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“Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? The question invites two standard replies. Some accept the demarcations of skin and skull, and say that what is outside the body is outside the mind. Others are impressed by arguments suggesting that the meaning of our words “just ain’t in the head”, and hold that this externalism about meaning carries over into an externalism about mind. We propose to pursue a third position. We advocate a very different sort of externalism: an active externalism, based on the active role of the environment in driving cognitive processes.” – Chalmers & Clark (1998)


In this paper, Clark and Chalmers present the idea of active externalism (similar to semantic or “content” externalism), in which objects within the environment function as a part of the mind. They argue that it is arbitrary to say that the mind is contained only within the boundaries of the skull. The separation between the mind, the body, and the environment is seen as an unprincipled distinction. Because external objects play a significant role in aiding cognitive processes, the mind and the environment act as a “coupled system”. This coupled system can be seen as a complete cognitive system of its own. In this manner, the mind is extended into the external world. The main criterion that Clark and Chalmers list for classifying the use of external objects during cognitive tasks as a part of an extended cognitive system is that the external objects must function with the same purpose as the internal processes. The authors present a thought experiment to further illustrate the environment’s role in connection to the mind.

Psychologist James J. Gibson originally introduced the term “affordance” in his 1977 article ‘The Theory of Affordances’, which he subsequently elaborated his book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception in 1979. Gibson defined affordances as all “action possibilities” latent in the environment, objectively measurable and independent of the individual’s ability to recognize them, but always in relation to agents and therefore dependent on their capabilities. For instance, a set of steps which rises four feet high does not afford the act of climbing if the actor is a crawling infant.

An affordance is a relation between an object or an environment and an organism, that affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling. As a relation, an affordance exhibits the possibility of some action, and is not a property of either an organism or its environment alone.

“The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, but the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment. The antecedents of the term and the history of the concept will be treated later; for the present, let us consider examples of an affordance…” ~ James J.Gibson (1979)


The philosophy of Gilles Deleuze is increasingly gaining the prestige that its astonishing inventiveness calls for in the Anglo-American theoretical context. His wide-ranging works on the history of philosophy, cinema, painting, literature and politics are being taken up and put to work across disciplinary divides and in interesting and surprising ways. However, the backbone of Deleuze’s philosophy – the many and varied sources from which he draws the material for his conceptual innovation – has until now remained relatively obscure and unexplored.

This book takes as its goal the examination of this rich theoretical background. Presenting essays by a range of the world’s foremost Deleuze scholars, and a number of up and coming theorists of his work, the book is composed of in-depth analyses of the key figures in Deleuze’s lineage whose significance – as a result of either their obscurity or the complexity of their place in the Deleuzean text – has not previously been well understood. This work will prove indispensable to students and scholars seeking to understand the context from which Deleuze’s ideas emerge. Included are essays on Deleuze’s relationship to figures as varied as Marx, Simondon, Wronski, Hegel, Hume, Maimon, Ruyer, Kant, Heidegger, Husserl, Reimann, Leibniz, Bergson and Freud.

[paperback, 426 pages, Edinburgh University Press (2009)]


From Isabelle Stengers’ ‘The Cosmopolitical Proposal’ (pdf):

How can I present a proposal intended not to say what is, or what ought to be, but to provoke thought; one that requires no other verification than the way in which it is able to “slow down” reasoning and create an opportunity to arouse a slightly different awareness of the problems and situations mobilizing us? How can this proposal be distinguished from issues of authority and generality currently articulated to the notion of “theory”? This question is particularly important since the “cosmopolitical” proposal, as I intend to characterize it, is not designed primarily for “generalists”; it has meaning only in concrete situations where practitioners operate. It furthermore requires practitioners who – and this is a political problem, not a cosmopolitical one – have learned to shrug their shoulders at the claims of generalizing theoreticians that define them as subordinates charged with the task of “applying” a theory or that capture their practice as an illustration of a theory.

This difficulty introduces one of the themes of this article: the distinction and inseparable nature of political and cosmopolitical proposals. I try to show that when proposals corresponding to what can be called “political ecology”, the politicization of “positive” knowledge-related issues or practices concerning “things”, become relevant, the cosmopolitical proposal can become so as well. In other words, this proposal has strictly no meaning in most concrete situations today but it can be useful to those who have already effected the “political shift” associated with political ecology, and thus learned to laugh not at theories but at the authority associated with them. Another theme in this article, related to the first, is the question of the vulnerability of this type of proposal, exposed to all possible misinterpretations and above all to their very predictable theoretical

Just for the record Isabelle Stengers is not Bruno Latour.