Enjoying the Spread: Conscious Externalism Reconsidered

Mind 121 (483):731-751 (2012)
According to a variety of recent ‘enactivist’ proposals, the material basis of conscious experience might extend beyond the boundaries of the brain and nervous system and into the environment. Clark (2009) surveys several such arguments and finds them wanting. Here I respond on behalf of the enactivist. Clarifying the commitments of enactivism at the personal and subpersonal levels and considering how those levels relate lets us see where Clark’s analysis of enactivism goes wrong. Clark understands the enactivists as attempting to provide hypotheses about the subpersonal mechanisms underlying experience according to which those mechanisms contingently include portions of the environment. But understanding enactivism instead as involving a relational conception of experience at the personal level, with apparent implications for the location of the subpersonal mechanisms of experience, allows us to make better sense of the enactivist arguments, and make the case for conscious externalism
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