ASK A QUESTION
Does the brain contain the mind or does the mind extend beyond the brain?
June 8, 2010
Hmmm... did you submit your question via the new iPhone app by any chance? I ask because some philosophers have recently argued that the way that we use certain tools, like iPhones for example, extends our cognitive processing, and thus the mind, out into the world. Is there really a difference between the memories we store in our brains and the "memories" we store in external devices? When someone on the street asks you whether you know the time, you might answer affirmatively even though you have to consult your watch (or your phone) to tell them what time it is. You know the time in the sense that it is accessible to you. Likewise for the contacts that you have committed to iPhone memory rather than biological memory.
Were someone to have a memory chip implanted in her brain, we might well accept that as part of the mind even though it is nonbiological. But why should it matter whether the chip is implanted in the brain. Couldn't it function the same way if it were outside the brain, outside the skull even? Why should the boundaries of skull and skin matter so much? So if we can imagine someone who becomes so reliant on the info she keeps stored in her iPhone, say, that it really functions for her analogously to the way that her biological memory functions, then perhaps we would want to say that her mind too extends beyond the boundaries of skull and skin, into the world.
An excellent treatement (and defense) of these issues can be found in Andy Clark's book, Natural Born Cyborgs.
TRACK THIS ENTRY
If you provide your e-mail address, you will be automatically notified whenever this question receives a response. Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose, and it will not be given or sold to anyone.
Use the following permanent link to refer to this entry:
You can use HTML tags if you wish. You can also use the much simpler Textile syntax: for example, *asterisks* around a word make it bold and _underscoring_ italicizes it. If you enclose text in double quotation marks, follow it by a colon, and follow that by a URL, the text will be a link to that URL. For more formatting options and examples (e.g., links, tables, images, footnotes, and more), see the Textile help.
Click the Preview button to see a pop-up window with what your answer will really look like.
RETIRED PANELISTS (show)