Posted tagged ‘phenomenology’

Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind: like chocolate and strawberries?

March 23, 2008

I personally like both analytic and Continental philosophy, and am quite reluctant to identify myself as one or the other. This is the case for several reasons.

1. I find much to admire in the work of the major twentieth century phenomenologists. In fact, at this stage in my career, I find it much easier to identify myself as a phenomenologist than either an analytic or Continental philosopher.

2. That said, much of what makes phenomenology so interesting is that it can (and should) interface directly with philosophy of mind. If philosophy of mind is overly committed to a pernicious metaphysical naturalism, then phenomenology might be overly agnostic w/r/t ontology. Much of philosophy of mind is at work (and has been at work) on ‘solving’ the mind-body ‘problem.’ This strikes me, at least in part, as a somewhat naïve approach to the problem of meaning and has lead to two problematic conceptions of the mental: the mental as biological (neurophilosophy) and the mental as computational (functionalism). Much of philosophy of mind done in these two areas involves this basic train of reasoning: here is a way we can conceptualize the mind, e.g. a computer system or a biological system, now let us account for various mental phenomena in terms of this conceptualization. Thus, much of Consciousness Explained and Neurophilosophy consist of demonstrating how the mind is constantly being fooled into thinking that it is right and the ways in which this is much like how a computer works or a biological system. This seems to me to be the basic goals of these two approaches in philosophy of mind. This becomes even more problematic when neither approach has a particularly strong understand of the nature of the phenomena. For example Pat Churchland’s account of (if I remember correctly, this was at a talk) intentions was quite logical, but had little to do with the way that intentions are actually constituted. Before intentions can be explained in terms of biological structures (if they ever can be) surely it must be necessary to understand how intentions are experienced and not just their logical structure. This is precisely the kind of data that phenomenology is best at providing, so the possibility for dialogue is quite obvious

Ok, this has gotten way too long and I haven’t even gotten into what I think philosophy of mind can offer phenomenology.