Publication 3311

Madsen J. & Cowley S. (2014) Living Subjectivity: Time Scales, Language, and the Fluidity of the Self. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 21(1–2): 11–22. Fulltext at
The concepts of subjectivity and the self permeate the foundations of the philosophy of distributed cognition (DCog). Proponents of DCog argue that cognition extends beyond the confines of the brain and moves into the immediate bio-social environment. Here, as well as in the special issue in general, we extend this argument by looking at multi-scalar temporalities that influence the emergence and potential of the self. In particular, we argue that the self is best understood as a relational entity that immerses contextually in a distributed, non-stable, and temporally multi-scalar manner. This conceptualization of the self points to interesting conclusions concerning the operationalization of reasoning, the foundations of communication, and cognition in general. Together, this bring home at least two major philosophical implications of viewing language and thinking as temporally multi-scalar. First, contextually immersed subjectivity is compatible with tracing language and cognition to how cultural resources extend human embodiment (this frames the potential for cognition, subjectivity, and the self). Second, while distributed and fragmented, the construction of temporal experience can become an organizing principle for the construction of the self. Through this lens, cognition binds what is learned from introspection with contextual immersion that uses skills in temporal integration. This challenges views of self and cognition as stable internal phenomena and, conversely, shows that philosophy and psychology have much to gain from examining how living human beings achieve temporal unity.


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