Dissertation, University of Stellenbosch (2002)

Tanya de Villiers-Botha
University of Stellenbosch
In this thesis it is argued that the age-old philosophical "Problem of the Self' can benefit by being approached from the perspective of a relatively recent science, namely that of Complexity Theory. With this in mind the conceptual features of this theory is highlighted and summarised. Furthermore, the argument is made that the predominantly dualistic approach to the self that is characteristic of the Western Philosophical tradition serves to hinder, rather than edify, our understanding of the phenomenon. The benefits posed by approaching the self as an emergent property of a complex system is elaborated upon, principally with the help of work done by Sigmund Freud, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Paul Cilliers. The aim is to develop a materialistic conception of the self that is plausible in terms of current empirical information and resists the temptation see the self as one or other metaphysical entity within the brain, without "reducing" the self to a crude materialism. The final chapter attempts to formulate a possible foil against the accusation of crude materialism by emphasising that the self is part of a greater system that includes the mental apparatus and its environment (conceived as culture). In accordance with Dawkins' theory the medium of interaction in this system is conceived of as memes and the self is then conceived of as a meme-complex, with culture as a medium for meme transference. The conclusion drawn from this is that the self should be studied through narrative, which provides an approach to the self that is material without being crudely physicalistic.
Keywords Self  Complexity theory  emergent property  Freud  Dawkins  Dennett  Cilliers  memes
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