Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind
Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Inside Cover Blurb

  1. Mind In Action presents a historically oriented approach to the traditional problems of the philosophy of mind. Descriptive rather than reconstructive, contextualized rather than idealized, these wide-ranging essays analyze the layered complexities of psychology and action that are often ignored in epistemologically oriented characterizations of the mind’s rational activities.
  2. The book is divided into four sections. The essays in "Persons and Personae" trace some of the historical changes in the functions of the philosophical conceptions of persons, placing them in the particular and largely practical contexts in which they arise.
  3. The sections on "Psychological Activities" and “The Wayward Mind" expand Rorty’s analysis of intellectual attitudes and emotions: they demystify the traditional problems of self-deception and the weakness of will. Instead of treating such psychological activities as fearing or imagining as if they were mental states, for example, she proposes to treat them as socially formed processes or activities. Her contextualized investigation looks at the different ways that cognition can serve or be directed by non-epistemic functions.
  4. Arguing that ethics without psychology is science fiction, the final section. “Community as the Context of Character" works out the ethical implications of Rorty’s contextual account. It is only as members of a reflective community that individuals can be addressed by moral theory and it is only by distinguishing contexts that disputes about primary virtues can be resolved. Through her astute understanding of psychology and history. Rorty shows that the distinction between the moral and nonmoral worlds cannot be as sharply drawn as has been thought. Her attention to political and practical problems will do much to revise our understanding of virtue.

BOOK COMMENT:

Beacon Press, Boston, 1988. Hardback.



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Adaptivity and Self-Knowledge"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Akrasia and Conflict"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Characters, Persons, Selves, Individuals"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - The Identities of Persons, 1976


Author’s Introduction
  1. The concept of a person1 is not a concept that stands still, hospitably awaiting an analysis of its necessary and sufficient conditions. Our vocabulary for describing persons, their powers, limitations, and alliances is a very rich one. By attending to the nuances of that vocabulary we can preserve the distinctions that are often lost in the excess of zeal that is philosophic lust in action: abducting a concept from its natural home, finding conditions that explain the possibility of any concept in that area, and then legislating that the general conditions be treated as the core essential analysis of each of the variants. Such legislation — enshrining general and necessary preconditions as essential paradigms — is tantamount to arbitrary rule. We have not furnished an argument that socially defined entities such as nations, families, and persons, varying culturally and historically in their extensions and the criteria for their differentiation, have a place in a tidy taxonomic tree, neatly defined by genera, species, and varieties. Nor could such a proof be constructed, because there is not one to be had. Because the definitions of such entities change historically, forced by changes in social conditions and in answer to one another’s weighty inconsistencies, there are layers and accretions of usages that can neither be forced into a taxonomy nor be safely amputated.
  2. “Heroes,” “characters,” “protagonists,” “actors,” “agents,” “persons2,” “souls,” “selves,” “figures,” “individuals” are all distinguishable. Each inhabits a different space in fiction and in society. Some current controversies about criteria for personal identity, for characterizing and reidentifying human individuals, are impasses because the parties in the dispute have each selected distinct strands in a concept that has undergone dramatic historical changes; each has tried to make his strand serve as the central continuous thread. But criteria for reidentifying characters are different from those for reidentifying figures, and both differ from the criteria that identify selves or individuals. The concept of a person is but one in the area for which it has been used as a general class name. There is good reason for this; but we cannot understand that reason until we trace the historical sequence. The explanation of the recent concentration on the criteria for personal identity, rather than character identity or individual identity, is not that it is logically prior to the other concepts in that area, but that it affords a certain perspective on human agency. Before we can see what has seemed central about personal identity, we must trace the history of the notion.
  3. Characters are delineated; their traits are sketched; they are not presumed to be strictly unified. They appear in novels by Dickens, not those by Kafka. Figures appear in cautionary tales, exemplary novels and hagiography. They present narratives of types of lives to be imitated. Selves are possessors of their properties. Individuals are centers of integrity; their rights are inalienable. Presences are descendants of souls; they are evoked rather than represented, to be found in novels by Dostoyevsky, not those by Jane Austen. The effects of each of these on us and our political uses of their various structures differ radically. Indeed, we are different entities as we conceive ourselves enlightened by these various views. Our powers of actions are different, our relations to one another, our properties and proprieties, our characteristic successes and defeats, our conceptions of society’s proper strictures and freedoms will vary with our conceptions of ourselves as characters, persons, selves, individuals.
  4. I want to give a skeleton outline of some of the intellectual, emotional, and social spaces in which each of these move and have their being, to depict their structures, their tonalities and functions. I shall perforce use the expressions “person” and “individual” neutrally, to designate the entire class of expressions that refer to the entities we have invented ourselves to be, but I shall argue that this usage does not reflect the ontological or the logical priority of those concepts.


