It is not just the presence of advanced external computing resources which raises the issue, but rather the general tendency of human reasoners to lean heavily on environmental supports. Thus consider the use of pen and paper to perform long multiplication, the use of instruments such as the nautical slide rule (Hutchins 1995), and the general paraphernalia of language, books, diagrams, and culture. 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.

from The Extended Mind (1998)

Portrait of Andrew Clark

Andrew Clark

Philosopher and Cognitive Scientist

Andrew Clark is a British philosopher who is Professor of Cognitive Philosophy at the University of Sussex. Prior to this, he was at professor of philosophy and Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and previously taught at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Clark is one of the founding members of the CONTACT collaborative research project whose aim is to investigate the role environment plays in shaping the nature of conscious experience. Clark's papers and books deal with the philosophy of mind and he is considered a leading scientist in mind extension. He has also written extensively on connectionism, robotics and the role and nature of mental representation.


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Timo Järvilehto

The Theory of the Organism-Environment System

In any functional sense, organism and environment are inseparable and form only one unitary system. The organism cannot exist without the environment, and the environment has descriptive properties only if it is connected to the organism. Separation of organism and environment cannot be the basis of any scientific explanation of human behavior. The theory leads to a reinterpretation of basic problems in many fields of inquiry and makes possible the definition of mental phenomena without their reduction either to neural or biological activity or to separate mental functions. According to the theory, mental activity is activity of the whole organism-environment system, and the traditional psychological concepts describe only different aspects of organization of this system.