The objective of the proposed project is to develop an integrative account of cognitive artifacts on various time scales, from proximal “here and now,” through developmental, up to historical, and evolutionary one.
From the 1990s, defenders of embodied, embedded, extended, and distributed cognition (in short, “wide cognition”), have focused on arguing that artifacts, being external representations, could be indeed cognitive. As a result, many philosophers and cognitive scientists agree today that there are “things that make us smart,” to refer to the title of Norman’s (1993) book. We aid ourselves by relying on many external resources. We interact with external memory aids like timetables and calendars to remember our duties; we use maps to navigate in the environment, mathematical symbols to calculate, and diagrams to make inferences. Sometimes we do this individually, sometimes collectively. It is also well recognized that the use of external representations could facilitate the performance of human beings not only in the “here and now”, but it could also lead to building relatively persistent cognitive niches, wherein cognition is transformed in more prolonged periods.
However, the contribution of artifacts to the transformation of cognition is typically restricted to a single time scale—or at best, various time scales are considered but investigated separately. This is an important gap in the light of the growing consensus within the philosophy of cognitive science that integration is a theoretical virtue which is driving a deeper understanding of phenomena and research progress. Thus, the proposed project aims to apply recent advancements of the new mechanicism to deliver an integrative account for artifact-based cognition. Achieving this main goal requires further developing a mechanistic continuous intertemporal integration model, extending the notion of a representational-computational mechanism to include external representations and precise analysis of spatial and temporal dimensions (i.e., component parts and operations) of “wide” cognitive systems comprising human beings and artifacts. Against this background, some classical themes of cognitive artifacts, as their taxonomy, will also be revisited with particular emphasis on the dynamical aspect of using artifacts. Special attention will be paid to processing mathematics-related cognitive artifacts such as diagrams and symbolic notations.