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Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (Philosophy of Mind) 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195333213
ISBN-10: 0195333217
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Editorial Reviews


"In Supersizing the Mind, Clark furthers the debate marvelously. He manages to engage, in a detailed and focused way, with the most active and prominent philosophers writing about situated cognition, while also introducing the empirical work and big picture ideas that animate the subject. I highly recommend this book." --Journal of Mind and Behavior

"Supersizing the Mind is an important book for cognitive-science theorists of all stripes.... Although traditional and radical theorists are likely to remain unconvinced, there can be no doubt that Supersizing the Mind will set the terms for many of the coming debates."--Evan Thompson, Times Literary Supplement

" offers original thinking in the philosophy of mind, and it is highly recommended for academic collections in that subject."--Library Journal

"In Supersizing the Mind, philosopher Andy Clark makes the compelling argument that the mind extends beyond the body to include the tools, symbols and other artefacts we deploy to engage the world.... Supersizing the Mind is a treat to read. It is brimming with remarkable ideas, novel insights and amusing language."--Nature

"Supersizing the Mind is tantalizing in many respects, and Clark's ingenuity is always on display. Just as his earlier Being There launched many a research project, we expect that Supersizing the Mind will inspire a new generation of philosophers, psychologists, and artificial intelligence researchers to reconsider some basic assumptions about the mind."--Lawrence Shapiro and Shannon Spaulding, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"This is an important book; it provides compelling and empirically well-supported argument; it offers a survey of the state-of-play in contemporary cognitive science; it directs our attention to the most pressing foundational issue in the study of mind, that of how to reconcile the information-processing perspective with the growing recognition that action and the body, not to mention technology, have a crucial role in our mental lives."--Trends in Cognitive Sciences

About the Author

Andy Clark is Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, at Edinburgh University in Scotland. He is the author of several books including Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again (1997) and Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies and The Future Of Human Intelligence (OUP, 2003).
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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy of Mind
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195333217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195333213
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andy Clark's unfortunately-titled Supersizing the Mind sounds at first like some sort of awful self-help book, like one of those "play Bach for baby in the womb" treatises.

But of course it is nothing like that. It is the latest of the prolific Clark's manifestos in support of what is more generally known as the Situated Cognition Movement [cf. The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition], of which he is a founder. It is expansive and well-written.

Without wading into the detail (which, n.b., you will have to do if you read the book) this movement looks at the mind in the context of not only the brain but also the body and the environment in which the body wanders. It presents a strong contrast to computational models of the mind that are mostly about abstract representations and algorithms, i.e., Turing Machine implementations of intelligence.

I am sympathetic to Clark's approach and so did not read Supersizing the Mind as critically as I might have. If you are interested in understanding where some of the key arguments in modern cognitive science reside, I can recommend this book wholeheartedly. Clark does a clear and fair job of explaining both himself and his critics.

But it is important to remember that Supersizing the Mind represents a point in time. In five years the field will have moved on in terms of research and challenges to both old and new approaches to understanding intelligence. So get it while you can; otherwise wait for Clark's next.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Lee Frank on December 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the common failings of philosophy books is they try to do too much. Often the urge to prove everything is driven by the need to prove one's self, a justification of one's current philosophical position, sometimes of a whole career. "Supersizing the Mind" is not only an exception, it is an exceptional achievement in the breadth and depth of its scholarship and the concise quality of its exposition. Clark successfully makes the case for the Extended Mind -- and defends it equally well against its critics. He achieves this in little more than two hundred pages. A writer with less ability and more ego might have imposed (literally) the gravitas of a thousand pages to parade the extent of his erudition. If I have any criticism, it's that Clark writes too well to bury his insights beneath a mountain of references. The book contains so many enjoyable sentences, I wish he would produce another work filled with more of these and fewer endnotes. I suspect there is an audience for such a non-academic paper; perhaps a long Wired article. It would advance the popular case for the Extended Mind. Meanwhile, read "Supersizing the Mind." The quality of Clark's writing alone makes it worthwhile.
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Mason D. Kelsey on January 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the tricks in philosophy is to take a vague concept and pump the hell out of it. The mind is one of those dangerously vague folk psychology concepts along with self, consciousness, awareness, and most of the buzz words in Cognitive Science. So what one seeks to do is to whittle down the concept to get the bark off and find the essential core. Then and only then does it seem legitimate for one to work on what it would mean to extend it, whatever "it" is. But how long do we have to wait for the 'reductionist' Churchlands to whittle things down and solve that riddle?

Andy Clark has, by the accident of our history, been handed a hot potato in that mind is one of those "it"s that no one knows really what it is. So it is essential that we move to the biological neurological explanation of what "it" is as best we can. That is not what Andy is doing here, and he knows it. But what's the man to do? The problem is that mind appears to be a supervened phenomena which you are not likely to find in some lobe in the brain. Given that, what Andy has done is to work with what we know about the mind so far and he does tap into a lot of empirican studies that have been completed over several decades.

And he also knows when to stop. For example, he mentions extension of the mind into society, a social sense of the extended mind, but leaves that topic for a later book. Just as well as Alvin Goldman and Frederique de Vignemont are already guarding the gates to that temple with their rejection of the Embodiment of Mind in Society. It will take some interesting new arguments, perhaps from an evolutionary anthropological point of view (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy?) to find a way in.

They are not alone.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By MotionlessArrival on August 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book doesn't do what I thought it would. I presumed it would be developing the evidence and arguments for extended and situated cognition - following on from Clark and Chalmer's influential paper of 1998 - but most of it instead lays out reaction to that initial excursion and appears considerably more conservative.

Now I review the contents page, I can see that this withdrawal toward the traditional position is actually part of the structure of the book. Section I: From Embodiment to Cognitive Extension is a progressive deployment of cognition outward, into the `external' world. Sections II and III, however: Boundary Disputes and The Limits of Embodiment - that is from page 85 to 217, i.e. the rest of the book - mostly review, and to a large part concur with, arguments against the cognitive excursion of the initial adventure. Indeed, by the concluding chapters, Clark is largely tempted to re-inter cognition; not only in the head but to some supervenary, inwardly contained executor, in withdrawal from embedded and extended engagement. Instead of supersizing the mind, he shrinks it, to:

`...a certain higher-level information processing poise, itself essential for conscious experience, is achieved. The kind of poise required will vary from case to case but will typically be pitched at some remove from the full details of our active sensorio-motor repertoire.' [p195]

Clark acknowledges that:

`...the broad notion of a relatively high-level executive interaction between conscious seeing and fine-grained motor control is highly attractive.'[189]

This increasing focus on a causally detached executor [albeit embodied in the brain] seems to forget the expressive, outward looking enthusiasm with which he began:

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