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Learning Disability and the Extended Mind

8 July 2016


In his critique of the extended mind hypothesis, Robert Rupert suggests that we have no reason to move from the claim that cognition is deeply embedded in the environment to the more radical claim that, in some cases, cognition itself extends into the environment. In this paper, I argue that we have strong normative reasons to prefer the more radical extended mind hypothesis to Rupert’s modest embedded mind hypothesis. I take an agnostic position on the metaphysical debate about the ultimate nature and location of the mind, and instead argue in favor of the extended mind framework on the basis of its ability to better capture normative concerns about the way we evaluate the cognitive capacities of learning disabled individuals. In light of the commitments of the embedded and extended mind frameworks, defenders of the embedded mind framework are committed to conclusions about learning-disabled individuals that we have good normative reason to reject, whereas the extended mind framework avoids such problematic conclusions. Thus, if we find these normative concerns persuasive, we have good reason to prefer the extended mind position.


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