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Resources is the book format of a themed issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, the theme being 'to what extent can the
current discussion of consciousness in mainstream cognitive science and
analytical philosophy of mind benefit from the resources found in the Kantian
and post-Kantian tradition, in phenomenology and in hermeneutics'
(Introduction, v). Perhaps
unsurprisingly, the univocal answer in this collection of papers is that these
'mainstream' analytic discussions stand to benefit quite a lot from a bit of
Continental wisdom, although the relationship isn't entirely one-sided.
Dan Zahavi's introductory chapter 'The Study of
Consciousness and the Reinvention of the Wheel' serves as a suitable opening
for the pages ahead, giving a brief summary of each article after reminding us
that even the most reductive naturalist still needs an account of what it is he
is trying to reduce, and listing a few of the most pressing questions for
anyone attempting to form one.
In 'Kant, Cognitive Science
and Contemporary neo-Kantianism' Andrew Brook argues that some of the most
characteristic elements of Kant's model of the mind have been taken up by
cognitive science, in particular self-consciousness without
self-representation, the unity of consciousness and modeling the mind as a
complex set of functions which synthesize sensory inputs and concepts. These
themes are held to be present in Shoemaker, Perry and Strawson, but most of the
discussion of contemporary thinkers is given to neo-Kantians Quassim Cassam and
Susan Hurley, though Brooks' criticisms essentially amount to the complaint
that they aren't Kantian enough.
Arne Grøn's article 'The Embodied Self' makes a
convincing case for looking to Kierkegaard to solve a problem for the
increasingly popular 'embodied, embedded' approach to cognition: given that we
are necessarily both physically embodied, and embedded in a social context
which scaffolds or even constitutes part of our thought, what is it to be a
human being, to be a 'self'? Kierkegaard's post-Hegelian approach, according to
which the human mind is a synthesis of psyche and body which 'exteriorizes'
itself through personal history and language, bears more than passing
resemblance to recent work on embodiment, and the answer Grøn derives from him is in essence fairly
simple. Selfhood lies in the process of a relation relating itself to itself;
it contains a certain duality in that to be a person, a self, is not only to be
what you are, but to relate to yourself as well. Thus we are neither substances
or 'inner centers', and our own embodiment and finite history in the world is
both inevitable and an automatic matter of concern for us. Although relatively
simple to state, this formulation is likely to be deeply obscure to many
analytic philosophers and cognitive scientists, but is at least suggestive of
an account of selfhood which is both in principle compatible with embodied
cognition and quite radically different from most work in the area.
'Self-deception, Consciousness and Value' argues that Nietzsche's concept of
ressentiment -- a conscious but unacknowledged self-deception about one's own
values - cannot be accommodated by current theories of self-deception, and so
should be reformulated to be closer in spirit to Sartrean bad faith. As such,
ressentiment is dependent upon a pre-reflective recognition of the values it is
concerned with, and Poellner argues it no longer supports Nietzsche's critical
claim that moral values as obligations to others are based on ressentiment.
Thus despite the general theme of applying resources from continental
traditions to analytic debates this chapter does exactly the converse, to
surprisingly good effect.
In 'Back to Brentano?' Dan
Zahavi observes the recent rediscovery of Franz Brentano's philosophy, and
questions whether it can be put to use in providing an alternative to
higher-order theories of consciousness. These theories hold that the
consciousness of a mental state consists in another thought or perception being
directed towards that state, but as Zahavi argues lack plausibility when
applied to first-personal self-reference. Brentano advocated a one-level theory
of consciousness according to which all intentional, i.e. object-directed,
thoughts are also at the same time directed towards oneself in a secondary,
'oblique' mode. But this account is well-known to equivocate over whether this
secondary mode takes a distinct object from the primary mode, and so it is
questionable whether it really is one-level or not. Zahavi argues forcefully
that less equivocal one-level theories have been advanced by Husserl, Heidegger
and Sartre, so although we need to go back to work rooted in Brentano's
thought, as far as Brentano himself is a step too far.
article 'Representationalism and Beyond' advances a phenomenological critique
of Thomas Metzinger's self-model theory of first-person perspective, which
opens with neat summaries of some differences between cognitive science and
phenomenology, and the inability of a strongly naturalist position to question
its own assumptions. Unfortunately, the discussion of Metzinger's theory is
less well presented, with the initial formulation somewhat unclear and several
important details only introduced late in the discussion. Rightly or wrongly,
this gives the impression that Metzinger isn't being represented fairly, and
detracts from the otherwise quite promising criticisms made.
John Drummond's subtle and
insightful ''Cognitive Impenetrability' and the Complex Intentionality of the
Emotions' seeks to supplement and so develop Peter Goldie's recent theory of
emotions by drawing on Husserlian phenomenology, and does so admirably. He
characterises emotional experiences as being due to a complex interplay of
pre-reflective bodily feelings, apprehension of those feelings as likeable or
dislikeable, and an object-oriented 'condition' such as joy or fear. According
to this framework puzzling 'cognitively impenetrable' emotions - ones which are
rational but disproportionate or inappropriate - derive their force from
previous experience (such as of a traumatic event) retained in current
consciousness, but are inappropriate insofar as they are not warranted by the
later experience which triggers them.
Louis Sass' 'Affectivity in
Schizophrenia' develops phenomenological accounts of the principal kinds of
schizophrenic experience and attempts to show that each is compatible with a
diminished emotionality and preserved affective but non-emotional responses.
Descriptively, the accounts provided are plausible, although brief, although
the suggestion made that phenomenology may actually explain these schizophrenic
anomalies is rather less so.
In 'Belief and Pathology of
Self-Awareness' Josef Parnas contributes to the classification of delusions by
questioning the almost ubiquitous assumption in cognitive science that they
arise from false beliefs, contrasting 'empirical' delusions which appear to fit
this form with 'autistic-solipsistic' delusions which are metaphorical reports
of altered structures of experience. The former, he claims, apply particularly
in cases of paranoia, the latter in schizophrenia.
'Hermeneutics and the Cognitive Sciences' presents a broad overview of these
two disciplines, and argues that there are clear cases where they interface and
can valuably contribute to each other: understanding everyday objects by
employing schemas and prototypes, relating computational models to ill-defined
or heavily contextualised activities, and interpersonal understanding. Although
these examples emphasise most strongly how hermeneutics can contribute to
cognitive science, Gallagher also illustrates how the converse is true in
discussing the influence of empirical research on mirror neurons on his own
interaction theory of interpersonal understanding. As such, this chapter is
perhaps the most accessible to those with a limited knowledge of phenomenology
Lastly, Dieter Teichert's
'Narrative, Identity and the Self' compares Ricoeur's concept of narrative
personal identity and Dennett's narrative self as a center of gravity, and
argues well for the slightly surprising conclusion that the two are largely
compatible in the sense of not being directly contradictory, at least until
applied to the realms of social interaction and ethics. As such, it seems odd
to say that they really are compatible at all, but the point remains that these
two philosophers are less distant than they might superficially appear.
All of the chapters are at
least suggestive of ways in which resources from the so-called continental
traditions can be applied to debates in analytic philosophy of mind and the
cognitive sciences, although only Grøn's
and Drummond's contributions achieve the depth of discussion necessary to be
actually illustrative of this claim. Nevertheless, the contents of this volume
achieve well their intended aim, to serve as 'appetizers' (Introduction, v) to these traditions and the ways they
can be drawn on.
© 2005 Richard
Blacquiere-Clarkson is writing a Ph.D. dissertation in Philosophy, titled
" The Metaphysics of Mental Representation' at Durham University, UK.