Does the extended mind imply an extended self? In the penultimate paragraph of their groundbreaking essay The Extended Mind (1998), Andy Clark and David Chalmers answered this question in the positive. For them, the extension of mentality beyond the boundary of the skin entails an analogous extension of the self beyond that boundary (p.18). Not only are cognitive states and processes constituted by external components, but agents themselves are best seen as “spread into the world” (p.18).
Although somewhat tangentual to their main argument, this claim by Clark and Chalmers has stirred a significant debate in philosophical circles, a fact hardly surprising given the relevance of the issue both in philosophical and social domains. In her recent article Persons and the Extended Mind Thesis (2009), Lynne Rudder Baker has criticized Clark’s and Chalmers’ bold claim, arguing that the coryphaei of the EM thesis have gone “a step too far” in the direction of extension. Although, Baker claims, we are entitled to view cognitive processes as determined by both internal and external components, the same does not apply to persons. Strictly speaking, there are extended minds and cognitive systems, but there are no such things as extended selves.
Here, I will sketch the basic arguments proposed by Baker, focusing on her ‘qualms’ against the extended self thesis and her account of persons as constituted by bodies. I will argue that Baker endorses a methodologically cheap variant of internalism, rendering her criticism of “self-externalism” decisively trivial. I will claim that the principle of “bodily constitution”, as proposed by Baker, is not a serious obstacle to externalism, and is widely compatible with all variants of the “extended self” theory. Conclusively, I will argue for a positive answer to the central question: extended minds do imply extended selves. Continue reading