Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 205–221 | Cite as

Temporality and metaplasticity. Facing extension and incorporation through material engagement theory

  • Francesco ParisiEmail author


In our everyday life, we have the genuine feeling that when something we use works very well, we forget that we are doing something that is mediated by something else. It happens when we read through our glasses, or when we drive home, or when we play guitar. In all those cases, it can be said that the device becomes an extension of our body, or that we have incorporated it. In this paper I want to discuss the extension/incorporation dichotomy as presented in contemporary cognitive sciences. I will present the state of the art in the debate in order to promote a methodological shift, namely to adopt two concept borrowed from Material Engagement Theory (MET) developed by Lambros Malafouris (2013). By advocating the concepts of temporality and metaplasticity, I will argue for two different but related things: 1) extension and incorporation don’t have to be conceived only spatially, but temporally. This shift leads to two distinctive implications: first, the sooner two entities establish a prosthetic contact, the higher the chances to reach incorporation; second, extension temporally precedes incorporation; the former being an early-staged phenomenon of – a condition of possibility for – the latter. 2) Such a temporal perspective is at the base of metaplasticity, which describes, in the context of MET, the constant, co-constitutive loop between humans and things: metaplasticity deflates the privileged role traditionally attributed to the subject in the making of phenomenal experience. Finally, I will discuss extension and incorporation in media theory, relying on the concept of radical mediation.


Extension Incorporation Material engagement theory Temporality Metaplasticity Prosthesis Tool 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive Sciences, Psychology, Pedagogy, and Cultural StudiesUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly

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