Review of Lambros Malafouris and Colin R

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  Pragmatics & Cognition  󰀱󰀹:󰀱 (󰀲󰀰󰀱󰀱), 󰀱󰀴󰀱–󰀱󰀴󰀹 . 󰁤󰁯󰁩 󰀱󰀰.󰀱󰀰󰀷󰀵/pc.󰀱󰀹.󰀱.󰀰󰀸bie󰁩󰁳󰁳󰁮 󰀰󰀹󰀲󰀹–󰀰󰀹󰀰󰀷 / 󰁥-󰁩󰁳󰁳󰁮 󰀱󰀵󰀶󰀹–󰀹󰀹󰀴󰀳 © John Benjamins Publishing Company  Lambros Malafouris and Colin Renfrew (eds.), Te Cognitive Life of Tings. Recasting the Boundaries of the Mind.  McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, 2010, 147 pages. ISBN -13: 978-1-902937. Reviewed by Lucas Bietti (Kulturwissenschafliches Institut, Essen) Malafouris and Renfrew’s edited book is based on a symposium in cognitive ar-chaeology which had the same name as the book and was held at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge from April 7 to 9, 2006. In Te Cognitive Life of Tings , Malafouris and Renfrew put together contributions from archaeologists, anthropologists, philosophers, psychologists, and linguists, all of which are based on situated, embedded, and extended approaches to cognitive processes in material and social environments. Terefore, it is important to pro- vide some theoretical background for those readers that are not completely famil-iar with the Extended Mind Teory (EM) and the Material Engagement Teory (ME) (Malafouris 2008; Renfrew 2007).EM is a relatively new hypothesis about the extended nature of the mind that received quite some attention in 1998 as a result of Andy Clark and David Chalm-ers’ paper “Te Extended Mind”. EM asserts that while some mental states and some experiences can be defined internally, there are many in which meaning at-tribution processes are highly influenced by external factors (Clark and Chalmers 1998). Tat is, some environmental elements can play an important role in guid-ing cognitive processes. According to the extended mind hypothesis, cognition depends on multiple connections between the brain, the body and the world — both the physical and the social world. EM’s main assumption is that cognitive processes cannot be isolated from the physical constraints of the cognitive system, which basically are its situatedness and its dynamic interaction with the environ-ment. Tat is, cognitive processes are no longer simply characterized purely at an abstract, brain-bound, information-processing level, but as interacting networks, which integrate and synchronize the brain, the body, and the world in a func-tional and goal-oriented manner. Tus, culture is a constitutive factor of the hu-man mind. Tis leads Clark to claim that in some circumstances cultural artifacts (including language) and technological developments can have a cognitive life by becoming literal extensions of the human cognitive system, and in doing so, they go beyond their basic functionality as tools that just extend human capabilities. Essentially the interaction between the brain, the body, and the world facilitates  󰀱󰀴󰀲  Book reviews the construction of new extended cognitive systems that guide problem-solving cognitive processes in the real world.On the other hand, Renfrew and Malafouris have developed a theory of ma-terial engagement based on the EM in the last few years, which maintains that there is an interface between cognition and material culture that serves to bring “materiality into the cognitive fold” (2). Tis issue has usually been disregarded in archeological and anthropological studies of the life of things that were mainly on the things’ social and biographical trajectories within specific communities (Ap-pudurai 1986). Tose studies didn’t deal with the cognitive dimension of such mul-tilayered phenomena. EM and ME are undoubtedly complementary theories about how the human mind is embedded in real-world activities. Malafouris and Refrew’s edited book is one of the first serious attempts to do justice to the multidi-mensional features of being-in-the-world diachronically and synchronically.Te book begins with an overarching introduction written by the editors in which they present the general subject matter of the volume, that is, the interani-mations of human cognition and material culture in cognitive processes. Mala-fouris and Renfrew state, in a few words, that human beings are perfectly capable of thinking through and by things. Tey assert that the cognitive life of things may be better conceptualized as a bidirectional phenomenon rather than a one-way causal mechanism in which one side of the cognitive-material coin plays a more active role. Nonetheless, in line with Andy Clark’s standpoint (Clark 2008), Mala-fouris and Renfrew make it clear that their attempt to bridge the EM and the material world is not a manifestation of antirepresentationalism or radical con-structivist theories on the human mind. In this way, they try to avoid getting into the controversial debate about the representational nature of the mind. Hence, de-spite the editors’ assertion that cognition and material culture are interdependent features of just being-in-the-world, following Clark, concepts such as computation and representation are maintained but reshaped according to the complexities of human experience.Te final part of the introduction presents a key notion for better understand-ing and differentiating real cases of EM and ME, with common examples of expert tool users. Te ‘Parity Principle’ is a key notion that was srcinally pro-posed in Clark and Chalmers’s 1998 paper and it basically claims that “[when] confronted with some task, if a part of the world functions as a process which, were it to go on in the head, we would have no hesitation in accepting as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is (for some time) part of the cognitive process” (Clark 2008: 77; Clark and Chalmers 1998: 8). Te Parity Prin-ciple was the basis for the creation of four key criteria for extended cognition and material engagement. Tese criteria can be summarized as follows: (a) the tool or resource that the agent possesses has to be reliably available and typically invoked;   Book reviews 󰀱󰀴󰀳 (b) the information retrieved must be automatically accepted and not be subject to question; (c) the information contained about the tool or resource should be easily accessible as and when required; and (d) the information in the tool or resource has been consciously endorsed at some point in the past and, indeed, there is a consequence of this endorsement (Clark 2008: 79).Although the chapters that constitute the body of the book are not themati-cally divided into sections, there is some thematic coherence throughout the book beyond the EM and ME chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 provide some examples to support the ME and the EM. Chapter 3 problematizes the concept of the ‘extended mind’ and introduces the notion of a ‘living system’ in order to better understand why things cannot have a cognitive life in isolation. Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 8 focus on archaeological research and the key role that history and space play in animating things. Chapter 7 presents important neuropsychological evidence that explains some processes of cultural evolution. Subsequently, Chapters 9 and 10 show how brains, bodies, and the world are coordinated in meaningful ways to accomplish interactional goals. Finally, Chapter 11 brings back the artifacts, un-derpinning the central role that cultural and historical human practices play in animating them and creating artifact ecologies. Unfortunately, the book does not have an overarching concluding chapter that would provide a general summary of the main arguments and the future directions of research on the cognitive life of things.In Chapter 1, Malafouris provides further arguments to back up his synthetic approach (ME) to the extended mind and material culture. Te author asserts that most of the evidence concerning the srcin and the evolution of human intel-ligent behavior has its roots in the material culture and not in abstract models or representations of human behavior, or brain tissue. Malafouris employs the exam-ple of ‘knapping’ to demonstrate that human beings have been able to shape and re-reshape the boundaries of their cognitive apparatus in relation to the outside world. In a few words, ‘knapping’ is the shaping of a stone by means of the pro-cesses of lithic reduction to manufacture stone tools, etc. Malafouris argues that ‘knapping’ constitutes an “embodied mediated action and its products present one the defining characteristics of the Homo ” (13). Moreover, the author suggests that ‘knapping’ has facilitated the development of the human sense of agency and self-awareness as it represents a zone of material engagement in which a new brain-body-tool circuit that constitutes an entirely new cognitive activity is created. Tis new embodied and extended cognitive behavior provides compelling arguments to undermine the neuroscientific attitude that “prioritizes and points to the hu-man brain as the seat of all truly cognitive activity” (14), thus putting the human mind beyond the skin and the skull. In the next chapter, one of the founders of the EM, Andy Clark examines cases of surrogate situations (e.g., design) in which  󰀱󰀴󰀴  Book reviews the material culture provides a causally active platform for thought, reason, and learning. He sustains that the surrogate situation created by design (e.g., the draw-ing of a bridge) allows us to idealize, abstract, and omit many details of the bridge, and to ease some of the temporal constraints that the construction of the bridge may involve. Te surrogate situations go far beyond being “simply miniature ver-sions of the real thing” (25) as they serve to create future situations of use that are extremely useful for anticipating how we could cope with counterfactual scenarios that are unlikely to be represented in the target domain (e.g., the bridge). However, Clark points out the “the role of the artifact and tools (that help to create surrogate situations) is not really to represent that which is absent, but rather to bring into being new tangibles that transform our relation to the items that populate the tar-get domain” (27). In this way, surrogate situations serve to amplify and transform human cognition, and they show the way in which the physical world is organized actively supporting everyday thought.Chapter 3 provides arguments against the ME, and subsequently, the EM. In this chapter, Wheeler discusses theoretical issues about the EM that, in his  view, have been under-problematized by previous studies (see Chapter 1). In the first part of the chapter, Wheeler summarizes some of the key concepts of the EM, such as ‘Te Parity Principle’ (see above). As for the ME and the cognitive life of objects, Wheeler maintains that the latter is “merely a matter of enabling enhanced performance in the storage and manipulation of information” (32). Tis differentiation between inner and outer ‘cognitive machinery’ is further reinforced by Wheeler when he argues that the embodied and mediated cognitive system pro-posed by Malafouris does not meet the criteria for being an autonomous system. Wheeler’s argument is based on a few fundamental principles that every auto-poetic (Maturana and Varela 1980), self-organizing system must meet in order to be considered as a unified system composed of interanimated and interdependent networks (e.g., the nervous system, insect colonies). Tis distinction between the system as a ‘material unity’ and the environment in which it unfolds is crucial to determine how functional, problem-solving, and goal-oriented the embodied and extended cognitive systems emerging from the interaction between brains, bod-ies, and the material environments are. A clear distinction between the system and its environment is essential to measure how relevant this form of organization is. Moreover, if we take for granted that an extended and embodied cognitive system is a living system, it is crucial for such form of interconnected networks to have clear boundaries. Wheeler claims that this is one of the most important inconsis-tencies of the ME and the EM that advocates of both theories do not seem to know how to address.In Chapter 4, the archaeologist Chris Gosden argues for a more radical ap-proach to the interanimation of the human mind and the material culture (e.g.,
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