Consciousness, symbols and aesthetics: A just-so story and its implications in Susanne Langer's mind: An essay on human feeling

Philosophical Psychology 11 (1):45 – 66 (1998)
Consciousness is a central theme of Susanne Langer's three-volume work Mind: An essay on human feeling. Langer proposes an evolutionary history of consciousness in order to establish a biological vocabulary for discussing the subject. This vocabulary is based on the qualities of organic processes rather than generic material objects. Her historical scenario and new terminology suggest that Langer views the “cash value” of consciousness in terms of symbolic thinking and aesthetics. This paper provides an overview of Langer's proposed evolutionary scenario of consciousness, along with an examination of her process-oriented philosophy of mind. It is suggested that Langer's basic ideas are importantly similar to those present in dynamical systems theory. As research on consciousness in dynamical systems theory is still young, researchers in this field may find in Langer's work ideas for future exploration, particularly in its connection with aesthetics.
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