What’s the Matter with cognition? A ‘Vygotskian’ perspective on material engagement theory

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (5):837-862 (2017)
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Abstract

The cross-disciplinary framework of Material Engagement Theory (MET) has emerged as a novel research program that flexibly spans archeology, anthropology, philosophy, and cognitive science. True to its slogan to ‘take material culture seriously’, “MET wants to change our understanding of what minds are and what they are made of by changing what we know about what things are and what they do for the mind” (Malafouris 2013, 141). By tracing out more clearly the conceptual contours of ‘material engagement,’ and firming up its ontological commitments, the main goal of this article is to help refine Malafouris’ fertile approach. In particular, we argue for a rapprochement between MET and the tradition of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, based on the ‘Vygotskian’ hypothesis of scaffolded and/or distributed cognition.

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Author Profiles

Chris Drain
Dartmouth College
Georg Theiner
Villanova University