Lately we've been surprised to discover that what we had thought was contained within our skin turns out to be partly happening out in the world.





The parity principle can most clearly be stated as: if an external process were found in the brain and we considered it to be a cognitive process, then we ought to consider the external process as a cognitive process. . This is because the only relevant difference is that the process does not occur in the brain. If we claim that the only factor by which we deny the process cognitive status is its non-neural nature then we commit some form of neural chauvinism. This principle is in tension with the account of coupled processes that has been given above, because in that account coupled processes involve interacting states that are both bodily internal and bodily external; whereas the parity principle focuses on bodily external processes without putting them in the interactional setting of a coupled process.

An example of the parity principle at work is the now famous Otto thought experiment, introduced in Clark and Chalmers’s article. Consider Inga: she hears that there is a Rothko exhibition on at the Museum of Modern Art and she decides to go to it. Inga recalls the location of the Museum of Modern Art from a long-standing biological memory, which causes her to go to 53rd street. Now consider Otto: he has a mild form of Alzheimer’s and carries a notebook for the retrieval of information. He has all sorts of useful information about places and people, addresses and names, etc. Otto takes his notebook with him wherever he goes and refers to it frequently. Upon being told of the same exhibition as Inga he decides to go, but Otto retrieves information from his notebook concerning the location of MOMA. This causes him to go to 53rd street.

The EM theorist holds that Otto’s notebook plays the role of a dispositional memory in Inga (a memory that is available to consciousness but can be acted upon without being consciously accessed), and as such the two cases are on a par. We should count the process of Otto’s retrieving information from his notebook as a cognitive process (or part of a coupled process) even though that process is not located in his brain. This is the case only if Otto’s notebook plays the same role for Otto that biological memory plays for Inga. We might be inclined to think that the information in Otto’s notebook is reliably available to him and guides his actions in just the sort of way that beliefs are usually supposed to. The information is available and functions just like the information that constitutes non-occurrent beliefs (occurent beliefs are those of which we are currently aware); the only difference is the location of the information.

- Menary, The Extended Mind


  • Menary, ed.: The Extended Mind (academic, edited volume, pros and cons, I skimmed, looks good)
  • Rowlands, The New Science of the Mind (skimmed, too smart for me, about mind being "embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended")
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