More mind and philosophy
08 Nov 2014

More mind and philosophy

Reza Negarestani

Why does the determination of the meaning of the mind in terms of practices that organize its activities imply an expanded evolution of the mind? To rephrase the question, why does the understanding and realization of the mind in terms of its practical rather than formalist algorithmic decomposability not only not limits the evolution of the mind but also broadens the scope of its evolution and augmentation? Or, how does defining the mind as a practical object rather than an ideal object become the most consequential event in the history of the mind? Because practices whose elaboration count as fulfilling the activities of the mind can be collectively modified or upgraded, they are distinguished by their social manipulability and by their capacity to bootstrap complex abilities out of primitive abilities. This is what sets apart philosophy’s thesis regarding algorithmic practical decomposability of the mind from the algorithmic logical decomposability of the mind espoused by symbolic AI for which thought-parcels are ideal logical objects and hence, open to identical algorithmic iterations. While ‘identical’ iterations as associated with for example market algorithms relapse back into the unexceptionally prevelant domain of pattern-governed processes, rule-based practices even though they are at base pattern-governed on the other hand are able to proliferate and adapt to purposes that are not given in their underlying patterns. This is how the mind as a practical object is able to leap further in a manner that is neither deductive exhaustion based on the general schema of its current charactristics nor induction from its common features with the natural history of the cognitive mind.

The characterization of the mind as a practical object, rather than an ideal one, essentially amounts to the identification of the mind as a practical project with the possibility of social realization and augmentation, because the domain of practices is integratively social, whether these practices are associated with forming and articulating concepts or are linked to purposive action. The domain of practices possesses a commitment-laden dimension, it is open to social construction, revision and is capable of organizing collective configurations by individuating special practices.


The pragmatic functionalist understanding of the mind–itself a fruit of disturbing the equilibrium or the informational homogeneity between thought and thing–is a historical moment in the evolution of the mind. But evolution in what sense? In the sense that the pragmatic functionalist realization of the mind (the understanding of its meaning not as a given, but only the establishing of such meaning through and in the context of practices) coincides with the artificial realization of the mind (or the construction of its functional space by entirely different sets of realizers qua practices). For philosophy, the unity of both–that is the understanding of the meaning of the mind and its artificial realization–forms the project of self-realization through which the mind constitutes its own history and evolves in accordance with it. The history of the mind is a history that must liberate its own demands and purposes while at the same time take into consideration its natural history and respond to the constraints associated with its embodiment and organization.

The artificial–which is to say the mind realized by the artifactual–reintegrates into reality of the mind as that which has no absolute foundational nature but only histories and possibilities of multiple realization and reorientation. Its meaning cannot be traced back to an original foundation or an inherent nature, because it is constituted by those practices which determine it and are themselves susceptible to modification. Understanding the mind at the juncture between reality and appearances is tantamount to constructing it. The introspection of the mind into the condition of its possibility (what is the mind, and more importantly, why is the mind as an integrative and orientable constellation of certain activities possible at all?) is a register of an emancipative alienation and is the first spark for envisioning the mind outside of its natural or native habitat.

The gesture to treat the possibility of the mind as a question and a subject of inquiry rather than as a given is charged with an impulse to think and realize the mind through the artificial. This is because examining the possibility of the mind represents a pivotal moment. It creates a designated discontinuity and an externalization that allows questioning the possibility of the mind as a possibility whose realization depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions and the presence of certain sets or organization of realizers. This ultimately leads to a non-ineffable conception of the mind as a possibility that can be fulfilled by different desiderata than what already constitutes it.

A mind that is possible and whose possibility is open to scrutiny is a mind that is conditioned by certain functional components and organizations. This is nothing but a prototypical picture of the mind as an artificial edifice. Here the concept of the artificial does not stand against the natural as something man-made. Artificiality does not imply a breach of natural laws. Instead, the artificial suggests a propensity to adapt to new purposes that can be identified–following Sellars–by their causal reducibility combined with their logical irreducibility. It is the reducibility that does not posit the artificial outside of nature and it is the irreducibility that engenders a new regime of rules and ends whose effect resonates with what Kant calls autonomy.

Disassembling the possibility of the mind in terms of its givenness and reassembling it in functional terms signals the possibility of realizing the mind outside of the image of what it was supposed to be, outside of where it was supposed to be embedded, and divergent from the destination it was supposed or imagined to aim at.