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Psychological phenomena and first-person perspectives: critical discussions of some arguments in philosophy of mind
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Philosophy and Linguistics.
1999 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The topic of this thesis is how different phenomena, commonly regarded as "psychological" or "mental", are or can be apprehended in the first person. The aim is to show that a number of influential texts of contemporary philosophy display a particular type of oversight on this topic. The texts in question display, I argue, an insufficient appreciation of the case for holding that "non-qualitative" psychological phenomena are apprehended in an exclusive way in the first person.

To make this case, I begin by isolating a limited class of phenomena. The class, which is called the class of 'occurrent psychological doings', includes performances such as searching for a flower and adding two numbers. In chapter 2, I submit a case for holding that it is logically necessary that if an agent is performing an occurrent psychological doing, then he has a certain apprehension of what he is doing. This claim is called The First-Person Thesis'.

In chapter 3, I submit a case for holding that the type of apprehension mentioned in The First-Person Thesis is logically exclusive: it is an apprehension which an agent who is doing so-and-so can have of the fact that he is doing so-and-so but which it is logically impossible for someone else to have of this fact. This claim is called 'The Exclusiveness Thesis'.

In chapters 4 and 5, the two theses are used in critical discussions of some influential texts of contemporary philosophy. In chapter 4,1 examine two arguments of Wittgenstein's to the effect that one may perform some selected actions without having a particular type of "experience", or "sensation". I try to show that these arguments, while valid, have rather limited implications. I use The First-Person Thesis to illustrate the limited scope of these implications. I then try to show that the limited significance of the arguments has often been obscured by commentators of Wittgenstein.

In chapter 5, I examine a position commonly held in contemporary philosophy of mind, and often associated with Nagel. The position is that "qualitative" phenomena such as perceptual experiences and bodily sensations are, because of the appearances they present in the first person, particularly difficult to explain in physical terms. An implication of this view is the claim that other phenomena do not present appearances to subjects in the allegedly problematic way that "qualitative" phenomena do. The First-Person Thesis and The Exclusiveness Thesis are used to argue that this position, as exemplified in the writings of McGinn and Chalmers, involve controversial assumptions for which insufficient justification is provided.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå :: Umeå universitet , 1999. , 203 p.
Umeå studies in the humanities, ISSN 0345-0155 ; 147
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-66616ISBN: 91-7191-604-0OAI: diva2:608913
Public defence
1999-05-07, Humanisthuset, hörsal F, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15
Available from: 2013-03-01 Created: 2013-02-26 Last updated: 2013-03-01Bibliographically approved

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