This blog started as a requirement for an English course called Rhetorical Criticisms–a study of the methods, techniques, effect, and practical usage of persuasive language, whether intentional or subliminal–and has since evolved to touch on topics ranging from ancient rhetoric, to Italian neorealist film, to writing & tutoring, and will now be taking on the most difficult philosophical topic I’ve yet to encounter.
I apologize if you followed this blog because you liked the content more than you like my lovely, personal style, since I change topics of study every four months. I’m actually terribly surprised every time someone ‘likes’ a post or subscribes, and now that I have people reading my rants who aren’t obligated by familial ties, I feel compelled to reach out to my current readers and ask:
Are there any specific topics or categories that you, my dear reader(s), would like to see more of my thoughts and words on? If so, let me know! Your word is my command.
If not, then I will continue the trend and now turn my musings towards a branch of philosophy that many consider to be useless navel-gazing: the philosophy of mind.
Over the past year, I have become increasingly interested in the structure of things unseen, predominantly the question of spirit, soul, mind, self. It started with a Women and Religion course, which introduced me to eastern faith traditions (Hinduism and Buddhism) who entertain notions of self, soul, and personhood that are vastly different that those described in much of Western literature, at least at the linguistic level. From faith I turned to physical practices like meditation and sound healing, then briefly skimmed through some neuroscience literature, before arriving at Philosophy of Mind, the study of the consciousness.
At first introduction to this specific philosophy I found a problem–well, several problems–but my main concern was this: philosophy of the mind is a rationalistic approach to explaining, or finding ‘evidence’ of a solution to, problems others solve with religion and evolution. How can we, a scientific, Western culture, apply our method of rationalization to something** that seems to defy rationality?
**”Something” being that humans have some sort of consciousness elevated above all other creates on Earth. We are more self-aware and yet we can’t really agree on an explanation of why and how.
Lastly, if we can’t find answers solely through the use of logic and reasoning, then why even discuss the idea at all?
While reading Jaegwon Kim‘s Philosophy of Mind and David Chalmers’ anthology, I notice a trend in style and structure that drives me absolutely nuts. All of the four rhetors whose work I’ve read so far take 3 pages of writing to say 1 page-worth of information. The nearly-stream-of-conscious essays go from example to long example to long convoluted example as if repetition leads to truth. The more I read, the more I believe that reliance on language as a source of truth, over-categorization, and excessive labeling lures these philosophers into traps of their own creation. (More on this later.)
I’ll bear with them best I can in order to post the diluted versions of their beliefs here; I hope that an organized history of the discussion on human consciousness will lead to a clearer understanding of the greater significance of the philosophy. However, I fully expect to divert my attention to the places where minded philosophy runs up against philology, theology, and neuroscience, since, to my mind, it’s impossible to discuss the meaning of consciousness, the properties of minds, or the relationship between mind and body without acknowledging related studies.
I concede that my knowledge is both limited and rudimentary, and I hope I can find another author or body of work that can convince me of the essential nature of minded philosophy. Hopefully, throughout my blogventure into the immaterial mind (or is it material so small we can’t see, measure, or sense it?) I can work myself around to a belief that makes sense to me.