Extended cognition and constitution: re-evaluating the constitutive claim of extended cognition

Michael Kirchhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores several paths by which the extended cognition (EC) thesis may overcome the coupling-constitution fallacy. In so doing, I address a couple of shortcomings in the contemporary literature. First, on the dimension of first-wave EC, I argue that constitutive arguments based on functional parity suffer from either a threat of cognitive bloat or an impasse with respect to determining the correct level of grain in the attribution of causal-functional roles. Second, on the dimension of second-wave EC, I argue that especially the complementarity approach suffers from a similar sort of dilemma as first-wave EC: an inability to justify just what entails the ontological claim of EC over the scaffolding claim of weaker approaches in cognitive science. In this paper I show that two much more promising explanations by which to ground the ontological claim of EC are available, both starting from an exploration of the coordination dynamics between environmental resources and neural resources. On the one hand, I argue that second-wave EC based on cognitive integration, with its focus on bodily manipulations constrained by cognitive norms, is capable of resolving the coupling-constitution fallacy. On the other hand, I argue that the framework of cognitive integration can be supplemented by philosophical accounts of mechanistic explanation, because such accounts enable us to explain the emergence of higher-level cognitive properties due to a system's organization-dependent structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-283
Number of pages26
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Composition
  • Constitution
  • Coupling-Constitution Fallacy
  • Extended Cognition
  • Mechanistic Explanation


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