School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Major research award announced

Professor Cairns staff profile

Image of Antikythera mechanism fragment

This project will explore the ways in which evidence that cognition is distributed across brain, body and world calls for a reappraisal of historical concepts of cognition. The project will further examine how the historicity of these concepts can in turn open new approaches to understanding current definitions and debates.

An interdisciplinary approach

Professor Cairns’s project team comprises Dr Miranda Anderson (Edinburgh), a literary scholar who initiated the project and has a book forthcoming on Renaissance notions of distributed cognition, together with philosophers Dr Mark Sprevak (Edinburgh) and Professor Michael Wheeler (Stirling), who have both carried out extensive research on current notions of distributed cognition.

They will be joined by the University of Oxford’s Professor George Rousseau, a pioneer in the field of medical humanities, and the University of Durham’s Dr Peter Garratt, a leading literary scholar in cognitive humanities.

Multimedia resources

The initial pilot project was funded by the new philosophy centre Eidyn : the Edinburgh Centre for Epistemology, Mind and Normativity. The current project will involve the creation of a series of webcasts by key philosophers in this area which will be made openly available on the Eidyn website, as well as the creation of a series of four edited volumes, entitled A History of Distributed Cognitionwhich will explore this theme from ancient Greece to the twenty-first century.

There will also be a collaboration with the National Museum of Scotland to look forward to, as the team will create an app that will make users re-examine the crucial nature of cognitive engagements with objects in the world, as well as a public lecture series by leading humanities scholars.

Previous funding

This grant follows Professor Cairns’s previous awards from the Leverhulme Trust and the European Research Council for earlier phases of his work on ancient Greek emotion.