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Distributed Cognition in Classical Antiquity

Edited by Miranda Anderson, Douglas Cairns, Mark Sprevak

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12 essays by international specialists in classical antiquity create a period-specific interdisciplinary introduction to distributed cognition and the cognitive humanities

  • The first book in an ambitious 4-volume set looking at distributed cognition in the history of thought
  • Includes essays on archaeology, art history, rhetoric, literature, philosophy, science, medicine and technology
  • For students and scholars in classics, cognitive humanities, philosophy of mind and ancient philosophy
  • Includes essays by international specialists in classics, ancient history and archaeology

This collection explores how cognition is explicitly or implicitly conceived of as distributed across brain, body and world in Greek and Roman technology, science, medicine, material culture, philosophy and literary studies.

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List of illustrations

Notes on contributors

Series Preface

1.Series Introduction: Distributed Cognition and the Humanities
Miranda Anderson, Michael Wheeler and Mark Sprevak

2. Introduction: Distributed Cognition and the Classics
Douglas Cairns

3. Physical Sciences: Ptolemy’s Extended Mind
Courtney Roby

4. Distributed Cognition and the Diffusion of Information Technologies in the Roman World
Andrew Riggsby

5. Mask as Mind Tool: A Methodology of Material Engagement
Peter Meineck

6. Embodied, Extended and Distributed Cognition in Roman Technical Practice
William Short

7. Roman-period Theatres as Distributed Cognitive Micro-ecologies
Diana Y. Ng

8. Cognition, Emotions and the Feeling Body in the Hippocratic Corpus
George Kazantidis

9. Enactivism and Embodied Cognition in Stoicism and Plato’s Timaeus
Christopher Gill

10. Enargeia, Enactivism and the Ancient Readerly Imagination
Luuk Huitink

11. Group Minds in Classical Athens? Chorus and Dēmos as Case Studies of Collective Cognition
Felix Budelmann

12. One Soul in Two Bodies: Distributed Cognition and Ancient Greek Friendship
David Konstan

13. Distributed Cognition and Its Discontents: Three Episodes from the Classical Tradition
Thomas Habinek and Hector Reyes

About the Author

Miranda Anderson is an Anniversary Fellow at the University of Stirling and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on cognitive approaches to literature and culture. She is the author of The Renaissance Extended Mind (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Douglas Cairns is Professor of Classics in the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on Greek literature, society and thought, especially the emotions. He is the author of Sophocles: Antigone (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), Bacchylides: Five Epinician Odes (Francis Cairns, 2010), and Aidôs: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature (OUP, 1993).

Mark Sprevak is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on distributed cognition and computational models of the mind. He is the co-editor of The Routledge Handbook to the Computational Mind (Routledge, 2018), The Turing Guide: Life, Work, Legacy (OUP, 2017) and New Waves in Philosophy of Mind (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).


This is a fascinating volume that often reveals surprising analogies between contemporary accounts of distributed cognition and the view of several Classical thinkers. It refreshingly goes beyond the contemporary focus on cognition as computation to consider the many ways in which body and world scaffold our psychic life, including its affective and conscious dimensions.

- Giovanna Colombetti, University of Exeter

Once we look for it, distributed cognition is ubiquitous in classical antiquity. This book is a fascinating examination of the tools that made thinking easier and of the complex boundaries between the individual mind and the group.

- Ruth Scodel, University of Michigan

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