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Title: Naturalising phenomenology : using phenomenology to close the explanatory gap
Author: Kiverstein, Julian D.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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The naturalist takes philosophy to be a discipline that is continuous with the natural sciences, while phenomenology defines itself by its opposition to such a view of philosophy. My thesis project argues that this opposition is unfounded. My thesis begins by introducing the phenomenologist’s conception of a subjective fact. I call a situation “a subjective fact” when it essentially involves a subject of experience. I go on to explain why phenomenologists thought the world we experience is a world of subjective facts. Naturalists hold that all facts are objective facts, and it is generally supposed that no fact can be both subjective and objective. I argue that it is the contrast between these two kinds of facts that led phenomenologists to conclude that a naturalistic theory of mind will have no place in it for subjective facts. A central claim in my thesis is that a fact can be both subjective and objective. I argue that a naturalist could accept the existence of subjective facts if s/he could admit the existence of situations that essentially involve relations to subjects of experience. A creature becomes a subject of experience, I claim, when it takes itself to be the owner of its experiences. Recent work in cognitive science suggests that perception should be understood as a temporally extended activity, which a creature engages in the course of exploring its environment. This activity draws on a rich body of knowledge as to how one’s sensory experiences change with the movements of one’s body. Possession of this kind of knowledge is constitutive of representing one’s body as the owner of one’s experiences. Any creature that has this knowledge will be a subject of experience. Naturalism can explain when a creature possesses this knowledge. Hence, naturalism can admit into its ontology subjects of experience. The phenomenologist says naturalism must exclude subjective facts with the result that our relation to the world gets misdescribed. I have argued that naturalists can admit subjective facts, thus opening up the possibility of a naturalised phenomenology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available