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Visiting researchers

Professor John Sutton

Professor John SuttonVisiting Professor in Philosophy


Address c/o Department of Philosophy
King’s College London




John Sutton is Professor of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University (Sydney), where I was previously Head of the Department of Philosophy. He has degrees in Classics (Oxford) and Philosophy (Sydney), and has held visiting fellowships at Edinburgh, UCLA, UCSD, and Warwick. His research is insistently interdisciplinary, aiming to integrate cognitive sciences, social sciences, and humanities. This takes time and energy, and the luck to find wonderful, tolerant collaborators. Much of his work is on memory. He addressed the history of theories of memory, especially Descartes and early modern neurophilosophy, experimenting in historical cognitive science. Bringing cognition and culture together, he develops ideas of philosopher Andy Clark and anthropologist Ed Hutchins on distributed cognition: remembering and other psychological processes can spread across brain, body, and world (both social and material): he argues for a '2nd-wave' account based on the complementarity of internal and external resources. In fruitful collaborations over 10 years, with cognitive psychologists Amanda Barnier and Celia Harris, they study shared remembering and collective cognition in small groups; and with personality psychologist Doris McIlwain and team, they study expert movement and embodied skills, bringing our ‘applying intelligence to the reflexes’ framework to studies in sport (especially cricket), yoga, dance, and music.

Research interests
  • Memory, especially autobiographical memory
  • Skilled movement and embodied expertise
  • Collaborative recall and collective intentionality
  • Distributed cognition and extended mind
  • Cognitive history

URL: and

Selected publications
  • John Sutton (1998). Philosophy and Memory Traces: Descartes to connectionism (Cambridge University Press; paperback 2007).
  • John Sutton (2007). ‘Batting, habit, and memory: the embodied mind and the nature of skill’.
Sport in Society 10 (5), 763-786.
  • John Sutton (2010). ‘Exograms and interdisciplinarity: history, the extended mind, and the civilizing process’.
In Richard Menary (ed.), The Extended Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 189-225.
  • John Sutton (2015). ‘Remembering as public practice: Wittgenstein, memory, and distributed cognitive ecologies’. In D. Moyal-Sharrock, A. Coliva, & V. Munz (eds), Mind, Language, and Action: Proceedings of the 36th International Wittgenstein Symposium. Walter de Gruyter, pp. 409-443.
  • Wayne Christensen, John Sutton, & Doris J.F. McIlwain (2016). ‘Cognition in skilled action: meshed control and the varieties of skill experience’. Mind & Language 31 (1), 35-64.
Expertise and public engagement

John has appeared regularly on ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation)’s Radio National, on All in the Mind; The Philosopher’s Zone; and Life Matters. From 2001 to 2005. He coordinated and co-hosted a community radio program Ghost in the Machine, on bodies and minds, machines and memory, on Sydney’s Eastside Radio. He has served on the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Brain and Mind (2014-2015), and in 2015 I was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities.

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