Normativity, system-integration, natural detachment and the hybrid hominin

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 20 (1):21-37 (2020)
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From a subjective point of view, we take the existence of integrated entities, i.e., ourselves as the most unproblematic given, and blithely project such integrity onto untold many “entities” far and wide. However, from a naturalistic perspective, accounting for anything more integral than the attachments and attractions that are explicable in terms of the four fundamental forces of physics has been anything but straightforward. If we take it that the universe begins as an integral unity and explodes into progressive stages of internal detachment, then we can also fathom the idea that eddies of relative detachment becoming increasingly integral. Helmuth Plessner made a powerful case for the onset of “positionality” constituting one of the major transitions in nature. Surely, the emergence of “entities” that position themselves in relation to their surround marks a decisive transition in relative levels of detachment and some would say “autonomy.” It would follow, with no less force, that where and when entities can be seen to be normatively integrated, and indeed to be the agents of their own normativity, that another threshold of detachment has been crossed. The paper introduces and explores the idea that normativity, embedded in a wide-ranging theory of natural detachment, can be considered an emergent force of nature that is requisite to accounting for levels of integration beyond that which is explicable in terms of the four fundamental forces of physics. Following this line of enquiry, we argue that the first expression of a fully, normatively-integrated life-form is neither a spoken language user nor for that matter an individual but rather the neoteny-based, Homo erectus Group. In so doing we claim to have made an inroad into embedding the force of normativity into a wide-ranging naturalist framework, to have provided philosophical anthropology with a new point of departure, and at least playfully, to have given some naturalistic grist to Hegel’s proclamation that spirit is the truth of nature.



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Lenny Moss
University of Exeter

References found in this work

Facing up to the problem of consciousness.David Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.
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A Spirit of Trust: A Reading of Hegel’s phenomenology.Robert Brandom - 2019 - Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Ontogeny and Phylogeny.Stephen Jay Gould - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (4):652-653.

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