Musical Worlds and the Extended Mind
University of California, Irvine
4E cognitive science portrays minds as embodied, embedded, enacted, and even extended beyond the head. Proponents argue that we routinely “offload” cognitive processes onto body and world. For example, we use gestures, calculators, or pen and paper to augment mathematical reasoning, and smartphones and search engines as memory aids. These beyond-the-head targets of our offloading generate ongoing feedback loops that transform our cognitive profile in real-time and help us negotiate complex cognitive tasks. From a 4E perspective, understanding how minds work thus requires looking beyond heads. And for a 4E view called the “extended mind thesis”, these materially-scaffolded feedback loops are so important for driving thought and experience that they should be seen as part of the (extended) mind itself. 4E theorists have recently turned to music cognition: from work on music perception and musical emotions, to improvisation and music education. I continue this trend. I argue that music — like other tools and technologies — is a beyond-the-head resource that affords offloading. And via this offloading, music can (at least potentially) scaffold various forms of thought, experience, and behavior. To develop this idea, I consider the “material” and “worldmaking” character of music, and I apply these ideas to two cases studies: music as a tool for religious worship, and music as a weapon for torture.
This is the author accepted manuscript.
A Body of Knowledge - Embodied Cognition and the Arts conference, 8 – 10 December 2016, Irvine, USA