In an essay based on his new book, How Things Shape the Mind: A theory of material engagement (MIT Press), Lambros Malafouris writes:
“It often goes unnoticed that much of our thinking takes place outside our heads.” (p.28)
“There is an abundance of evidence, ranging from earliest prehistory to the present, to testify that things, as well as neurons, participate in human cognitive life. From the viewpoint of archaeology, it is clear that stone objects, body ornaments, engravings, clay tokens and writing systems play an active role in human evolution and the making of the human mind. Consequently, I suggest that what is outside the head may not necessarily be outside the mind. In fact, I doubt if notions like ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ make any useful sense in the study of human cognition.
It is easy to see how the mind and the brain became equated. Most of what we know about the human mind has been uncovered through isolating people from the material culture they are usually surrounded by in order to study them. This makes good sense if you are a neuroscientist, because of the constraints imposed by using a brain-scanning machine. But as a result, it often goes unnoticed that much of our thinking takes place outside our heads. Naturally, I do not mean to question the neural basis of cognition, but to point out that mind is more than a brain.
Instead, it would be more productive to explore the hypothesis that human intelligence ‘spreads out’ beyond the skin into culture and the material world.” (p.28)
“Let’s not forget that from an evolutionary point of view, the main reason we have a brain is to move, not to contemplate. And it seems fair to say that the reason we came to have our sophisticated capacities for thought and language is that, unlike any other animal, we gave our movement purpose, direction and meaning. …We came to have a sapient mind because we are Homo faber – a concept developed by the French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, which holds that human intelligence was originally a facility to create artificial objects. Tool-making and tool use was just the beginning in a series of prostheses and material signs. Indeed, things do much of our thinking.” (p.29)
Ref: Lambros Malafouris (7th September 2013) Mind into Matter. NewScientist No.2933, pp28-29