Research Article

Minding One's Cognitive Systems: When Does a Group of Minds Constitute a Single Cognitive Unit?

Robert Rupert

The possibility of group minds or group mental states has been considered by a number of authors addressing issues in social epistemology and related areas (Goldman 2004, Pettit 2003, Gilbert 2004, Hutchins 1995). An appeal to group minds might, in the end, do indispensable explanatory work in the social or cognitive sciences. I am skeptical, though, and this essay lays out some of the reasons for my skepticism. The concerns raised herein constitute challenges to the advocates of group minds (or group mental states), challenges that might be overcome as theoretical and empirical work proceeds. Nevertheless, these hurdles are, I think, genuine and substantive, so much so that my tentative conclusion will not be optimistic. If a group mind is supposed to be a single mental system having two or more minds as proper parts, the prospects for group minds seem dim–or so I will argue.

Robert Rupert is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Texas Tech University. His research interests lie in philosophy of mind and philosophy of the cognitive sciences, as well as in related areas of metaphysics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. His recent papers include “Functionalism, Mental Causation, and the Problem of Metaphysically Necessary Effects” (forthcoming, Noûs), “Challenges to the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition” (The Journal of Philosophy, 2004), and “Coining Terms in the Language of Thought: Innateness, Emergence, and the Lot of Cummins's Argument against the Causal Theory of Mental Content” (The Journal of Philosophy, 2001).