Distributed selves: Personal identity and extended memory systems

Synthese 194 (8):3135–3151 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

This paper explores the implications of extended and distributed cognition theory for our notions of personal identity. On an extended and distributed approach to cognition, external information is under certain conditions constitutive of memory. On a narrative approach to personal identity, autobiographical memory is constitutive of our diachronic self. In this paper, I bring these two approaches together and argue that external information can be constitutive of one’s autobiographical memory and thus also of one’s diachronic self. To develop this claim, I draw on recent empirical work in human-computer interaction, looking at lifelogging technologies in both healthcare and everyday contexts. I argue that personal identity can neither be reduced to psychological structures instantiated by the brain nor by biological structures instantiated by the organism, but should be seen as an environmentally-distributed and relational construct. In other words, the complex web of cognitive relations we develop and maintain with other people and technological artifacts partly determines our self. This view has conceptual, methodological, and normative implications: we should broaden our concepts of the self as to include social and artifactual structures, focus on external memory systems in the (empirical) study of personal identity, and not interfere with people’s distributed minds and selves.

Similar books and articles

Extended Mind and Identity.Robert A. Wilson & Bartlomiej A. Lenart - 2014 - In Jens Clausen & Neil Levy (eds.), Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer. pp. 423-439.
The extended self, functional constancy, and personal identity.Joshua Fost - 2013 - Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 12:47-66.

Analytics

Added to PP
2016-04-28

Downloads
1,715 (#6,051)

6 months
188 (#16,804)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Richard Heersmink
Tilburg University

Citations of this work

Varieties of the extended self.Richard Heersmink - 2020 - Consciousness and Cognition 85:103001.
What is an affective artifact? A further development in situated affectivity.Giulia Piredda - 2020 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 19 (3):549-567.
The roots of remembering: Radically enactive recollecting.Daniel D. Hutto & Anco Peeters - 2018 - In Kourken Michaelian, Dorothea Debus & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Memory. New York: Routledge. pp. 97-118.

View all 42 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

The extended mind.Andy Clark & David J. Chalmers - 1998 - Analysis 58 (1):7-19.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Neuroethics: Challenges for the 21st Century.Neil Levy - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.

View all 45 references / Add more references