Review of Istvan Aranyosi’s 'The Peripheral Mind'
Madary (Michael)
Source: The Journal of Mind and Behavior, forthcoming (as of June 2019)
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Much of the action and excitement in the philosophy of mind over the last couple of decades has been in a movement to look beyond the brain for locating and explaining mental states.
  2. This movement consists in a number of different claims. We have heard, for instance, that the mind extends into artifacts, and that the mind is brought forth or enacted or constituted by the active living body.
  3. In his recent book, The Peripheral Mind, István Aranyosi defends a neglected middle ground in the debate, a middle ground between the brain and the external world. Aranyosi urges that we take seriously the peripheral nervous system (PNS) in our investigation into the mind. More specifically, the main thesis of his book is as follows:
      “(PMH) Conscious mental states typically involved in sensory processes are partly constituted by subprocesses occurring at the level of the PNS.” (p. 22)
  4. I find the book overall to be thought-provoking, especially as it brings a fresh perspective on a number of issues in contemporary philosophy of mind, including semantic externalism and some issues in neuroethics. One attraction of the book is Aranyosi's ecumenical methodology; he draws from cultural anthropology, detailed neurophysiology, illusions of embodiment, continental phenomenology, thought experiments (Stinky Earth is my favorite of these), and even his own personal experiences, which are directly relevant.
  5. Due to the scope of the book, I must leave out quite a bit in my discussion. My focus will be on its main thesis, which is original and potentially relevant in a wide range of issues, as Aranyosi indicates. The central argument for the main thesis can be found in the 7th chapter of the book. As I explain below, I find the argument lacking.


For the full text of the penultimate draft, see Madary - Review of Istvan Aranyosi’s 'The Peripheral Mind'.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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