• Talk by Adam Carter and Orestis Palermos on “Extended Knowledge: Public Policy and Education” at the DICE seminar, Department of Education, University of Edinburgh, January 30, 2015.

Abstract: ‘Extended Knowledge’ is a three-year AHRC-funded project, hosted within Edinburgh’s department of Philosophy, that studies the ramifications of the extended and distributed cognition hypotheses for epistemology: If cognition can extend beyond our brains and bodies to the artefacts we employ or–further–be distributed among several different individuals at the same time, then how (and to what extent) should we reconceive our thinking about knowledge and other related cognitive processes, such as learning and justification, which have traditionally been approached against an ‘intracranial’, individualist background? This is a general question that can take very interesting and specific shapes from the point of view of education studies. Against this background, we raise and explore four key questions: 1) Does the possibility of cognitive extension and extended knowledge provide for a new approach to the know-that/know-how debate within education? 2) In what ways should considerations about the ways knowledge can be extended impact curriculum design or even classroom architecture? 3) Given that distributed cognition becomes more and more prevalent within modern society, should we aim at teaching students how to build and become efficient members of such distributed cognitive systems, and what methods can we employ to this effect? 4) Finally, what are the possible ethical ramifications of conceiving of cognition and knowledge as extended? Can the current legal system cover the increasingly technologically dependent generations of the future, or are some relevant changes in order?

  • Talk by Orestis Palermos on “When Groups Know More than their Members Do” at the Crag Seminar, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, January 28, 2015

Abstract: How do groups store, share, and generate knowledge? Moreover, can groups be intelligent agents in themselves, under which conditions, and what effects may this have on the previous set of questions? These are some of the questions I will address in this talk both from a philosophical and a cognitive science perspective while also considering concrete examples from the study of transactive memory systems (Wegner, Giuliano, & Hertel, 1985) and scientific research teams. In effect this will provide us with a clear grasp of the concepts of Group Knowledge and Epistemic Group Agents that we will then examine how to apply in the case of what Berners-Lee (Dertouzos, Berners-Lee, & Fischetti, 1999) calls ‘social machines’.

You can view that talk here.

  • Talk by Adam Carter and Orestis Palermos on the ‘Ethics of Extended Cognition: Is having your computer compromised a personal assault?”, for the 2014 IT Futures Conference

Abstract: According to a recent and increasingly popular position in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science — namely, the hypothesis of extended cognition (e.g. Clark & Chalmers 1998; Clark 2008) — parts of the world that lie outside one’s organism (e.g., pen and paper, smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.) can feature as proper parts of a person’s cognitive economy. Such a position has generated a lively debate about the bounds of cognition, the progress of which can have far-reaching implications for the future of cognitive science. One aspect of cognitive extension that has been largely overlooked, however, is the ethical ramifications of this hybrid picture of human cognition. Against this background, we shall draw attention to one very important such implication, which (as we shall argue) motivates a profound rethinking of what may count as personal assault. Specifically, could the hypothesis of extended cognition support the idea that having, in certain conditions, our personal gadgets compromised is actually a personal assault that is on a par with compromising a part of our biological cognitive systems?

The talk is available to view here.


  • Talks by Prof Clark (Philosophy, Edinburgh) and Prof Vijayakumar (Robotics, Edinburgh) for the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, November 21st, 2014, University of Edinburgh.

Prof Clark’s talk: “Being and Computing: Are You Your Brain, and Is Your Brain a Computer?”

Abstract: There’s more to minds than brains alone. Biologically evolved intelligence makes the most of brain, body, and world. This talk looks at the resulting complexity, and highlights some of the unexpected advantages of solutions that span multiple levels of organization (neural, bodily, worldly) and that take shape at multiple time-scales (evolution, development, learning). I end by asking how we should conceive of the role of the biological brain in these complex ecologies.

Prof Vijayakumar’s talk: “Robots that Learn: The Future of Man or the ‘Man of the Future’?

Abstract: What is your science fiction fantasy: A personal robot butler doing your household chores autonomously or going to the surgeon to buy a new bionic part to augment your body’s capabilities? Today, robots are increasingly making the journey from industry floors to our homes – examples include self-driving vehicles (on road and underwater), prosthetic devices, surgical assistants and service robots for drilling, mining and cleaning. Professor Sethu Vijayakumar will explore the scientific challenges in the exciting domain of ‘interactive, autonomous robotics’ and show some of the cutting edge research that is aimed at making robots as versatile, safe, reactive and adaptive as us humans. He will illustrate the spills and thrills of working with some of the world’s most sophisticated anthropomorphic robots like the SARCOS DB, HONDA ASIMO, the iLIMB Hand, the KUKA robot arm and the NAO footballers through interactive demonstrations and videos. In the field of robotics, the science fiction of truly embodied artificial intelligence has never been this close to science fact and he will illustrate how the tremendous progress in data driven machine learning is fuelling the progress.

