Friday, May 4, 2012

The extended mind and the self

Some philosophers of mind such as David Chalmers and Andy Clark have defended what is called an extended mind theory (actually there are many kinds of extended mind theories) which claim that our minds are not just physically located in our heads. Some theorists posit that it is a system that is a combination of subsystems such as the brain combined with the rest of the central nervous system and perhaps also combined with the rest of the body (The neuroscientists Antonio Damasio, if I remember correctly, also defended such a view in one of his books). Some others have posited that even the surrounding environment can be included in the whole system which is either identified with the mind or has properties which the mind supervenes. Chalmers and Clark defend a process view which says that the mind extends to the interactive process (not the system per se) between the central nervous system and the immediate environment mediated by the sense organs, etc.

This is troublesome for the brain view of personal identity. I like that view and I believe Jeff McMahon has defended such a view very admirably. I think it is the best view and it justifies many of the medical practices we have today in the US such as our laws regarding brain death and abortion, very important ethical issues.

I wonder if there is a way to keep the ethical benefits of a brain view taking into account the criticisms of such a view from the extended mind theory.