Book Chapter

Distributed Cognition in the Early Modern Era



Anderson M (2020) Distributed Cognition in the Early Modern Era. In: Jalobeanu D & Wolfe CT (eds.) Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Distributed cognition is an umbrella term for the overlapping, competing, and sometimes conflicting theories in current philosophy and cognitive science which claim that cognition is distributed across brain, body, and world. 4E cognition is another name used for this framework, with the 4Es representing embodied, enactive, embedded, and extended cognition (for a more comprehensive overview, see Anderson et al. 2018). This framework can help bring to the fore neglected ideas of the mind and the cognitive roles of bodies and environments (along with related resources, tools, practices, and institutions) in other historical periods. The early modern period inherited and developed concepts of the mind from classical antiquity and medieval traditions that accorded a cognitive role to the body and world. Furthermore, it underwent transformative sociocultural, scientific, and technological shifts, which led to a heightened awareness of, and at times anxiety about, the distributed nature of the mind. This entry focuses on early modern notions and practices of distributed cognition in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, alongside an exploration of the nature and origins of Cartesian substance dualism. In the early modern period, the humors, passions, spirits, and faculties of the soul were believed to interconnect human minds with each other and with the surrounding world. In addition, gestures; spoken, written, and printed language; clothes and other objects; living things (particularly other people); and practices and institutions were understood as diversely expressing, enabling, and constitutive of human minds.

FundersAHRC Arts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online30/12/2020
Place of publicationCham, Switzerland

Projects (1)

The Art of Distributed Cognition