Intentionality, as Brentano originally introduced the term in modern philosophy, was meant to provide a distinctive characteristic definitively separating the mental from the physical.(1) Mental states have an intrinsic relationship to an object, to that which they are "about." Physical entities just are what they are, they cannot, by their very essence, refer to anything, they have no "outreach", as one might put it. Mental states have, as it were, an incomplete essence, they cannot exist at all unless they are (...) completed by something other than themselves, their object. Brentano's position is opposed to all theories which represent the mental as only extrinsically related to the world, that is, to all theories in which mental states are themselves self-sufficient for their own existence and only secondarily relate to the world by means of something external to their nature, e.g., neurological causation, divine intervention, or pre-established harmony. In these later cases, any mental act whatsoever could be related to any object, or indeed to none, for the relation is external to the nature of the act, it is superimposed on it by outside forces. Brentano's point is that a mental act has, by its very essence, an Intentional object without which it would not be a mental act. It would therefore appear that since causality is an external relationship which could in principle relate any two things regardless of their nature, the Intentional relation between an act and its object cannot be a causal relation. (shrink)
The temporal unity of the self cannot be accounted for by the continuity of causal, factual, or contiguous relations between independently definable mental events, as proposed by Locke and Parfit. The identity of the self over time is normative: it depends on the institutional context of social rules external to the self that determine the relationship between past commitments and current responsibilities. (2005).
Four philosophers, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Dennett, and Hegel, who hold for the most part radically different philosophies, all agree on rejecting the notion of atomic entities, of “things-in-themselves,” and insist that objects only make sense – can only be what they are -- in a context.
Intentionality, as Brentano originally introduced the term in modern philosophy, was meant to provide a distinctive characteristic definitively separating the mental from the physical. Mental states have an intrinsic relationship to an object, to that which they are ‘about.’ Physical entities just are what they are, they cannot, by their very essence, refer to anything, they have no ‘outreach,’ as one might put it. Mental states have, as it were, an incomplete essence, they cannot exist at all unless they are (...) completed by something other than themselves, their object. Brentano's position is opposed to all theories which represent the mental as only extrinsically related to the world, that is, to all theories in which mental states are themselves self-sufficient for their own existence and only secondarily relate to the world by means of something external to their nature, e.g., neurological causation, divine intervention, or preestablished harmony. (shrink)
Modern selfhood presents itself as autonomous, overcoming emotion by following cognitive, moral and linguistic norms on the basis of clear, rational principles. It is difficult to imagine how such normative creatures could have evolved from their purely biological, non-normative, primate ancestors. I offer a just-so story to make it easier to imagine this transition. Early hominins learned to cooperate by developing group identities based on tribal norms. Group identity constituted proto-selves as normative creatures. Such group identity was not based on (...) autonomous selfhood – such an explanation would be anachronistic -- but on emotional patterning. By imitation, music, dance, ritual and other emotional practices, proto-selves learned how to bind themselves to the norms of their culture. Such conformity was a transitional evolutionary stage between primates and selves. Emotion and rationality are not incompatible: even contemporary selfhood remains rooted in emotional identity. (shrink)
The self is not a metaphysical object but a mode of temporal organization unified by responsibility. Learning to be responsible constitutes the self as a self-identical entity over time. Responsibility depends on the current self interpreting previous events, attributing them to itself and thereby committing itself for the future. (2004) .
Against the concept that objects are defined by their self-contained essence – “thing-in-themselves” – Husserl and Foucault claim they are defined by intersubjectivity or social institutions. I argue that biological and even physical (complex) systems can constitute the unity and meaning of objects.
Why should anyone be bound by cognitive norms, such as the norms of reason or mathematics? To become a mathematician is to learn to obey the norms of the mathematical community. A self becomes intentional by binding itself to communal norms. Only then can it have the freedom to think or make assertions about the community’s objects -- triangles or imaginary numbers, for example. Norms do not bind selves from the outside: being bound by norms is what constitutes a self.
Tomasello offers an evolutionary, palaeoanthropological account of the human origin of objects and objectivity. Husserl gives a phenomenological account of the constitution of objects by intersubjectivity. Comparing the two, I claim that Tomasello’s “naturalized” approach closely parallels Husserl’s transcendental approach.
Biological organisms, languages and selves are normative entities, so must be understood in terms of norms. Mechanistic understanding is based on causal necessity, but normative understanding relies on a grasp of the contingencies of evolution, history and personal experience.