Both talks are available to view here


  • Talk by Orestis Palermos at LSE’s Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method Cumberland Lodge Weekend, November 7­‐9 November 2014: “Knowledge and Cognitive Integration”

Abstract: Cognitive integration is a defining yet overlooked feature of our intellect that may nevertheless have substantial effects on the process of knowledge-acquisition. To bring those effects to the fore, I explore the topic of cognitive integration both from the perspective of virtue reliabilism within externalist epistemology and the perspective of extended cognition within externalist philosophy ofmind and cognitive science. On the basis of this interdisciplinary focus, I argue that cognitive integration can provide a minimalist yet adequate epistemic norm of subjective justification: so long as the agent’s belief-forming process has been integrated in his cognitive character, the agent can be justified in holding the resulting beliefs merely by lacking any doubts there was something wrong in the way he arrived at them. Moreover, since both externalist philosophy of mind and externalist epistemology treat the process of cognitive integration in the same way, we can claim that epistemic cognitive characters may extend beyond our organismic cognitive capacities to the artifacts we employ or even to other agents we interact with. This move is not only necessary for accounting for advanced cases of knowledge that is the product of the operation of epistemic artifacts or the interactive activity of research teams, but it can further lead to interesting ramifications both for social epistemology and philosophy of science.

  • Talk by Orestis Palermos at the Agents Group, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh, 21 November, 2014: “Group Knowledge and Social Machines”

Abstract: Loosely defined, social machines are web-driven “processes in which the people do the creative work and the machine does the administration” (Berners-Lee, 1999, p. 172) and which will enable us “to do things we just couldn’t do before.”(ibid., p. 174). Social machines have started receiving growing attention within web-science but there is no consensus on what makes something a social machine, and how social machines are to be distinguished from other kinds of social computing such as crowdsourcing and open innovation. Recent developments within cognitive science and especially the hypothesis of distributed cognition can provide significant insights with respect to the above questions. Moreover, introducing the distributed cognition hypothesis within epistemology in order to account for group knowledge provides a theoretical framework not only for understanding the most successful case of a social machine to date, namely Wikipedia, but also for proposing a solution to a particularly worrying problem that its English version is currently facing. In the process of tackling Wikipedia’s problem, it will become obvious what are the main ingredients of social machines and what methodology could guide their future design.

Abstract: How do groups store, share, and generate knowledge? Moreover, can groups be intelligent agents in themselves, under which conditions, and what effects may this have on the previous set of questions? These are some of the questions I will address in this talk both from a philosophical and cognitive science perspective while also considering concrete examples from the study of transactive memory systems (Wegner, Giuliano, & Hertel, 1985) and scientific research teams. In effect this will provide us with a clear grasp of the concepts of Group Knowledge and Epistemic Group Agents that we will then examine how to apply in the case of what Berners-Lee (Dertouzos, Berners-Lee, & Fischetti, 1999) termed ‘social machines’. Specifically, I will review the interesting case of Wikipedia and the worrisome steady decline of its active contributors (Halfaker, Geiger, Morgan, & Riedl, 2012) in order to see whether the previous discussion can be put in practice to a positive effect.

  •  Epistemology Research Group Presentation by Adam Carter, University of Edinburgh: “Group Knowledge and Epistemic Defeat” (17 September, 2014)

Abstract: If individual knowledge and justification can be vanquished by epistemic defeaters, then the same should go for group knowledge. Lackey (2014) has recently argued that one especially strong conception of group knowledge defended by Bird (2010) is incapable of preserving how it is that (group) knowledge is ever subject to ordinary mechanisms of epistemic defeat. Lackey takes it that her objections do not also apply to a more moderate articulation of group knowledge–one that is embraced widely in collective epistemology–and which she does not challenge. This paper argues that given certain background premises that are embraced by orthodox thinking in collectivist epistemology, the more moderate account of group knowledge cannot make sense of either psychological or normative epistemic defeaters. I conclude by offering some suggestions for how the more moderate proposal might avoid this result.

AbstractMainstream and social epistemologists have recently turned their focus on the concept of group knowledge; the idea that groups can acquire and possess knowledge by means over and above those exhibited by individual epistemic agents. We consider this phenomenon to be of central importance with potentially several far-reaching applications. In this occasion, we only examine two of them: 1) We explore the way group knowledge might be related to testimonial knowledge and how this relation provides further insights with respect to understanding the latter, 2) We investigate how peer disagreement should be studied when the two sides of some epistemic dispute are not individual but groups agents.

