Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

I. Aranyosi, The Peripheral Mind, forthcoming at OUP

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An excerpt from the preface:

My approach in this monograph could easily be classified as part of the currently burgeoning “embodied mind” school or trend in contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Where it differs from most other works in this field is, I would say, in that (a) it offers a somewhat more focused view of embodiment via offering a conceptual role to the PNS as such in analyzing mental phenomena rather than keeping the discourse at the level of notions like “body” or “action”, (b) it interprets the idea of the embodied mind not as most other philosophers, namely, representationally, as the body in the mind , but literally, namely, the mind as truly distributed over the body (in this sense, viz. of distinguishing it from most other popular approaches, I would rather call my approach “enminded body” than “embodied mind”), and (c) it relies a lot more on first-personal, phenomenological reflection when evaluating various theories about how things stand with the mind, without ending up in purely a priori conceptual analysis, but taking a lot of inspiration from empirical science (almost exclusively from neuroscience). Although most arguments I offer, and even the problems I raise in the book are, to my knowledge, new, the general points enumerated above, (a) to (c) are not totally absent from the current literature. I would especially like to express my intellectual debt to Shaun Gallagher’s work, whose methodology and general approach to various issues was a great inspiration, even if the particular issues and debates he has been involved with are not present in this work.

(cover design: I. Aranyosi, own body PET scan)

The four parts of the book seemed natural to me as a way to try to account for and develop the idea of the enminded body. The first part deals with more general and a priori issues, like how to formulate the hypothesis of the book, how to think of the phenomenal mind in a neuroscientic, reductionist manner, and how the Peripheral Mind hypothesis can offer elegant solutions to some philosophical problems that need a priori reasoning. The second part discusses the boundaries of the mind, namely it argues against two types of externalism, Putnamian semantic externalism and the Extended Mind hypothesis of Chalmers and Clark. The originality of this part consist, in my view, in that at the end of the day both views get refined and clarified as a result of my discussion, even though I ultimately reject them. The third part is what I take as the most important and “meaty”, namely an analysis of tactile and proprioceptive phenomena, heavily supported by empirical material and offering some novel arguments for taking peripheral nervous processes as constitutive of mental states rather than merely causal contributors to their existence. Finally, in the last part I discuss some general issues related to the emerging field of neuroethics, as well as two particular problems which seem to me to require reflection about the PNS, the problem of moral acceptability of abortion and the problem of moral acceptability of fulfilling physiologically healthy patient’s requests for amputation or other functionally disruptive medical interventions.

István Aranyosi,

July 22, 2012, Ankara

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