Wittgenstein and not-just-in-the-head Cognition

Wittgenstein’s later writings criticize the idea that the mind is an intrinsically representational device. More or less clearly apprehending certain limitations of identifying all aspects of cognition with ‘internal representation’, certain theorists in a variety of disciplines have mostly independently reached similar conclusions, which are reflected in notions like ‘distributed,’ ‘extended,’ and ‘situated’ cognition. We explore the variety of purposes for which these terms have been introduced into psychological theorizing and relate these to Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology.

Our motivation in writing this paper was to elucidate the various purposes for which the related ideas of distribution, situatedness, and/or extendedness have been introduced into the study of cognition. Following Wittgenstein, conceiving of cognition as a concept with a heterogeneous class of referents helped to avoid an artificial, forced choice between claiming that cognition is or is not distributed. Wittgenstein’s insistence that conceptual questions of identity are distinct from empirical issues of causation was used to distinguish claims that the processes that generatecognition are distributed, situated or extended from claims that cognition itself is distributed, situated or extended.

Thinking is a widely ramified concept, a concept that comprises many manifestations of life.
The phenomena of thinking are widely scattered.
(Wittgenstein, 1967, p. 21e, his emphasis).



About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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