Self and Subjectivity (Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy)

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Blackwell: I came across the Self and Subjectivity, edited by Atkins, only very recently. It seems to be from the Margaret D. It is not clear why Atkins chose this edition. It is on these that I should like to concentrate. Indeed, it is not clear what it could possibly mean.

Self and Subjectivity

His aim, however, is not to provide metaphysical foundations for physics or natural philosophy, in the sense of deriving a physical theory from metaphysical principles. He is not in the grip of a fantasy that reason unaided can give us knowledge of a world of corporeal objects. But mind and body, for Descartes, are not composed of anything; mind and body are substances, and substances cannot be composed of anything. They depend for their realisation or manifestation on the causal interaction with the body despite the fact that they are, strictly speaking, modes of the mind under the attribute of thought; they are not a third category as some commentators have suggested.

By Meditation VI, I know that I am embodied because of my immediate awareness or experience of my sensations, emotions, and so on; and I know it because my awareness presupposes the union, demonstrating the determinacy, unity, and integrity of person in its own right.

3 editions of this work

First, for Descartes the self has faculties which are inseparable from it, but it has no parts and consists of no parts. He does not separate either the senses or the imagination from reason, but merely distinguishes between them, even though they are not necessary to his clear and distinct conception of the self qua thinking being.

A person, for Descartes, is neither a disembodied ego nor a construct, but a substantial union of mind and human body.

Secondly, we can consider, for example, that perceptual experience tells me that the sun is a small disc on the sky about two hundred kilometres away from me; reason together with an understanding of physics and physical laws informs me of the true nature of the sun. Secondly, the proposition ego cogito, ergo sum, is not a conclusion either of any syllogistic reasoning, or of any other form of inference. Descartes rightly argues that it is a simple intuition, that is, a non-inferential proposition.

As I have argued else where see my , we need to distinguish between the order of discovery and the order of effective exposition, defence, or explanation. The Meditations follows the strict order of discovery. The self and subjectivity is not set over against the world or reality since the self is itself real; it is part of the world as there is nowhere else for it to be.

Why I am so very unFrench, and other essays

This is a misunderstanding. First, it makes no sense to talk about the cogito as either nonbodily, or as a thinking thing; the cogito is a proposition. Why is he not arguing the point? In other words, his commitments at that stage are epistemic, not metaphysical. He does not argue that he has a complete understanding, or an adequate idea, of anything, not even of the self qua thinking being. But that is not necessary, since his clear and distinct understanding of mind and his clear and distinct understanding of body are sufficient for understanding each as a complete thing, and a complete thing is a substance.

Hitler finds out that the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy is untenable.

First, of course we have conflicting beliefs or goals, but the reason that we are aware that they are conflicting is precisely because of the unity of thought. The conflicting beliefs or goals are a clear demonstration of the unity of thought, not a counter-argument to it. In other words, our entire system of reasoning and judging is grounded upon the unity of thought and the singularity of the self, without which it collapses.


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These are simply metaphors which Atkins rather peculiarly takes literally. Kant, nevertheless, concedes the knowability of the self from the standpoint of pure practical reason. Descartes, on the other hand, defends the unity of the self as both a thinking and a free active and responsible being epistemically and morally — an embodied person. Reason does not commit itself to transcendental idealism by imputing thinking and acting to the self something that Kant is committed to attributing to the self in the Critique of Pure Reason, given the activity demanded of the self in synthesising, judging, asserting, etc.

These issues are far too complex to be pursued further here; see my Causality remains unexplained, and has to be taken as a primitive concept; using notions such as power, impact, energy to explain causation leads us no further than the problem, since they are themselves causal notions.


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The appeal to counterfactual analyses of causality at best provides a criterion of how to identify causal interactions in contrast to constant conjunctions, but leaves the questions of causal explanation and of the nature of causality untouched. No attempt at an explanation over the last three hundred years has been cogent.

The central metaphysical question is whether we have a clear understanding of the nature of causality and hence a clear understanding of any causal interaction. As Descartes knew, vision requires physical processes [ At the same time, I seem to experience vision as a nonphysical phenomenon [ It does not mean bewildered, perplexed, or mistaken.

Stochastic equations through the eye of the physicist basic concepts, exact results and asymptotic

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Description of this Book Self and Subjectivity is a collection of seminal essays with commentary that traces the development of conceptions of 'self' and 'subjectivity' in European and Anglo-American philosophical traditions, including feminist scholarship, from Descartes to the present. Kim Atkins's gem-like introductions to each reading, together with the generosity and diversity of her selections, will make this an invaluable text for teachers across a range of disciplines. Bernstein, New School for Social Research Atkins's imaginative selection of texts from both analytic and continental thinkers -along with cogent samples of feminist, psychoanalytic, and postmodern theories of selfhood - places this work at the cutting edge of contemporary scholarship.

Richard Kearney, Boston College The extracts are wide-ranging and well-chosen; and Atkins's commentaries on her selections are informative, clear, and concise. This will be an extremely useful collection for both students and teachers of philosophy. This preview is indicative only. The content shown may differ from the edition of this book sold on Wheelers.

Being and Time, part 1: Why Heidegger matters Simon Critchley | Opinion | The Guardian

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