The Sign of the Hand: Symbolic Practices and the Extended Mind



Cappuccio M & Wheeler M (2011) The Sign of the Hand: Symbolic Practices and the Extended Mind. Versus: Quaderni di Studi Semiotici, 112-113, pp. 33-55.

M. Heidegger's phenomenology allows de-emphasizing the role of mental representations in unreflective coping activities, but it also allows understanding human intelligence as grounded in language, and thus informed by an important symbolic and therefore representational dimension. In particular, Heidegger's phenomenology of symbolic practices (e.g. in "What calls for thinking?" 1951-1952) enriches our understanding of the "Extended Mind" hypothesis in that, like certain versions of that hypothesis, it suggests that various mental capacities, when based on the manipulation of symbols, can be materially localized in extra-bodily vehicles of representational intelligence, rather than simply embodied, dispositional and relational in nature. According to Heidegger, one of the most fundamental symbolic practices available to humans is pointing. Similarly, some of today's most influential trends in cognitive psychology (importantly represented by M. Tomasello) suggest that deictic gestures like pointing facilitate the emergence, the communication, and the manipulation of representational contents by denoting abstract locations in space for merely declarative and informative purposes. In broader terms, the preconditions to interface and interchange internal and external informational processes are provided by any symbolic re-use of the body, i.e. the human-specific dynamic practices (like dance or pantomime) that exploit paradigmatic schemata of skillful activity as vehicles of public representation. We argue that this view provides an appropriate phenomenological and evolutionary background to endorse the Extended Mind hypothesis and to interpret it as a form of "extended functionalism".

Versus: Quaderni di Studi Semiotici: Volume 112-113

Publication date31/12/2011
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Professor Michael Wheeler

Professor Michael Wheeler

Professor, Philosophy