An increasingly influential school of thought in cognitive science views the mind as embodied, extended, and distributed, rather than brain-bound, "all in the head." This shift in perspective raises important questions about the relationship between cognition and material culture, posing major challenges for philosophy, cognitive science, archaeology, and anthropology. In How Things Shape the Mind, Lambros Malafouris proposes a cross-disciplinary analytical framework for investigating the different ways in which things have become cognitive extensions of the human body.
A New Framework for Understanding Human Social Cognition
In this novel account of distinctively human social cognition, Tadeusz Zawidzki argues that the key distinction between human and nonhuman social cognition consists in our complex, diverse, and flexible capacities to shape each other’s minds in ways that make them easier to interpret. Zawidzki proposes that such "mindshaping"—which takes the form of capacities and practices such as sophisticated imitation, pedagogy, conformity to norms, and narrative self-constitution—is the most important component of human social cognition.
Cartesian-inspired dualism enforces a theoretical distinction between the motor and the cognitive and locates the mental exclusively in the head. This collection, focusing on the hand, challenges this dichotomy, offering theoretical and empirical perspectives on the interconnectedness and interdependence of the manual and mental.
In this book, Marcin Milkowski argues that the mind can be explained computationally because it is itself computational—whether it engages in mental arithmetic, parses natural language, or processes the auditory signals that allow us to experience music. Defending the computational explanation against objections to it—from John Searle and Hilary Putnam in particular—Milkowski writes that computationalism is here to stay but is not what many have taken it to be. It does not, for example, rely on a Cartesian gulf between software and hardware, or mind and brain.
The human mind has the capacity to vault over the realm of current perception, motivation, emotion, and action, to leap—consciously and deliberately—to past or future, possible or impossible, abstract or concrete scenarios and situations. In this book, Radu Bogdan examines the roots of this uniquely human ability, which he terms "mindvaulting." He focuses particularly on the capacities of pretending and imagining, which he identifies as the first forms of mindvaulting to develop in childhood.
Some things are funny—jokes, puns, sitcoms, Charlie Chaplin, The Far Side, Malvolio with his yellow garters crossed—but why? Why does humor exist in the first place? Why do we spend so much of our time passing on amusing anecdotes, making wisecracks, watching The Simpsons? In Inside Jokes, Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams offer an evolutionary and cognitive perspective. Humor, they propose, evolved out of a computational problem that arose when our long-ago ancestors were furnished with open-ended thinking.
There is a new way of thinking about the mind that does not locate mental processes exclusively "in the head." Some think that this expanded conception of the mind will be the basis of a new science of the mind. In this book, leading philosopher Mark Rowlands investigates the conceptual foundations of this new science of the mind.
People can be disgusted by the concrete and by the abstract—by an object they find physically repellent or by an ideology or value system they find morally abhorrent. Different things will disgust different people, depending on individual sensibilities or cultural backgrounds. In Yuck!, Daniel Kelly investigates the character and evolution of disgust, with an emphasis on understanding the role this emotion has come to play in our social and moral lives.
Most of what humans do and experience is best understood in terms of dynamically unfolding interactions with the environment. Many philosophers and cognitive scientists now acknowledge the critical importance of situated, environment-involving embodied engagements as a means of understanding basic minds—including basic forms of human mentality. Yet many of these same theorists hold fast to the view that basic minds are necessarily or essentially contentful—that they represent conditions the world might be in.
Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? In their famous 1998 paper "The Extended Mind," philosophers Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers posed this question and answered it provocatively: cognitive processes "ain't all in the head." The environment has an active role in driving cognition; cognition is sometimes made up of neural, bodily, and environmental processes. Their argument excited a vigorous debate among philosophers, both supporters and detractors. This volume brings together for the first time the best responses to Clark and Chalmers's bold proposal.