Head Dust



(A consideration of Otto's and Inga's adventures first described in Andy Clark's and David J. Chalmers's paper 'The Extended Mind' (1998). A review by Jerry Fodor of Clark's Supersizing the Mind (Oxford, 2008) appeared on 12.2.2009 in London Review of Books 31:3)

Otto wants to go to the museum. He has the address written in his notebook, which he cutely calls his 'external memory' and therefore considers is part of his mind. He wants to go to the museum with his friend Toto, and it is in fact Toto who looks in the notebook and retrieves the address from Otto's memory. They aren't too worried about just whose mind the notebook is and they set off together. They see a road sign which says 'To the Museum'. Otto is very pleased that this sign is part of his mind too, reminding him of the way to the museum, and soon he recognises the museum, just as he remembered it (after all it is part of his mind). The museum is Otto's external memory of it, reminding him what it is like. In addition, because the museum is there to want to go to, in Toto's external mind there is no distinction between the want and the thing that is wanted, for the want is stored in the thing. So Otto and Toto (if a distinction can be made between them) conclude that everything is mind (mind that thinks itself, perhaps), even though by making a universal statement they (literally) drain it of all meaning, making the idea of mind (as distinct from something else) a nonsense.

Inga also wants to go to the museum. She has the address in her 'internal memory', but her friend Agnes, who also wants to go to the museum, can't access it and has to ask Inga. As they walk along, consult a map, see the road sign, see the address written on the museum gate and then see the museum itself. Inga realises that her memory of the museum's address belongs more to the museum, supposing it actually exists, than to the part of her that is conscious of the address and of the memory of the address (if such a distinction can in fact be made). Following her Contracted Mind Thesis (CMT) Inga smallifies her mind to a nonextensive and contentless awareness moving (presumably) through a universe of impressions where there are only secondary distinctions between the address and the memory of it, between the museum and the memory of it, between Agnes and Inga's feelings for Agnes, between what is seen and the sight of it. It's all 'out there', thinks Inga, whatever it is is beyond me. My mind is my awareness only, not what I am aware of. Inga has gone as far as Otto, but in the other direction. Poor Inga! Well, at least she is left with a mind of her own, even if she is more lonely.


No comments:

Post a Comment