Abstract: Cognitive integration is a defining yet overlookedfeature of our intellect that may neverthelesshave substantial effects on the process ofknowledge-acquisition. To bring those effects tothe fore, I explore the topic of cognitiveintegration both from the perspective of virtuereliabilism within externalist epistemology and theperspective of extended cognition withinexternalist philosophy of mind and cognitivescience. On the basis of this interdisciplinaryfocus, I argue that cognitive integration canprovide a minimalist yet adequate epistemicnorm of subjective justification: so long as theagent’s belief-forming process has beenintegrated into his cognitive character, the agentcan be justified in holding the resulting beliefsmerely by lacking any doubts there wassomething wrong in the way he arrived at them.Moreover, since both externalist philosophy ofmind and externalist epistemology treat theprocess of cognitive integration in the same way,we can claim that epistemic cognitive charactersmay extend beyond our organismic cognitivecapacities to the artifacts we employ or even toother agents we interact with. I conclude by hinting towards some of the possible theoretical and practical ramifications of this move.

  • Epistemology Research Group with Jesús Zamora-Bonilla on “The Nature of Co-Authorship. A Note on Recognition Sharing sand Scientific Argumentation”. Wednesday, February 26, 2014. Dugald Stewart Building, rm. 1.17, 15:30-17:00.

Abstract: Co-authorship of papers is very common in most areas of science, and it has increased as the complexity of research has strengthened the need for scientific collaboration. But the fact that papers have more than an author tends to complicate the attribution of merit to individual scientists. I argue that collaboration does not necessarily entail co-authorship, but that in many cases the latter is an option that individual authors might not choose, at least in principle: each author might publish in a separate way her own contribution to the collaborative project in which she has taken part, or papers could explicitly state what the contribution of each individual author has been. I ask, hence, why it is that scientists prefer to ‘pool’ their contributions instead of keeping them separate, if what they pursue in their professional careers (besides epistemic goals) is individual recognition. My answer is based on the view of the scientific paper as a piece of argumentation, following an inferentialist approach to scientific knowledge. A few empirical predictions from the model presented here are suggested in the conclusions.

  • Seminar Presentation by Prof Åsa Wikforss on “Extended Belief and Extended Knowledge”. Tuesday, December 10 2013, Dugald Stewart Building, rm. 1.17, 2pm – 4pm

Abstract: The paper discusses the thesis of extended belief and its implications for the possibility of extending ordinary, personal level knowledge. A common worry is that knowledge will overextend, that there will be ‘cognitive bloat’. If the subject’s standing beliefs can be realized in devices such as notebooks and smart phones, what is there to prevent the conclusion that she knows everything stored on such devices? One response to this worry is to block the move from belief to knowledge, and argue that these externally stored beliefs, although reliable, do not qualify as knowledge. I argue, instead, that the fundamental problem arises at the level of belief. We prevent bloating of knowledge by preventing the bloating of belief. To do so, I argue, we need to take seriously Clark and Chalmers’ suggestion that what is distinctive of belief is its role in folk psychological explanations. Paying attention to this role shows that the usual examples, such as Otto’s notebook information, do not qualify as beliefs. To qualify, the external information would have to be much more directly connected to, and deeply integrated into, the subject’s overall system of beliefs and desires. This, also, means that when belief does extend there will not be a worry that knowledge overextends: The demand on interaction and integration make the extended beliefs good candidates for knowledge.

The presentation will be followed by a 10-mins response from Natalie Ashton and a Q+A session.

Abstract: The philosophical case for extended cognition is often made with reference to ‘extended-memory cases’ (e.g. Clark & Chalmers 1998). In such cases, some part of the world is claimed to play the (relevantly) same functional role (e.g. vis-à-vis information storage and retrieval) as biological memory; by parity of reasoning, it is argued that if a biological memory is part of an agent’s cognitive process, so is that part of the world (and, a fortiori, cognitive process extend into the world). Unfortunately, proponents of extended cognition as well as their adversaries have failed to appreciate the kinds of epistemological problems extended-memory cases pose for mainstream thinking in the epistemology of memory. It is time to give these problems a closer look. Our plan is as follows: in §1, we argue that an epistemological theory remains compatible with the hypothesis of extended cognition only if its epistemic assessments made by the theory do not violate what we call the epistemic parity principle. In §2, we show how the constraint of respecting the epistemic parity principle stands in what appears to be a prima facie intractable tension with mainstream thinking about cases of propositional memory. After making precise ‘two horns’ of a dilemma we show is faced by proponents of extended cognition vis-à-vis propositional memory cases, we outline and evaluate several lines of response. Each, as we’ll see, has its own problems.

