Abstract. The dangerous level of individuality in contemporary Western culture is informed by a conception of mind, self, and soul as internal to the central nervous system. The historical development of this view has produced a bounded and self-contained individual at odds with communal life. Happily, scientific and philosophical studies of mind are coming to view the human mind as embodied, enactive, encultured, and embedded in social and technical networks, and as a construction not limited to the boundaries of the (...) individual organism. Mental phenomena are hybrids of events in the head and events in the world to which they are often coupled, not least of which are with other people. There are mutual and reciprocal implications of this externalism for a number of religious themes. Our understanding of redemption might better be bound to our relationships with others, including our bodies and our sexuality, rather than to a private, individual relationship with the sacred. (shrink)
Helmut Reich’s theory of relational and contextual reasoning is a courageous initiative for the resolution of cognitive conflicts between apparently incompatible or incommensurable views. Built upon Piagetian logico-mathematical reasoning, cognitive complexity theory, and dialectical and analogical reasoning, it includes the development of a both/and logic inclusive of binary either/or logic. Reich provides philosophic, theoretical, and even initial empirical support for the development of this form of reasoning along with a heuristic for its application. A valuable step beyond the limits of (...) binary, static, and formal reasoning, it takes relationship, context, and perspectival variations seriously in an explicitly reflective and iterative system. We can and do address conflicts not resolvable by conventional appeals to logic or evidence, including those at epistemic boundaries or produced by belief-commitment differences. Although this form of reasoning has real promise, including stepping beyond complementarity in the religion-science dialogue, it seems better directed to causally explanatory theories than to other forms of rendering meaning. Finally, its coextension requirement may render it problematic where functionally coherent explananda cannot be identified or are themselves produced or constituted by a belief system. (shrink)
Embodied cognitive science holds that cognitive processes are deeply and inescapably rooted in our bodily interactions with the world. Our finite, contingent, and mortal embodiment may be not only supportive, but in some cases even constitutive of emotions, thoughts, and experiences. My discussion here will work outward from the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the brain to a nervous system which extends to the boundaries of the body. It will extend to nonneural aspects of embodiment and even beyond the boundaries of (...) the body to prosthetics of various kinds, including symbioses with a broad array of cultural artifacts, our symbolic niche, and our relationships with other embodied human beings. While cognition may not always be situated, its origins are embedded in temporally and spatially limited activities. Cognitive work also can be off-loaded to the body and to the environment in service of action, tool use, group cognition, and social coordination. This can blur the boundaries between brain areas, brain and body, and body and environment, transforming our understanding of mind and personhood to provide a different grounding for faith traditions in general, and of the historically dualist Christian tradition in particular. (shrink)
Abstract. Concepts of individual autonomy underlie much of contemporary self-understanding, including the institutions and ways of living in modern societies. These concepts of autonomy are complex, even contradictory, and may present problems for our future. This overview sketches the narrative arc of a collection of papers addressing these topics. While autonomy and individuality are not fictions, neither do what we take to be individuality or autonomy have an unchanging reality. We are both influenced by and have an influence upon how (...) these concepts are understood and used, and their implications for our history, our morality, our religious life, and the future of our relationships and our communities. (shrink)
Recent research suggests an “Internet paradox”—that a communications technology might reduce social involvement and psychological well–being. In this article I examine some of the limitations of current Internet communication, including those of access, medium, presentation, and choice, that bear on the formation and maintenance of social relationships. I also explore issues central to human meaning in a technological culture—those of the history of the self, of individuality, and of human relationships—and suggest that social forces, technological and otherwise, have increasingly eroded (...) our social interconnectedness and even produced psychological fragmentation. Finally, by considering the psychology of privacy, subjectivity, and intimacy, I look at the historical and developmental processes of internalization by which we construct the “virtual interior” of mind. Understanding this link between human meaning and technological culture, in the form and pattern of our virtual interiors, may help us to see opportunities as well as dangers for the growth of our humanity, our ethics, and our spirituality. (shrink)
Differences of understanding in science and in religion can be explored via the distinction between paradigmatic and narrative modes of explanation. Although science is inclusive of the paradigmatic, I propose that in explaining the behavior of complex adaptive systems, and in the human sciences in particular, narratives may well constitute the best scientific explanations. Causal relationships may be embedded within, and expressions of higher-order constraints provided by, complex system dynamics, best understood via the temporal organization of intentionalities that constitute narrative. (...) Complex adaptive systems, out of which intentions emerge, have behavioral trajectories that are in principle unique, contingent, and nondeterministic even in stable states and unpredictable across phase transitions. Given such unpredictability, the only explanation can be an interpretive story that retrospectively retraces the actual changes in dynamics. Without narrative, personality traits and human actions are incomprehensible. Such phenomena do not permit a reduction of purposive acts to nonpurposive elements or of reasons to the causes they constrain. Causality does not exhaust meaning. Given the role of narratives in human lives, religion and mythology provide larger stories within which individual stories make sense. Differences between narrative and historical truth suggest how we can be constituted by what we imagine ourselves to be. (shrink)
The cognitive sciences may be understood to contribute to religion-and-science as a metadisciplinary discussion in ways that can be organized according to the three persons of narrative, encoding the themes of consciousness, relationality, and healing. First-person accounts are likely to be important to the understanding of consciousness, the "hard problem" of subjective experience, and contribute to a neurophenomenology of mind, even though we must be aware of their role in human suffering, their epistemic limits, and their indirect causal role in (...) human behavior and subsequent experience. Second-person discussions are important for understanding the empathic and embodied relationality upon which an externalist account of mind is likely to depend, increasingly uncovered and supported by social neuroscience. Third-person accounts can be better understood in uncovering the us/them distinctions that they encode and healing the dangerous tribalisms that put an interdependent and communal world increasingly at risk. (shrink)
