Persons and Psychological Systems
McInerney (Peter K.)
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 179-193
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Most contemporary philosophers conceive what is commonsensibly called a "mind" to be some type of psychological system supported by a neurological system. Token psychological features, such as individual perceptions, feelings, beliefs, desires, and emotions, are considered to be part of one psychological system because of the way they interact with other members of that system. Many philosophers have been attracted to the promise of interpreting the minds of persons as complex psychological systems and of applying the results to normative issues, but there has been little detailed analysis of the defining conditions of a personal psychological system.
  2. I will argue in this paper that personal psychological systems can be defined only to a limited degree of precision, and that this limitation prevents definitive answers to some important normative issues about persons. There can not be a complete, detailed definition of a personal psychological system that applies to real persons because of the conflicting tendencies that exist in people and the conflicting reflexive standards for people's mental functioning. Rational and romantic conceptions of a good life include partly conflicting ideals for mental functioning. Without a complete and detailed conception of the good life that can be shown to hold for all persons, there can not be a complete and detailed definition of a personal psychological system. Nevertheless, the degree to which psychological features are integrated into a personal psychological system can be defined to a degree that is informative about people and useful for many normative purposes.

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