From Extended Mind to Collective Mind

Although the notion of collective intentionality has received considerable attention over the past decade, accounts of collective belief and intention remain individualistic. Most accounts analyze group intentional states in terms of a complex set of individual intentional states and, thus, it is individuals not groups that have intentional states. In this paper, I attempt to undermine one of the motivations for refusing to acknowledge groups as the bearers of mental states. The resistance to collective mental states is motivated by the view that mental states are located in minds and minds are in heads. Since groups do not have heads or brains, they cannot have minds or mental states. There is a significant and important thesis in cognitive science, however, which suggests that the mind is not bounded by skin and bones. If ‘‘the mind ain’t in the head’’, then this removes a major barrier to the idea of collective minds.

In this paper, I have tried to remove one of the motivations for rejecting the idea that groups could be the legitimate bearers of mental states. If the mind and its processes are not bounded by the skin then this opens up the possibility that groups could themselves form systems that can sustain cognitive properties and processes.  What I have suggested is that, like all theories of cognition, explanatory power is something that can be judged only as a theory develops and is applied.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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