Outsourced Cognition

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Recent developments in technologically enabled social cognition call for a rethinking of many aspects of human cognition. According to the hypothesis of extended cognition, we must revise our psychological categories by eliminating allegedly superficial distinctions between internal cognition and external processes. As an alternative to this proposal, I outline a hypothesis of outsourced cognition which seeks to respect distinctions that are operative in both folk psychology and the social and cognitive sciences. According to this hypothesis, the cognitive states and processes of the individual are substantially and explanatorily distinct from the relevant external states and processes. In consequence, the individual remains a cognitive unit that is both central and indispensable in the explanations of cognitive science. As a case study, I consider the epistemology of testimony. I will argue that important epistemological categories may be preserved by adopting the hypothesis of outsourced cognition over the hypothesis of extended cognition. Moreover, I will argue that the outsourced cognition hypothesis deepens the problems that beset an extended epistemology of testimony.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Issues
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)127–158
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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