The First-Person Perspective and its Relation to Cognitive Science
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: Matthew Haug, editor, Philosophical Methods, pages 318–334. Routledge, London, 2014
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. I should have entitled this talk “The First-Person Perspective1 as a test case for Naturalism.” Naturalism, as I shall construe it here, is the philosophical claim that natural science is the exclusive arbiter of reality. Natural science is “objective” in that it regards reality from, as Thomas Nagel put it, “the view from nowhere.” Whatever a first-person perspective2 is, it decidedly is not a view from nowhere.
  2. So right off the bat, we have an apparent tension between the first-person perspective3 and the non-perspectival natural sciences. Dennett explicitly says that “all science is constructed from [the third-person] perspective.” (Dennett 1991, 71) I’ll join Dennett in saying that science is ‘third-personal’, although the real contrast is not between first- and third-person perspectives, but between a world with irreducible first-personal perspectives and a world without perspectives at all. Many naturalists, including Dennett, are unworried about the apparent tension between the first-person perspective4 and the natural sciences inasmuch as they think that the first-person perspective5 can be either reduced to third-personal terms or eliminated altogether.
  3. I hope to show that such philosophers are mistaken: the first-person perspective6 is neither eliminable nor reducible to non-first-personal elements. I intend to focus on a single datum that entails that there is a first-person perspective7 and to argue that none of several examples from cognitive science either eliminates or reduces the datum to third-person terms. Of course, this is not a conclusive argument against naturalism, but it does provide reason to suspect that scientific naturalism is not correct.
  4. Here is my plan: First, I’ll formulate the datum. Second, I’ll consider whether the Datum collapses at the outset. Third, I’ll look at some empirical literature from cognitive science and argue cognitive science neither eliminates the datum nor reduces it to the third person. Finally, I’ll give empirical and theoretical reasons not just to throw out the datum altogether.


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