Productive Strife: Andy Clark’s Cognitive Science and Rhetorical Agonism

This article written with Nathaniel Rivers contends that Andy Clark’s model of distributed cognition manifests socially through the agonism of human activity, and that rhetorical theory offers an understanding of human conflicts as productive and necessary elements of collective response to situation rather than problems to be solved or noise to be eliminated. To support this assertion, the paper aligns Clark’s argument that cognition responds to situated environmental conditions with the classical concept of kairos, associates Clark’s claim that language structures behavior with the long‑held rhetorical stance that language is constitutive, and examines the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as an enactment of what Clark and rhetorical theorists argue about productive agonism and the litigious nature of identity and cognition.