian’s glee a batch of Feynman’s origi-nal notes and sketches, remarked that the materials represented “arecord of [Feynman’s] day-to-day work.” But instead of simply ac-knowledging this historic value, Feynman reacted with unexpected sharpness:

    “I actually did the work on the paper,” he said.
    “Well,” Weiner said, “the work was done in your head, but therecord of it is still here.”
    “No, it’s not a record, not really. It’s working. You have to work onpaper and this is the paper. Okay?” (from Gleick 1993, 409)

    Feynman’s suggestion is, at the very least, that the loop into theexternal medium was integral to his intellectual activity (the “work-ing”) itself. But I would like to go further and suggest that Feynman was actually thinking on the paper."

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  34. "These various small differences between Otto's and Inga's cases are all shallow differences. To focus on them would be to miss the way in which for Otto, notebook entries play just the sort of role that beliefs play in guiding most people's lives."

    Not sure if I buy this. I get the example, and I do understand why Otto's notebook and Inga's memory are sort of similar, but I really don't buy the extent to which Clark and Chalmers say that the difference between the real memory and the notebook-Alzheimer's memory is a shallow difference. I think that memory has a lot to do with feeling, as we remember things partially because we ascribe feeling to them. I remember where my favourite clothing store is because I like going there, so it resonates as important in my brain. More important than, perhaps, the gas station to which I've gone once to fill up my uncle's car. Therefore I think that Inga's retrieval of the location of the museum is a COMPLETELY different process and situation than Otto's. I think that we can liken Otto's retrieval and his situation more to a robot (not to be insulting) that is instructed to know something, or programmed to know something. His notebook in no way represents a memory - at least not in my opinion. I think his notebook represents the squiggles and squaggles (I'm not just saying this because it IS squiggles and squaggles) that can be likened more easily to programming a computer than to a human memory. While I'm not saying that skin and bone are necessary for a memory, I do maintain that this example is weak, and Clark and Chalmers are incorrectly going about explaining their point.

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  35. The article was very insightful and brought a lot of new knowledge to my attention. However, there was one part which I had difficulty grasping.

    The author states, "We submit that to explain things this way is to take one step too many. It is pointlessly complex, in the same way that it would be pointlessly complex to explain Inga's actions in terms of beliefs about her memory. The notebook is a constant for Otto, in the same way that memory is a constant for Inga; to point to it in every belief/desire explanation would be redundant. In an explanation, simplicity is power."

    It is apparent that Inga has no control over her memory, while Otto has control over the notebook. Therefore, he knows that he is able to rely on his notebook; which Inga is unable to do. For example, there are times where I use my memory when there is nothing else to rely on, however this is less assuring than simply relying on a notebook. Therefore, I don’t think it is simple to equate Inga’s memory to Otto’s notebook.

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  36. I really liked the ideas Dave brought to the table. I agree with Dave and too believe that technology/computation is an extension of our our minds. They are essentially tools created by our minds to assist our minds.

    I ended up watching the talk as well and learned a great deal from it. The most interesting part of the talk for me was the idea of the socially extended mind and how language plays a big part in this. It brings a sense of a communal identity and a communal mind to the discussion. We can see the concept through social media how people bring their thoughts together in one place. This place then becomes a source of knowledge for other social media users. Hence this extended knowledge base can be also considered as an extended mind.

    Thinking about all of this, a few questions come to mind: “At what point is our mind our own? And what point does our mind stop being our own?”. If many aspects of the world can be treated as our extended mind, then there are many places where our extended minds overlap with other minds. If such is the case, then their minds also are part of our extended minds. So, whatever thoughts our in our heads that we do not express can be considered only ours since other people don’t have access to them. Is that right? I think I may have just let my mind wander off a bit and may be stretching it a bit too far.

    Also, talking about technology being a part of our extended minds. How much control do we have over this tech? Say we develop a strong AI machine which can “think”. Will such a machine be considered to have a mind of its own? Or will this machine be considered a part of our extended mind? Or will this be the point where our minds lose touch with certain extensions?

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  37. The extended mind theory reflects on the human ability to delay some task to external things. In the Tetris example, I don’t know how they got the quantitative measures (that a mental rotation approximately took 1000 milliseconds for example) but let’s assume it is true that the physical rotation made by pressing the button enable a quicker analysis of the geometric shape. So, your decision isn’t made on a mental rotation but rather on your perceptual experience that is made after the geometrical shape has rotated. Or maybe it could be that the mental rotation is simply facilitated by the epistemic action. What I mean here is that the pressing of the button is also part of the mental processes. The cognizer knew what it was doing. Epistemic actions are part of the mental processes of a cognizer; it allows them to alter the world so that they can have greater comprehension of the world. If you take away the capability for our mind to extend itself, I bet cognition would take a whole new signification.
    “Clearly, Otto walked to 53rd Street because he wanted to go to the museum and he believed the museum was on 53rd Street. And just as Inga had her belief even before she consulted her memory, it seems reasonable to say that Otto believed the museum was on 53rd Street even before consulting his notebook.”
    It is a belief because Otto is going to use the information inside its booklet as reliable. The information in Otto’s booklet could be wrong, just as Inga memory could be a false one. The point is that both rely on the booklet and her memory respectively. The mind has being extended in Otto’s case because some of its cognitive ability has been delegated into an external physical object. I don’t think it means that the object is doing cognition on its own. The object alone doesn’t have a mind. It necessitates a cognitive being which delegate some of its own cognitive action into that object. In that case, that object is now a part of cognitive processes of a living being.
    “Moreover, it may be that the biological brain has in fact evolved and matured in ways which factor in the reliable presence of a manipulable external environment.”
    This seems to me like a plausible explanation. The manipulation of the environment is an important aspect of our lives. The fact that the human species surrounds itself with so many objects compared to other species might reflect the human amplified ability to extend its mind. In the same order of thoughts, language seems to be an instance of this phenomenon: “Language, thus construed, is not a mirror of our inner states but a complement to them. It serves as a tool whose role is to extend cognition in ways that on-board devices cannot”. Language allows us to share our internal thought with other and vice versa. It is not a perfect reflection of our thought but rather a tool we use to act and upon the world.
    I first heard about the extended mind theory when I took the Philosophy of Mind class here at McGill. At the beginning I doubt that the mind could be anywhere but inside my brain. I believed it was odd to say that my mind was in my computer only because it does things my mind can also do but rather rely on that computer to do it. As I thought of it throughout the year, I came to understand the extended mind theory better and to accept it as true. I now think that object can really change how our mind is shaped.

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  38. In this paper, Clark and Chalmers argue that cognition is distributed among many of the things we use often, for example a notebook or calculator. I think that their arguments became weak because they took it too far. It is intuitively silly to consider a pencil or a piece of paper as a part of cognition. But, this is an interesting thought because as we write/read, the information becomes a part of our cognition. For me, this is where the "line" of cognition gets drawn: yes, it seems like we are extending our cognition to the pencil and paper when we write something down, and it seems like when a blind man is walking with his walking stick, he is cognizing through the stick; however, the squiggles written down and the arbitrary tapping have no meaning by themselves. It requires the mind to interpret the arbitrary data into something that we can use, and this is cognition.

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