Contents

Vol. 15, No.12, December 2009

Refereed Paper

Steven Ravett Brown   abstract
Must Phenomenology Rest on Paradox? Implications of Methodology-Limited Theories
Mitchell Herschbach   abstract
False-Belief Understanding and the Phenomenological Critics of Folk Psychology

Opinion

Peter Munz   abstract
Why Homo Sapiens had to be Saved by Culture

Conference Commentary
full text

Donelson E. Dulany
How Well Are We Moving Toward a Most Productive Science of Consciousness? Tucson Conference, April 2008

Poetry
full text

John Herschel
Lizard at the University
Ed Subitzky
Mirage

Book Reviews
full text

Sophie R. Allen
Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind
Bill Faw
Talis Bachmann, Bruno Breitmeyer & Haluk Ogmen, Experimental Phenomena of Consciousness: A Brief Dictionary
Graham Dunstan Martin
Helmut Wautischer (ed.), Ontology of Consciousness: Percipient Action
Chris Nunn
Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, The Art of Dying
Sven Walter
John Baer, James C. Kaufman, and Roy F. Baumeister (eds.), Are We Free? Psychology and Free Will
Books Received

Annual Index

Index of Titles 2008
Index of Authors 2008

 


ABSTRACTS


Steven Ravett Brown

Must Phenomenology Rest on Paradox? Implications of Methodology-Limited Theories

Abstract: Husserlian phenomenology depends upon a particular and limited set of related methodologies, which assume not merely abilities and results on the part of phenomenologists which have been severely criticized, but more profoundly, that mental contents are atomistic and independently manipulable. I will show not only that this assumption is mistaken and that questioning it undermines traditional phenomenological method, but that it leads to a paradox when turned upon itself which forces the rejection of a purely Husserlian phenomenology. More generally, any theory whose data is confined to the results of particular and limited methodologies is by that fact unable to investigate those methodologies, and is thus at best only able to function in a severely restricted realm.

Correspondence: Steven Ravett Brown, Neurology Department, University of Rochester, c/o 14 Selden St. Rochester, NY 14605 USA. Email: digiravett@mac.com


Mitchell Herschbach

False-Belief Understanding and the Phenomenological Critics of Folk Psychology

Abstract: The dominant account of human social understanding is that we possess a ‘folk psychology’, that we understand and can interact with other people because we appreciate their mental states. Recently, however, philosophers from the phenomenological tradition have called into question the scope of the folk psychological account and argued for the importance of ‘online’, non-mentalistic forms of social understanding. In this paper I critically evaluate the arguments of these phenomenological critics, arguing that folk psychology plays a larger role in human social understanding than the critics suggest. First, I use standard false-belief tasks to spell out the commitments of the folk psychological picture. Next, I explicate the critics’ account in terms of Michael Wheeler’s distinction between online and offline intelligence. I then demonstrate the challenge that false-belief understanding — a paradigm case of mental state understanding — poses to the critics’ online, non-mentalistic account. Recent research on false-belief understanding illustrates that mental state understanding comes in both online and offline forms. This challenges the critics’ claim that our online social understanding does not require folk psychology.

Correspondence: Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive #0119, La Jolla, CA 92093-0119. Email: mherschb@ucsd.edu


Peter Munz

Why Homo Sapiens had to be Saved by Culture

The deficiencies of our brains are controlled by human cultures which define societies as Forms of Life inside which we can practice a language which is intelligible because of the communal context rather than because it is a picture of reality or a protocol of experiences. On the view of Wittgenstein's Tractatus we would have to remain silent about our somatic markers and the several cerebral registrations of one single object, because we would have to be silent about the things ‘whereof one cannot speak’. Language conceived as a mere protocol of experiences or an unadorned report of observations, would be helpless and useless when confronted by nothing more than separate neuronal registrations of the several properties and qualities of a chair or those somatic markers some of which Baudelaire called ‘a violent disturbance at the base of our brain’.

But language as it really is — a method of communication which depends on the context furnished by the community we are living in rather than on our individual ability to observe what that language is supposed to be referring to — is able to bind the disparate registrations together and provide a name for somatic markers so that they can be experienced as identifiable and articulated emotions. Forms of Life or cultures which give a distinct and recognisable shape to a human society, no matter how economically, cognitively and politically disadvantageous they are, allow us to continue life with a maladapted brain. Though this may not be the way the world ends, it is the way homo sapiens was rescued by culture.

The late Peter Munz contributed this essay to Liberty, Authority, Formality, ed. John Morrow & Jonathan Scott (Imprint Academic, 2008) and it is reprinted here by permission of the author’s widow.


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