The pattern of a life: on a new concept of mind in twentieth century philosophy

Riggio, Adam Atkinson (2008) The pattern of a life: on a new concept of mind in twentieth century philosophy. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The goal of this investigation is to uncover, within the works under analysis, a concept of mind not as a thing, but a self-constituting pattern of perceptual activity. This work examines that concept in the context of several different philosophical investigations, particularly that of Patricia and Paul Churchland, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The goal is to blend ideas from several contemporary philosophical schools to create a non-reductive philosophy of mind that is nonetheless physicalist all the way through. It is a kind of proof by counter-example that physicalism need not be reductive. -- The Churchlands create a new approach to human nature they call neurophilosophy. Their account of thinking and perception understands such activities as the continuing formation and transformation of ordered patterns of neuroelectrical activity in the brain. Yet the Churchlands' particular brand of physicalism, which they call 'eliminative materialism,' considers non-neurological ways of understanding perceiving and thinking to be mistaken - so philosophy will be replaced by neurology. My first chapter ends with a critique of the Churchlands' epistemology which points out the flaw in the eliminative understanding of knowledge. -- The second chapter examines the functionalist philosophy of the recent work of Jaegwon Kim, and borrows the idea of the pattern as it occurs in an essay of David Lewis. Kim offers an approach to the nature of scientific understanding that gives relevance to the functional talk of propositional attitudes, even as we accept that a belief is itself a complex patterning and re-patterning in the extremely multi-layered neural network that is the brain. Lewis' metaphor gives one the clearest image of the particular kind of existence of the mind, when the mind is considered to be a continually re-constituting pattern of activity of a body perceiving the world and moving around in it. -- The final chapter examines what I think is a very direct engagement with the concept of the individual as a pattern constituted in the activity of a body perceiving the world and moving in it. This is precisely Merleau-Ponty's concept of ‘bodily life,’ as he expresses it in his book, The Phenomenology of Perception. The analysis of this concept takes up the first half of the last chapter. Finally, I examine the work of Evan Thompson, particularly his recent Mind in Life, which articulates Merleau-Ponty's concept of bodily life in a physicalist context. For the purposes of this thesis, this work also provides an answer to the extreme reductive character of the Churchlands' eliminative physicalism. He asks what kind of physical body can carry out the activities constitutive of mind, perception and motion, and finds this to be any body constituted in a metabolic chemical activity. The human style of mind is a highly complex articulation of the perceptual and motive activity.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/9365
Item ID: 9365
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 74-75)
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Churchland, Patricia Smith; Churchland, Paul M., 1942-; Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 1908-1961; Knowledge, Theory of; Mind and body--Philosophy; Mind and reality; Philosophy of mind

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