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Self and Self-consciousness: Aristotelian Ontology and Cartesian Duality
Tuesday 10 March, 2015
Dr. Andrea Christofidou’s article with this title was recently selected as one of the best articles published in the journal Philosophical Investigations since 1980. Below she explains to us what this article is about and the focus of her arguments.
I compare and contrast Aristotle’s conception of nous (a thinking mind) and Descartes’ conception of mind. Aristotle may not be a direct precursor of Descartes; nevertheless, I demonstrate that far from being diametrically opposed to Descartes’ view, or showing that Descartes’s conception of the mind is fundamentally mistaken, as is argued in contemporary discussions in the Philosophy of Mind, Aristotle’s conception is as much immaterialist about nous as is Descartes’. I argue that Aristotle’s notion of nous denotes what we (and Descartes) understand by what it is to be a self-conscious subject; what it is to be a person presupposes the true union of mind and the human body. I defend the irreducibility of mind and consciousness to the physical, including functional, neurobiological, and varieties of non-reductive physicalism even if they accept non-physical properties (a notion that is in fact unclear) to be irreducible. To argue, as is prevalent in contemporary enquiries, that we are a series of interconnected neurons firing, or of psychological states, or that we are physical particulars among physical particulars, is not only metaphysically flawed, it seems also to be an abdication of responsibility.