Zettelkasten Forum

Andy Clark: The Extended Mind / The Experience Machine

Found this in my feed today:

I never read anything by Andy Clark, and didn't know his book "the extended mind" -- but for obvious reasons, since we're all here on zettelkasten.de, the concept sounds interesting :)

Anyone here who can recommend one of these books?

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/


  • edited August 2

    Thanks, @ctietze, for the book recommendation. I've added it to my overflowing "Reading Candidates" list. I'm half done with my second reading of Rapt, a book by Winifred Gallagher about attention and the focused life. This newest book by Andy Clark may be up next in my reading schedule.

    Clark's name came onto my radar last year when I read Annie Paul's book The Extended Mind, but I never pursued the reference. By the way, Annie Paul's book is fabulous, end of story.

    Will Simpson
    I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.

  • The Extended Mind by Andy Clark is a 13 page essay you can find for free online. I just read that and it’s worth the time going over

    The main idea is that external things we heavily rely on (notes, computer programs, the internet, even other people) could be considered just as much a part of our mind as our direct internal memories and cognitive processes. It’ll probably have you nodding your head for most of it but still brings up some interesting questions

  • edited August 3

    On my reading list, since a year (the extended mind).

    My personal guess is that I will share most of the criticism. (examples: here) The term "cognitive bloating" seems about right.

    If the conclusion is that something external should be also called cognition, they commit the fallacy of "unnecessarily violating the common language". There is considerable cost to going against the common language. So, the pay-off needs to be huge. If they can't show with confidence that their re-labeling offers great cognitive benefits or practical benefits (not likely), they produced academic gobbledygook (which I personally enjoy and do myself, but is more for intellectual entertainment).

    EDIT: I am pretty confident that I can use the book's material to improve my ability to invoke a perspective change for my coaching. So, this is what I am actually interested in when I will read the book.

    I am a Zettler

  • I've been reading Andy Clark since the 1990s, and I love his work. If you have never read him before, I would start with his more recent work instead of the earlier work such as the paper that @ben mentioned. Note that Clark thinks that "Cognition is organism centered even when it is not organism bound" (Supersizing the Mind, 2008, 139). Philosopher of science Ron Giere wrote a great article elaborating on that statement: Ronald N. Giere (2012), "Scientific cognition: human centered but not human bound", Philosophical Explorations, 15(2), 199–206. There is a large literature on extended cognition with a lot of subtlety.

    I recall how Daniela Helbig contrasted Niklas Luhmann's and Hans Blumenberg's conceptions of their Zettelkästen: according to Helbig, Luhmann attributed a kind of cognitive agency to his Zettelkasten, unlike Blumenberg. Perhaps their two positions are analogous to radical and minimal versions of extended cognition:

    To Luhmann, his note card box is a "ruminant," Wiederkäuer: a system to chew over various bits of reading material over stretches of time that are long enough to allow new connections and combinations to appear, and thus to generate genuine surprises [...] Accordingly, he readily grants the Zettelkasten agency in the process of thought production: "Without the paper scraps, i.e. by reflection alone, I wouldn't have such ideas. Of course my head is required for writing them down, but it cannot be held solely responsible for them" [...] Should the idea seem strange that an apparatus made of wood and paper makes a stimulating conversation partner, Markus Krajewski reminds us that Luhmann's choice of interlocutor has a precedent in an 1805 piece by the novelist Heinrich von Kleist [...] Blumenberg is less inclined than Luhmann to credit the box for his thought production. His understanding of its function is informed by a different metaphor of Kant's for the process of thinking. Filed on a card under the key word cogitare, Blumenberg quotes Kant: "Thinking is conversation with oneself... Listening inside." As Dorit Krusche and Ulrich von Bülow argue in their analysis of Blumenberg's Zettelkasten [...] it became a medium to send "messages to oneself."
  • I have previously pointed out Clarks work on the extended mind and its connection to the "second brain" on this forum:


  • When I was doing my PhD in Indiana, Andy Clark taught the philosophy of cognitive science class.

    I find his book “mindware “ to be one of the best reviews of the field, touching on most major areas. His paper “Magic words” has been a deeply influential paper for me.

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