  • Conference Presentation by Orestis Palermos: ‘Loops, Constitution, and Cognitive Extension’

Peer-reviewed paper presented at the 1st International Avant-Conference, Torun, Poland, November 2013.

Abstract:  The ‘causal-constitution’ fallacy, the ‘cognitive bloat’ worry, and the persisting theoretical confusion about the fundamental difference between the hypotheses of embedded (HEMC) and extended (HEC) cognition are three interrelated worries, whose common point—and the problem they accentuate—is the lack of a principled criterion of constitution. Attempting to address the ‘causal-constitution’ fallacy, mathematically oriented philosophers of mind have previously suggested that the presence of non-linear relations between the inner and the outer contributions is sufficient for cognitive extension. The abstract idea of non-linearity, however, can be easily misunderstood and has, in the past, led to incorrect and counterintuitive conclusions about what may count as part of one’s overall cognitive system. In order to prevent any further mistakes I revisit dynamical systems theory to study the nature of the continuous mutual interactions that give rise to the aforementioned non-linear relations. Moreover, focusing on these interactions will allow us to provide two distinct arguments in support of the ontological postulation of extended cognitive systems, as well as an objective criterion of constitution. Accordingly, I put forward a version of HEC that treats continuous mutual interactions (and the resultant non-linear relations) not just as sufficient but also as necessary for cognitive extension. Such a qualified version of HEC may exclude certain alleged cases of cognitive extension where the agent does not mutually interact with his artifacts (e.g., shopping lists and directory services), but it is immune both to the ‘causal-constitution’ fallacy and the ‘cognitive bloat’ worry, and it can be sharply distinguished from HEMC.

  • Masterclass with Professor Michael Patrick Lynch, Friday October 11th, 2013

On Friday October 11th, in room 1.20 at Dugald Stewart Building, Prof Michael Lynch gave a masterclass for the epistemology group on the topic of extended knowledge. His talk was entitled ‘Knowledge and Epistemic Values’. Here is an overview:

NEUROMEDIA: Imagine you had the functions of your smartphone miniaturized to a cellular level and accessible by your neural network. Would you know more (or less)?

i. Intuitive answer: Yes and No – it depends on your conception of knowledge.

ii. Do we have different conceptions of knowledge?

iii. If So, what value do states that fit either conception have?

Strategy: Work backward—ask not what knowledge is but how our concept(s) of knowledge has developed (Craig; Williams).

For more information, click here to access the handout for the talk.

  • Conference Presentation by Adam Carter at 4th Conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association, Helsinki, Finland, 30 August 2013: ” Extended Virtue Epistemology”

Abstract: If the hypothesis of extended cognition (HEC) is right, then this will effectively raise a nest of novel epistemological problems for both weak and strong varieties of the virtue epistemology program. The aim here will be to survey a sample of these new problems and the shapes they take, as well as to suggest some potential lines of reply.


  • Workshop with Professor Robert Rupert, Friday August 9th, 2013

On Friday August 9th, in room S38 at 7 George Square there was an one-day EIDYN workshop on Robert Rupert’s paper “Embodiment, Consciousness, and the Massively Representational Mind”. 

Robert Rupert (Colorado) is Visiting Professor in Mind and Cognition

The meeting took place in S38 at 7 George Square. We met at 10:00 for coffee and biscuits and kicked off at 10:30 with Rob presenting his paper, followed by open discussion, and then afternoon sessions from 14:00 until around 17:30, with short (15 min) comments from:

Joe Dewhurst, Robert O’Shaughnessy, Mario Villalobos, Zoe Drayson (Stirling), Orestis Palermos, and possibly also from David Carmel (Psychology, Edinburgh).

Enquiries to: Andy Clark at andy.clark@ed.ac.uk

  • ‘Extended Knowledge and Informatics’ Talk

On the 25th of March 2013, Dr S. Orestis Palermos gave a talk at the Informatics Forum (IF 4.31/4.33). The aim of the talk was to introduce the Extended Knowledge Project to participants in the Centre for Intelligent Systems and their Applications (CISA) in order to enable interdisciplinary research on the technological impact of the Extended Knowledge Project.

Abstract: The extended and distributed cognition hypotheses treat cognition as potentially extended beyond our organismic boundaries to the artifacts or even the agents we interact with, respectively. Even though both claims have gained increasing attention within cognitive science, their relation to the theory of knowledge remains underdeveloped. The Extended Knowledge Project—a new research project within the department of philosophy (PPLS)—aims precisely at exploring the ways the extended and distributed cognition research programmes apply to knowledge. In this talk I will introduce the core ideas and aims of the project that will provide the basis for exploring its potential technological impact, especially within informatics where human-computer interactions and information processing are amongst the primary topics of study.


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