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Séminaire doctoral Philsci - séance exceptionnelle - Selene Arfini
Selene Arfini (Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pavia) - Extending the Ignorant Cognition: The Distribution of Ignorance in Cognitive Niches
The extended mind thesis claims that some cognitive activities (and the mind as the dynamic cluster of them) emerge from the couplings of brain, body, and world (Clark and Chalmers, 1998). The theories of the extended mind and the distributed cognition (which proposes to consider cognition as distributed across individuals and artefacts in the environment – Hutchins, 1995) are now at the core of cognitive niche theories, which investigates the ability, displayed by human beings and other organisms, to affect their own evolutive processes by cognitively shaping their environment to modify the selective pressure the latter has on them (Gibson 1979; Tooby and DeVore, 1987; Pinker, 2003; Clark, 2005; Bertolotti and Magnani, 2017).
Given the premises offered by these theories regarding the extended and distributed nature of cognition in cognitive niches, two crashing intuitions emerge when considering the concept of ignorance. On the one hand we can easily think about ignorance as affecting more than just individual subjects: groups, crowds, and even populations can share the same ignorance regarding particular concepts and ideas. On the other hand, we also intuitively resist considering ignorance as a cognitive state that can be extended, distributed, and situated in cognitive niches the same way in which knowledge is. In order to understand how these intuitions can come across in a coherent description of ignorance, in this paper I aim at analyzing the impact of the agent's ignorance in her ecological and cognitive environment, as well as the effects that the surrounding context have on the agent's epistemological successes and downfalls.
Specifically, I will discuss the possibility of considering ignorance as a situated and cognitively extended state (as sociologically discussed by Tuana, 2006), which can be shared among agents by exploiting the functionality of context-based information-sharing mechanisms. Since humans lean heavily on forms of external support and scaffolding that permit them to tune and integrate internal and external epistemic resources, I will ask how ignorance, as the inherent limitation of those resources, affects the distribution of knowledge, information, and data into the environment and it is shared with other occupants of the same cognitive niche. Finally, I will describe some ways ignorance can be recognized as cognitively extended and distributed in cognitive niches, in the form of misinformation, covering beliefs, and taboos.
Bertolotti, T. and Magnani, L. (2017). Theoretical considerations on cognitive niche construction. Synthese, 194(12): 4757–4779.
Clark, A. (2005). Word, niche and super-niche: How language makes minds matter more. Theoria, 20(3): 255–268.
Clark, A. and Chalmers, D. J. (1998). The extended mind. Analysis, 58(1): 10–23.
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the Wild. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Pinker, S. (2003). Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche. In Christiansen, M. H. and Kirby, S., editors, Language Evolution, 16–37. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Tooby, J. and DeVore, I. (1987). The reconstruction of hominid behavioral evolution through strategic modeling. In Kinzey, W. G., editor, Primate Models of Hominid Behavior, 183–237. Suny Press, Albany.
Tuana, N. (2006). The speculum of ignorance: The women’s health movement and epistemologies of ignorance. Hypatia, 21(3): 1–19.