Mind Outside Brain
We approach the problem of the extended mind from a radically non-dualist perspective. The separation between mind and matter is an artefact of the outdated mechanistic worldview, which leaves no room for mental phenomena such as agency, intentionality, or feeling. We propose to replace it by an action ontology, which conceives mind and matter as aspects of the same network of processes. By adopting the intentional stance, we interpret the catalysts of elementary reactions as agents exhibiting desires, intentions, and sensations. Autopoietic networks of reactions constitute more complex super-agents, which moreover exhibit memory, deliberation and sense-making. In the specific case of social networks, individual agents coordinate their actions via the propagation of challenges. The distributed cognition that emerges from this interaction cannot be situated in any individual brain. This non-dualist, holistic view extends and operationalises process metaphysics and Eastern philosophies. It is supported by both mindfulness experiences and mathematical models of action, self-organisation, and cognition.
The world-wide web has been conceptualized as a global brain for humanity due to its neural network-like organization. To determine whether this global brain could exhibit features associated with consciousness, we review three neuroscientific theories of consciousness: information integration, adaptive resonance and global workspace. These theories propose that conscious states are characterized by a globally circulating, resonant pattern of activity that is sufficiently coherent to be examined and reflected upon. We then propose a correspondence between this notion and Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the noosphere as a forum for collective thinking, and explore some implications of this self-organizing dynamics for the evolution of shared, global understanding.
The Theory of the Organism-Environment System
In any functional sense, organism and environment are inseparable and form only one unitary system. The organism cannot exist without the environment, and the environment has descriptive properties only if it is connected to the organism. Separation of organism and environment cannot be the basis of any scientific explanation of human behavior. The theory leads to a reinterpretation of basic problems in many fields of inquiry and makes possible the definition of mental phenomena without their reduction either to neural or biological activity or to separate mental functions. According to the theory, mental activity is activity of the whole organism-environment system, and the traditional psychological concepts describe only different aspects of organization of this system.