Tag Archives: alternative history

CFP – Alternative History of Philosophy

4 Jan

How depressing is this? I wrote the abstract below thinking I could submit it to CUNY’s Minding the Body conference, only to learn that the conference was closed to non-students. As a non-affiliated type of person, I’m running out of time to gain entree to the journals of our age. So I figure what the hell, I’ll post it here.

Come to think of it, if you have a philosophy paper that’s been rejected, you could post it here too. I can’t guarantee that I’ll keep it forever and it certainly won’t be peer-reviewed, but well…why not? (Please no defamations)….

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Double Trouble: The Case for Coincident Entities

David Lindsay

According to a tradition dating to Locke, the problem of coincident entities, or too many thinkers, arises when trying to establish coherence between persons and proper parts. I argue here in favor of coincident entities and consider the implications for philosophy writ large.

A strong objection to too many thinkers rests on experience: If I feel pain, how can it even be made comprehensible that some other entity feels it as well? The most appropriate way to respond to this objection, I suggest, is not with imaginary scenarios or neuroscience but with experience itself. To this end, I enlist evidence provided by the Alexander Technique (AT), a kinesthetic procedure originally developed to address the inability to will certain ordinary actions even in the face of concerted efforts.

Admittedly, this choice leaves me open to charges of heresy, since the AT literature explicitly emphasizes the unity of mind and body. Historically, however, advocates of AT have had to defend a novel thesis of supervenience against an unspecified brand of dualism, with the puzzle of two modes of supervenience falling by the wayside. The oversight, I hold, is not trivial. As both described and practiced, AT follows from the recognition that my ability to coordinate my physical actions is inferior to some other ability for which I can give no report. Moreover, I never gain direct access to this ability but rather learn to refine a formal set of internal instructions designed to minimize interference with it.

Since the too many thinkers problem arises from logical consideration and the suggestion of it is borne out empirically, I maintain that it is reasonable to suppose that consciousness is not unified — that a mental state (to take the unity thesis of Bayne and Chalmers) can constitutionally fail to be subsumed. This outcome is not too high a price to pay, I argue, because it can be shown to resolve other difficulties. On the view of a constitutionally failing subsumption, for example, there is no longer much likelihood of confusing the two thinkers, as Olson has objected. The foregoing also lays the grounds for resolving the problem of other minds, for the simple reason that one can demonstrate the existence of another mind inside one’s own body and take a meaningful attitude toward it. Indeed, if it is simply a fact that minds overcrowd matter, it should be possible to evaluate broader instances of co-location (say, a home, or an economy) according to a generalized criterion.

As a tentative step in this direction, I recast the AT procedures of inhibition and direction in terms of set theory, which not only renders the occurrence of coincident entities intelligible in terms of kind, place and discernment but also bids fair to increase our knowledge of their capacities and composition.