Although the concept of “selfish gene” has been all but scientifically abandoned, the basic concept of “survival” underlying it remains firmly entrenched in naturalistic narratives. This is a problem for this simple reason: it blocks us from increasing our understanding of (our) nature.
Part of the myth of survival is the myth that it is an inescapable consequence of going for a naturalistic narrative in the first place. That it is not is something Deleuze tells us based on a thorough reading of Hume (in his Empiricism and Subjectivity) where he says: “And, above all, Hume centers his critique on the theory of egoism.” The myth of survival is, of course, also the myth that, when push literally comes to shove, we choose based on self-interest. Hume was not Hobbes.
The other part of the myth of survival is that we need a unifying concept of life to which all else can be reduced. Survival seems to be the only concept that survives the struggle for narrating nature and culture alike. But, as Deleuze says, this falsifies both as: “Nature and culture form a complex. Hume refuses theories that reduce everything to nature (..) just like those reducing everything to nurture. The first, in forgetting culture, give a false impression of nature; the others, in forgetting nature, deform culture.”
The question then is: do we need the concept of survival at all? And if we do, what needs to be put alongside it such that we get a naturalism doing justice to all the facts (included those related to notions like solidarity, friendship, love, and self-sacrifice)?
“The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, is a book title ambitious enough to be suspect just on the face of its book cover. But what is philosophy if not over-ambitious science? The tragedy of Julian Jaynes maybe is that science has become nothing more than under-ambitious philosophy. His conjecture was one of Darwinian proportions: we are all schizophrenics who have learned to trust the voice()s in our heads to be our own. He then traveled the seven seas of ancient history to demonstrate how our forefathers, up to 1000 BC, literally heard the voices of Gods instructing them to write the books on which our society is still largely built. As a scientist he was looking for corroborating facts and he found them everywhere: in ancient texts and neurological neologisms like “bicameral”. By the time the book had made instant fame it was already infamous. Everybody debunked it, starting with the left/right brain hemisphere specialization underlying “bicameral” which as a scientific theory was as short lived as it is enduring in popular psychology books. Then historians picked the references of this psychologist self-taught as historian of all ancient cultures apart. D. Dennett and R. Dawkins quietly left the room of vocal supporters of the Jaynesian thesis and that was that. My plea is simple: don’t judge a book by its cover. Read beyond mere skepticism of the facts to discover the ambition of a true work of philosophy. You’ll discover inspiring beauty of thought. Enough said.
“Anomalous monism resembles materialism in its claim that all events are physical, but rejects the thesis that mental phenomena can be given purely physical explanations.” D. Davidson, Essays on Actions and Events, Clarendon Press, 2001, p. 214.
The lack of clarity in philosophy of mind is a lack of clarity of its terms. That lack of clarity of terms is, in its turn, nothing else than a lack of terms. There was a time the discussion was about mind/body dualism whilst most recent scientific writing is, implicitly at least, based on the identity of brain and mind. It’s all a blur and no matter how many tokens of supervenience or emergency types are exchanged, it remains a blur of bodies, minds and brains. The classical solution to this lack of terms is to index terms like consciousness1 or prefix them with an adjective like ‘basic’ mind or some such. This is then a temporary definition just good enough to make a local argument without risking to enter into holistic arguments. Good for publishing but bad for discussion.
I have always thought that Davidson’s anomalous monism was a basis for getting out of this black hole of terminological unclarity. It has the strength of common sense: there are no extra-natural things but mental descriptions of natural things aren’t something purely physically determined either. The thing is this: anomalous monism of what? Of the mental and the physical, sure, but what about the brain and its mind.
Let me repeat that: what about the brain and ‘its‘ mind? That the mind is ‘of’ the brain would not startle many if I had not also italicized it (and – to play it safe – put it in scare quotes too). Well, if the mind is of the brain I think we don’t have enough anomalousness and still too much monism. Since the mental indeed doesn’t allow itself to be reduced to the physical, this leads to minds1 and minds2 and hence right back into the muddy waters of going mental at or talking past each other.
So I made a picture to try to put the mind right back where it belongs: very much outside the brain. So far out that the mind does not have a location at all, which seems to me rather in tune with the anomalousness of the mental.
Here goes the not so short explanation: Continue reading
Posted in Davidson
Tagged autism, cultural optimism, Darwin, Davidson, Dawkins, Gibson, identity, Julian Jaynes, Levinas, mind-mind dualism, quadrialectics, schizophrenia, self, tones, Un PoCo PoMo