A self is a temporal unity in which responsibility for past commitments modifies how the present world is experienced and evaluated. This structure is analogous (a) to biological evolutionary changes in perception and (b) to how changes in a computer program determine how it will respond in the future. Responsibility is not an add-on to a self, but the mode of its integration over time. (Presented at Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Conference, Narrative and Understanding Persons, University of Hertfordshire, UK, (...) 2005). (shrink)
Language defines human existence. Yet defining language is a fraught project. I use the term "language" to refer to a specific mode of information transfer. First, it is a communicative mode. By communication I mean the information transfer serves a function, that is, an activity that occurs because it has increased the evolutionary fitness of ancestors. Secondly, while all communication is governed by norms, human communication, as opposed to biological communication, is governed by norms that have evolved within the learned (...) traditions of individual cultures. The meaning of an assertion in a culture’s language is the set of commitments to which that culture holds its speakers when they utter that assertion. Syntax has appeared in recent evolution to facilitate and enrich the communicative function, but it is a secondary aspect of language. The defining characteristic of human communication, of "language," -- is its capacity to constitute meaning. (shrink)
The received Cognitive Science paradigm holds that the brain manipulates mental representations of reality. This position is problematic. My alternative to representationalism is that each organism lives in its own "world" made up of objects defined by reference to the organism’s perceptual systems. These objects act as supervenient causes on organisms without the mediation of mental representations. (1992).
Outline by Section: I. INTRODUCTION: METHOD OF PHENOMENOLOGY II. REDUCTION FROM DOGMAS III. EXAMPLES OF PHENOMENOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION OF A. SENTENCE B. MELODY C. DIAGRAM OF TIME IV. MODIFICATIONS AS MODES OF TEMPORAL STRUCTURE V. RETENTION VI. CONSTITUTION OF EXTERNAL TIME Time present and time past.
Kosgaard claims that selves/agents self-constitute during actions by relying on principles such as Kant’s Categorical Imperative. This intellectualist approach neglects the body. Merleau-Ponty considers the “lived body” and its perceptual world as the source of the unity of action, an approach that I extrapolate to all biological organisms.
Thought is not based on an image that is isomorphic to the object. Descartes, Husserl, Frege, Wittgenstein and Brandom progressively overcome this Aristotelian misconception of the intentionality of thinking.
The sameness and difference of entities depend on context or horizon and these horizons may be either synchronous or diachronic. Money and qualia are examples of identity within synchronic contexts. Music, biological functions, and cultural roles are defined by their diachronic horizons. The diachronic cultural and narrative contexts of selves are what makes them distinctively different.
Explanation is a human activity. Teleological, causal, and evolutionary explanations are all valid forms of responding to particular puzzlements. Reductionism incorrectly assumes there is one absolute explanation. While causal explanation appeals primarily to necessity, evolutionary explanation is based largely on contingency.
Jacobs, in Choosing Character, seems to assume that there are selves already capable of voluntary choice who then choose their character by developing habits. I argue that selves, choice, responsibility and character form a conceptual and practical hermeneutic circle, a whole without which selfhood makes no sense. There can be no selfhood prior to responsible character.
Outline by Section: INTRODUCTION HUSSERL'S TRANSCENDENTAL POSITION Brentano's Notion of Intentionality Frege's Notion of Sinn Husserl's Transcendental Position Intentional Relations are not Causal. Realism is Wrong, Objects must be Meaningful Psychological States are Empirical. Meanings cannot be In-Themselves, but always for an Ego SEARLE'S THEORY OF INTENTIONALITY CONFRONTATION OF SEARLE'S THEORY WITH THE FOUR THESES Searle Intentionalizes or Trivializes Causation Searle is still a Realist Visual Experience is a Thing-In-Itself Intentional States Presented as Stopping Points CONCLUSION.
My thesis is that modern neurological discoveries overthrow the classical dualism which assigns all the constitutive activity of perception to the mind and leaves the body a purely passive role. The paper is in four parts: first I will present the traditional theory, using Berkeley's concept of activity as the key; then I will summarize the relevant aspects of contemporary neurology; third, the incompatibility of these two approaches will be discussed; finally, I will propose that we must reject the materialistic (...) notion of the body and grant it a power of activity which was formerly held to be the monopoly of the mind. Throughout, I will take the spatialization of sensation as the prime example of a constitutive activity. (shrink)
My aim is to give an overview of what minds are and how they came to be. Minds are a product of billions of years of evolution so it is a daunting task to summarize this history in 45 minutes. My attempt will involve vast oversimplifications, highly speculative and condensed “just so” stories, and a great amount of hand waving. In particular, I will presuppose the theory of evolution and will not attempt to either explain it or justify it.
Intuition. Originally an alleged direct relation, analogous to visual seeing, between the mind and something abstract and so not accessible to the senses. What are intuited (which can be derivatively called 'intuitions') may be abstract objects, like numbers or properties, or certain truths regarded as not accessible to investigation through the senses or calculation; the mere short circuiting of such processes in 'bank managers intuition' would not count as intuition for philosophy. Kant talks of our intuiting space and time, in (...) a way which is direct and entirely free from any mediation by the intellect - but this must be distinguished from an alleged pure reception of 'raw data' from the senses; the intuiting is presupposed by, and so cannot depend upon, sensory experience. (shrink)