Reimagining Reductionism through Extended Cognition: Whose Afraid of the Teletransporter?



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Sometimes, it can be difficult to draw different factions of philosophy together and make them play nice. Other times, though, there is a wonderful collision of science and theory and intuition that allows for previously disparate thought to intersect with one another. That has been my understanding of the metaphysics of personal identity, feminist conceptions of identity, and extended cognition. Extended cognition, briefly, is the idea that people do not only think or cognate with their brain, instead also using things like notebooks or friends or photo albums to do things like remember, form intentions, and reflect. If we take this idea of extended cognition seriously, particularly in the arena of tracking metaphysical identity over time, we are able to achieve what Derek Parfit rejects - we are able to be reductionists that think our identity only consists in fact about bodies and brains and minds, but also maintain that identity matters - that it isn’t enough to identify psychological relation, but that being able to know that I will persist or not is not only important but able to be answered. If we think a psychological criterion of identity that is both reductionist and stands firm in the belief that identity matters, then… what next? I describe what a physically extended conception of personhood looks like, as well as what a socially extended conception of personhood looks like. I also address the general benefits and drawbacks of taking extended cognition seriously, which is where I bring in feminist theory to inform my background assumptions about why it is that identity matters anyway. By taking seriously the connections between people and their contexts and coupling that with their cognitive processes, we are able to track identity over time with flexibility and care.



philosophy, metaphysics, extended cognition, identity