'Why Rethink the History of the Mind?' History of Science, Medicine and Technology Group

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in workshop, seminar, course


Why Rethink the History of the Mind? This will be an informal talk on the main aims and discoveries of the AHRC-funded project 'A History of Distributed Cognition'. Philosophy of mind and cognitive science claim that cognition (or the mind) is distributed across brain, body and world, rather than being something merely brain-based or metaphysical. How does this change how we think about history and culture? Our project considers a wide range of historical, cultural and literary works from classical antiquity to the early twentieth century, in order to examine: earlier ways in which cognition was distributed via objects, people, and environments; earlier notions of cognition as distributed; and how these earlier notions cast a new light on current definitions and debates. I’ll set out some of the main approaches in the current distributed cognition framework; draw examples from a range of the earlier periods; discuss a few objects from our project partner, the National Museum of Scotland, that exemplify this theme; and highlight in more detail some instances from my own research on the Renaissance, which are elaborated on in my book The Renaissance Extended Mind. In keeping with the collaborative ethos of distributed cognition, the intention is also to invite reflection from participants, so we’ll finish with a group discussion on whether and how these notions might have a bearing on your own areas of research.
Period20 Oct 2016
Event typeConference
LocationEdinburgh, United KingdomShow on map


  • Extended Mind
  • Enactivism
  • Embodied cognition
  • social cognition