In Kallestrup Jesper & Sprevak Mark (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Mind. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 301-22 (2014)

Georg Theiner
Villanova University
Conventional wisdom in the philosophy of mind holds that (1) minds are exclusively possessed by individuals, and that (2) no constitutive part of a mind can have a mind of its own. For example, the paradigmatic minds of human beings are in the purview of individual organisms, associated closely with their brains, and no parts of the brain that are constitutive of a human mind are considered as capable of having a mind. Let us refer to the conjunction of (1) and (2) as standard individualism about minds (SIAM). Put succinctly, SIAM says that all minds are singular minds. This conflicts with the group mind thesis (GMT), understood as the claim that there are collective types of minds that comprise two or more singular minds among their constitutive parts. The related concept of group cognition refers to psychological states, processes, or capacities that are attributes of such collective minds. In recent years, the once-discredited concept of group cognition has shown definite signs of a comeback in the social sciences, some regions of cognitive science, and among philosophers concerned with collective agency. However, there are important differences among their respective views of why some psychological property should count as a group level phenomenon. If we want to understand these differences, it is critical that we develop a shared ‘lingua franca’ that we can use to taxonomize different variants of group cognition. It is the goal of my paper to contribute to this larger enterprise. The paper is organized as follows. First, I elaborate on the distinction between singular and group minds, and draw a distinction between hive cognition, collective cognition, and socially distributed cognition. Then I briefly clarify the concept of mind that we can plausibly take to be at play in the present debate. In the rest of the paper, I sketch an analysis of the emergent character of socially distributed cognition that is free from the metaphysical shackles of vitalism. I close with a few remarks on the idea that there are multiple levels of cognition.
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