|Extended Knowledge Project|
In this post I interview Duncan Pritchard, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Edinburgh’s Eidyn Research Centre
. Duncan is currently leading a major three-year AHRC-funded research project on ‘Extended Knowledge
’, which is hosted by Eidyn.
The other co-investigators on this project are Prof Andy Clark and Prof Jesper Kallestrup, and the postdoctoral fellows on the project are Dr J. Adam Carter and Dr S. Orestis Palermos. The project draws on cutting-edge research in epistemology and the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, and its aim is to explore different ways of ‘externalising’ knowledge.
MA: What are the main research objectives of the Extended Knowledge project and what sparked your interest in this field?
DP: My interest in extended knowledge arose out of joining Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences in 2007 and becoming immersed in the excellent interdisciplinary work that is conducted here, particularly with regard to cognitive science. Edinburgh is a world–leader in this field and, thanks to my colleague Andy Clark, there is special interest here in the specific topic of the extended mind and, relatedly, extended cognitive processes (this is unsurprising given that it was Andy’s seminal work in this area which effectively began this particular research programme - see, e.g., Clark & Chalmers (1998)
and Clark (2008)
I’ve always been keen to develop an epistemology which is informed by contemporary cognitive science, and it struck me that the possibility of extended cognition raises many interesting epistemological questions, particularly since epistemology as a discipline is strikingly individualistic in outlook (where the ‘individual’ in question here is essentially the biological individual as traditionally conceived). This led to me writing what is, I believe, the very first paper on the epistemology of extended cognition - Pritchard (2010)
- which argues that virtue epistemology, one of the dominant research programmes in contemporary epistemology, is in fact compatible with the extended cognition hypothesis, at least so long as the former is construed in the right way (which means in an anti-individualistic fashion, though this particular way of putting things came later). This led in turn to the idea of ‘extended knowledge’, and thereby to this exciting research project, which has already generated a large and growing literature on this topic.