The Self in Thought and Action

Dissertation, Columbia University (1985)

Authors
Peter Slezak
University of New South Wales
Abstract
This dissertation is concerned with issues which have been discussed as distinct philosophical problems and attempts to demonstrate that they have a deep underlying commonality. The disparate philosophical problems include that of action, the alleged implications of Goedel's Theorem for the mind, and Descartes's 'Cogito' argument. The various independent problems are discussed in detail, however, the dissertation also attempts to show that the independently argued positions can be seen to converge with the others, specifically implicating the notions of self and self-reference. ;In the first chapter on actions, I try to sketch the outlines of naturalized account of actions and suggest that the philosophy of action has been left behind in the cognitive revolution which has come to dominate philosophy of mind generally. In particular, using the vehicle of Danto's notion of basic action, I argue that the traditional concern with causality is misplaced and arises from certain inherent perplexities concerning one's own movements. ;In the second chapter I attempt to give an analysis of Lucas's notorious argument against mechanism from the supposed implications of Goedel's Theorem. I suggest that among the fatal flaws in Lucas's argument is the failure to take into account the self-referential or 'diagonal' character of Goedel's proof. ;The third and fourth chapters consider the debates surrounding Descartes's Cogito argument. I offer a novel analysis which is nevertheless textually faithful and, indeed, permits a charitable construal of Descartes which is in contrast to the usual accounts. Moreover, my reconstruction of the Cogito derives strong support from its quite independent philosophical plausibility as an account of mind. Specifically, I argue that the Cogito can be seen as a variant of the Liar paradox. Attention is also given to Kant's closely related arguments concerning the unity of apperception
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Was Descartes a Liar? Diagonal Doubt Defended.Peter Slezak - 1988 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 39 (3):379-388.
Man Not a Subject for Science?Peter Slezak - 1990 - Social Epistemology 4 (4):327 – 342.

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