Abstract Details

Explanation and the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition: Scouting a Way Forward  David Murphy (Philosophy And Religion, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO )   C18

Raising multiple challenges concerning the hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC), Mark Sprevak cites both a broad appeal to explanation as justification (e.g. David Chalmers, Susan Hurley) and a more narrow appeal to inference to the best explanation (IBE). An internal critique anchors his argument (launched by a question by Peter Lipton concerning Andy Clark). Noting explanationist commitments among advocates for HEC and for HEMC, Sprevak argues that we should resist their conclusions because the IBE to which both appeal shows itself, upon examination, to be the undoing of assertions that the hypothesis favored emerges as justified on explanatory grounds. I argue that even though (in agreement with Sprevak) neither HEC nor HEMC emerges as a clear victor with respect to IBE as he sets the terms, those terms need not be accepted by an advocate for HEC or HEMC, nor should they be because they conceal key considerations, facilitating Sprevak?s premature conclusion. Explanationists need not abandon their advocacy due to the kind of internal critique suggested by Sprevak. Pluralist explanationism suggests a promising path forward. Strikingly, Lipton, a paradigmatic explanationist, endorses several components of a broad form of explanationism, while describing others in nuce. Sprevak draws fairly from Lipton?s work. Yet when we attend to pluralistic commitments and pointers there, an explanationist rationale for a more favorable assessment of explanatory appeals on behalf of HEC and HEMC emerges than that backed by Sprevak, or even by Lipton himself. I attempt to undo the internal critique from within then. What difference does taking a broader approach to IBE than Sprevak?s make? Illustrations follow. First, Sprevak rejects a tweak proposed by Chalmers regarding the HEC he co-created with Clark. Chalmers invokes multiple perspectives concerning a pivotal example. When we regard that tweak through the lens of contrastive explanation as discussed by Lipton (under the heading of IBE), its explanatory merit shines. Secondly, Sprevak acknowledges that various explanatory appeals differ in strength, but maintains that neither HEC nor HEMC attain the clear victory needed for an IBE. I contend that such differences remain telling when seen in the light of a ranking IBE, suggested by Lipton as he sought rapprochement with anti-realists. Thirdly, Sprevak also resists future appeals to IBE. Concerning consciousness, however, when we link Lipton?s notion of potential IBEs to Clark?s critique of extending the extended mind to consciousness, that prognosis looks premature. Attending to Lipton?s endorsement of voluntarism further extends space for justified explanatory appeals, when connecting his adumbrations to explanationist commitments. Even when restricting attention to IBE as a multi-faceted tool, the pluralist explanationist finds reason to deflect the claimed internal critique and to delve into explanatory appeals that may yet prove to be decisive when seeking to adjudicate between HEC and HEMC.