The extended self

Architecture, memes and minds

Chris Abel
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While there is widespread agreement across disciplines that the identities of individuals, groups and places are significantly interrelated, there are equally divergent views as to the nature and origins of those relationships. The first part of the book highlights that the prime importance of the human body in spatial cognition and human perception generally. In stressing the fundamental role of the body as the medium of all personal experience, the concept of the self that emerges thus far retains a strong unitary core. An alternative theory of extended minds which retains the integrity of individual human agents while embracing the extension of personal powers by external devices is also discussed. The second part looks at the scope of inquiry to take in the wider impact of technology on human evolution and the extended self. Selected writings from some of Stiegler's prominent followers and critics were also examined for what they contribute to our understanding of Stiegler's ideas and their possible further applications. He and his followers continue to fall back upon neo-Darwinian concepts and terminologies in elaborating their ideas. Theories of emergence and self-production, or autopoiesis, are investigated as promising alternatives to orthodox evolutionary theory. The subject of design, function of memes, impacts of the coevolution of humankind and technology on the human mind and the self are some other concepts discussed. The third part of the book focuses talk about cognitive roots of classification and combinativity, the relations between form and content, and vernacular architecture.

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Winner of the International Committee of Architectural Critics Bruno Zevi Book Award, 2017


‘It would be hard to imagine reading The Extended Self and not coming away with new directions for future research.'
Joshua August Skorburg
Journal of Environmental Philosophy

‘This ambitious book explores a number of distinct but related dimensions of human experience, including the nature of the self, the evolutionary history of the species, the correspondence between embodiment, cognition, and articulation, the role of technology and built environments in the development of identity, the unfolding global ecological crisis, and the interdependencies between these various fields…Throughout Extended Self, Abel does a masterful job coordinating a considerable range of concepts and resources in an organized and compelling manner.'
Andrew Grosso
Tradition and Discovery, The Polanyi Society Journal

‘A wide ranging, and intellectually deep, exploration of ideas relating to memetics and the transmission of culture. That, in turn, provokes comparisons between the mechanisms of biological evolution and those of cultural change and influence. Abel handles all this with relish.'
Russell Blackford
Journal of Evolution and Technology
February 2016

‘I have known Chris Abel for many years and I have always found his writing challenging and illuminating. This, his magnum opus, is an extensive and thought-provoking work. It is an admirable attempt to break free of accepted modes of thinking and brings a fresh line of enquiry to the symbiotic relationships between man, nature and technology. No single discipline has the answer to the world's environmental crisis and Chris brings an encyclopedic knowledge to bear on its origins, exploring the concept of the extended self through philosophy, literature, genetics, architecture and cybernetics, weaving his way through many more interrelated subjects and issues to expound his theory.'
Norman Foster,

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