Shaun Gallagher presents an interesting case for the social extension of the mind. I argue that there is one way in which Gallagher can argue for a social extension, which is continuous with an enculturated model of cognition, such as cognitive integration. This way requires us to think of the mind as extended by social/cultural practices that are specifically targeted at cognitive tasks. The other way in which Gallagher argues for the social extension is that social institutions – such as museums or the law – are literal constituents of our minds. This second way involves a number of problems and objections and is inconsistent with an enculturated or practice-based approach. I conclude by urging Gallagher to endorse the first way.
I have argued that the cognitive integration model shows why our minds are socially extended, by presenting a phylogenetic and ontogenetic model of how we develop cognitive capabilities. The key to this model is the notion of cognitive practices. I have also argued that Gallagher’s account of social extension is too synchronic and flirts with concepts such as supervenience, which do not help him to make his case. I have suggested that he stick to making the case in terms of cognitive practices, but then he needs a fuller account of such practices and how they are able to transform our capabilities. Fortunately, the integrationist model has already done this job.
Read also: The Socially Extended Mind