La mente estesa ma individuata: una prospettiva simbiotica

Federico Boem


Riassunto: Nell’ambito delle associazioni simbiotiche ha acquisito credito crescente la cosiddetta prospettiva “olobiontica”, secondo cui animali e piante non dovrebbero più essere considerati entità autonome, con confini chiaramente delimitati, ma li si dovrebbe vedere come unità funzionali che consistono di reti inter-relazionali tra specie diverse. In quest’ottica le funzioni precedentemente attribuite a un singolo componente devono essere riviste alla luce della prospettiva relazionale e considerate quindi come prodotto di un’unità funzionale, ossia dell’olobionte. Nella prospettiva funzionalista, il noto concetto di mente estesa considera la possibilità per cui il veicolo della cognizione possa andare oltre il cervello e anche oltre i limiti del corpo, mediante dispositivi artificiali. Questo lavoro intende offrire una variante della teoria della mente estesa intesa non solo come possibilità teoretica ma anche come ipotesi compatibile con alcuni recenti sviluppi nella ricerca biologica e biomedica. Si sosterrà quindi che l’attività del microbiota umano (i batteri che vivono in associazione con le specie umane) svolgono un ruolo funzionale nella regolazione dei nostri processi cognitivi, suggerendo che il microbiota costituisce un’estensione funzionale del sistema cognitivo precedentemente descritto come “umano”. La revisione e l’estensione dell’individuo biologico in favore dell’olobionte come unità funzionale (il vero creatore delle funzioni cognitive) porta anche alla necessità di aggiornare i confini dell’individuo come agente cognitivo.

Parole chiave: Microbiota; Cognizione estesa; Olobionte; Simbiosi; Funzionalismo


The individuated extended mind: A symbiotic perspective

Abstract: In the framework of symbiotic associations, the so-called “holobiontic” perspective has increasingly emerged, according to which animals and plants should no longer be considered as autonomous entities, delimited by clear boundaries, but should rather be seen as functional units, consisting of inter-relational networks of different species. From this perspective, the functions that were previously ascribed to a single component, must be updated in the light of this relational perspective and rather judged as a product of the functional unit, that is, the holobiont. In a functionalist perspective, the famous conception of the extended mind investigates the hypothesis that the vehicle of cognition can extend not only outside the brain but also beyond the limits of the body, through artificial devices. The present work aims to offer a variant of the extended theory of mind not only as a theoretical possibility but also in accordance with some recent developments in biological and biomedical research. It will therefore be argued that the activity of the human microbiota (bacteria living in associations with the human species) plays a functional role in the regulation of our cognitive processes suggesting that the microbiota constitutes a functional extension of the cognitive system previously described as “human”. The revision and extension of the biological individual in favor of the holobiont as a functional unit (therefore the true creator of cognitive functions) also leads to the need to update the boundaries of the individual as a cognitive agent.

Keywords: Microbiota; Extended Cognition; Holobiont; Symbiosis; Functionalism

Parole chiave

Microbiota; Cognizione estesa; Olobionte; Simbiosi; Funzionalismo

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