Where Syllogistic Reasoning Happens: An Argument for the Extended Mind Hypothesis

In McNamara D. S. & Trafton J. G. (eds.), Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society. Cognitive Science Society (2007)
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Abstract

Does cognition sometimes literally extend into the extra-organismic environment (Clark, 2003), or is it always “merely” environmentally embedded (Rupert, 2004)? Underlying this current border dispute is the question about how to individuate cognitive processes on principled grounds. Based on recent evidence about the active role of representation selection and construction in learning how to reason (Stenning, 2002), I raise the question: what makes two distinct, modality-specific pen-and-paper manipulations of external representations – diagrams versus sentences – cognitive processes of the same kind, e.g. episodes of syllogistic reasoning? In response, I defend a “division of labor” hypothesis, according to which external representations are dependent on perceptually grounded neural representations and mechanisms to guide our behavior; these internal mechanisms, however, are dependent on external representations to have their syllogistic content fixed. Only their joint contributions qualify the extended computational process as an episode of syllogistic reasoning in good standing.

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Georg Theiner
Villanova University

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