Part of the epistemological crisis of the twentieth century was caused by empirically establishing that introspection provides little reliable self-knowledge. While we all have full actual selves to which our self-representations do not do full justice, we focus on the formation and existence of a narrative self, and on problematic reliability. We will explore the cognitive neuroscience behind its limitations, including pathological forms of confabulation, the generation of plausible but insufficiently grounded accounts of our actions, and the normal patterns of (...) narrative creation and checking. The evolutionary logic of self-deception may produce adaptive results, particularly in service of the “commitment strategies” that give our species results otherwise unobtainable. It is largely in our close relationships with other human beings, the relationships so well served by these very strategies, that we may find the powerful counterbalancing feedback which may provide positive change and self-transcendence. Nevertheless, we will also warn about a shadow side for which religion can provide both acknowledgment and hope. (shrink)
. I sketch a synthetic integration of several levels of explanation in addressing how myths, narratives, and stories engage human beings, produce their sense of identity and self‐understanding, and shape their intellectual, emotional, and embodied lives. Ultimately it is our engagement with the metanarratives of religious imagination by which we address a set of existentially necessary but ontologically unanswerable metaphysical questions that form the basis of religious belief. I show how a multileveled understanding of evolutionary biology, history, neuroscience, psychology, narrative, (...) and mythology may form a coherent picture of the human spirit. Neuropsychological functions involved in constructing and responding to the narratives by which we form our identities and build meaningful lives include memory, attention, emotional marking, and temporal sequencing. It is the neural substrate, the emotional shaping, and the narrative structuring of higher cognitive function that provide the sine qua non for the construction of meaning, relationship, morality, and purpose that extend beyond our personal boundaries, both spatial and temporal. This includes a neural affect system shaped by our developmental dependency, the dynamic narratives of self formed in the development of identity and reconstructed over the life span, drawing on culturally available mythic and storied forms. Narrative constitutes our movement in moral space and may have the potential both for healing and for disruption for us as individuals and as a species, providing a contingent solution to the alienation and fragmentation of personhood, relationship, and community. (shrink)
The essays in this book, by a variety of leading Augustine scholars, examine not only Augustine's multifaceted philosophy and its relation to his epoch-making theology, but also his practice as a philosopher, as well as his relation to other philosophers both before and after him. Thus the collection shows that Augustine's philosophy remains an influence and a provocation in a wide variety of settings today.
"Argues that active involvement in politics can be deeply fulfilling to the individual, and that the construction of identity for all activists is both about morality and about what one wants for oneself.
149 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 34: ~ JANUARY 1996 theology and intellectual history. One should value the information it provides and the methodological lessons it has to teach but not rely too heavily on its presentation of philosophical issues and arguments. BONNIE KENT Columbia University Jorge J. E. Gracia, editor. Individuation in Scholasticism: The Later Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, r r5o-x65o. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. Pp. xiv + 619. Paper, $22.95. This impressive volume (...) focussing upon the problem of individuation in scholastic phi- losophy from the beginning of the thirteenth century up to the middle of the seven- teenth presents eighteen essays on individual medieval and Counter-Reformation think- ers written by some of the finest scholars in those periods. Four introductory chapters set forth the problem of individuation for the periods in question, explore the legacy of the early... (shrink)
The paper explores three areas in which Avicenna had an important influence on the metaphysics of Henry of Ghent: first, in developing an argument for the existence of God in metaphysics rather than in physics; secondly, in his intentional distinction between essence and existence; and thirdly, in his arguments not merely that there is only one God, but that it is impossible for there to be many gods, his arguments which Henry clearly took from books one and eight of Avicenna’s (...) ’Metaphysics’. (shrink)
MORAL COMMITMENT OF THE REALISTIC, MODERNIST AND POSTMODERN NOVEL S u m m a r y The present paper discusses moral ideas expressed in the contemporary novel of the realistic, modernist and postmodern conventions. More precisely, it tries to define how the poetics of a given convention determines the novel’s ethical thought. It is argued that both the modernist and postmodern fiction, which are often perceived as amoral or relativist, are morally committed, though perhaps not as much as the realistic (...) convention. The shape of this moral commitment is consistent with the dominant of each convention (epistemological in modernism and ontological in postmodernism). These theoretical considerations are subsequently illustrated with three case studies of Virginia Woolf’s novels (each of which represents a different convention). Throughout the whole essay the emphasis falls on the meaning of the novelistic form, i.e. on the way that the novel’s form conveys the novel’s interpretation of reality. (shrink)
This present volume is the twenty-ninth in the Re-Reading the Canon series, the title of each of which volumes begins Feminist Interpretations of . . . . Surprisingly, the volume on Augustine has appeared relatively late in the series. The editor has collected eleven essays plus a poem on feminist interpretations of the bishop of Hippo, who has certainly exerted a powerful influence on the view of women in the Western Christian churches of all major denominations. Besides the essays, Stark (...) has provided a substantial introduction to the volume in which she touches upon the principal events of Augustine's life and briefly sketches the main points of each essay.The feminist interpretations of Augustine included in the volume represent a broad spectrum running from quite radical to fairly moderate or even tame approaches. In "Augustine, Sexuality, Gender, and Women," Rosemary Radford Ruether presents a call to critique the views of Augustine from which women and men have suffered for over 1500 years in Western Christianity. Anne-Marie Bowery argues in "Monica: The Feminine Face of Christ" that Augustine's portrait of Monica allows us to "reframe the masculine image of the divinity" that is. (shrink)