COMMENT: Also in "Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind"




In-Page Footnotes ("Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Characters, Persons, Selves, Individuals")

Footnote 2:
  • The 3-page discussion of Persons will probably be the most helpful on that topic.



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Explaining Emotions"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Fearing Death"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Imagination and Power"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Jealousy, Attention, and Loss"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Mind in Action, Action in Context"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Persons and Personae"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind


Author’s Introduction
  1. Controversies about personal identity have been magnified by the fact that there are a number of distinct questions at issue, questions that have not always been clearly distinguished from one another. Parties to the dispute have differed, often without arguing the case, about which questions are centrally interesting. Some have concentrated on analyses of class differentiation, distinguishing persons from computers, apes, fetuses, corporations. Others have been primarily interested in criteria tor individuation and differentiation. Still others have been interested in the criteria for reidentifying the same individual in different contexts, under different descriptions, or at different times. Most philosophers who have been concerned with individual reidentification analyze conditions for temporal reidentification, trying to define conditions for distinguishing successive stages of a single continuing person from stages of a successor or descendant person. Yet others have been primarily interested in individual identification: What sorts of characteristics are essential to the identity of the person, so that if those characteristics were changed, she would be a significantly different person, though she might still be differentiated and reidentified as the same individual? Defining the conditions for individual identification does not reduce to specifying conditions for reidentification because the characteristics that distinguish or reidentify persons (e.g., fingerprints, DNA codes, or memories) may not be thought by the individual herself or by her society to determine her real identity. For instance, an individual might be re-identifiable by the memory criterion but not identifiable as the same person, because all that she considers essential to her identity has changed: her principles and preference rankings are different, her tastes, plans, hopes, and fears. She remembers her old principles of choice well enough and so, by the memory criterion, might consider herself the same old person; but by grace or re-education she can be counted on to choose and act in a new way. Though all these questions are distinguishable, and though a philosopher may legitimately be interested in one without being forced to treat them all, a particular sort of solution to one problem will certainly influence, though probably not dictate, a solution to the others.
  2. Behind these differences in emphases and interests, there are differences about whether we should concentrate on conditions for strict identity (with the consequence that a biological individual may not remain the same person throughout a lifetime), on conditions of loose typic identity (with the consequence that conditions for identity and conditions for individuation become distinct), or on conditions assuring continuity or survival (with the consequence that the conditions for significant continuity or survival still require to be specified).
  3. Also at issue are methodological disagreements about what is involved in giving a criterial analysis. Some of the debates have only incidentally been about personal identity; they have been primarily about whether criteria for identity should provide necessary and sufficient conditions, prepared to meet and resist any- possible counterexamples. If we look for necessary and sufficient conditions, puzzle and problem cases loom large in the discussion, as possible counterexamples to the analyses. Consider the problems that arise from Shoemaker’s Lockean transplant case: Brown’s brain is put in Robinson’s head, with the results that Brownson, the fellow with Brown’s brain in (the rest of) Robinson’s body remembers Brown’s experience, identifies Brown’s body as “his,” expresses Brown’s tastes and preferences. To give the question “Who is who?” some force, we might ask who goes home to which wife (“Do you love me for myself alone, or for my beautiful body?”). And if one of them committed a crime, who goes to jail?
  4. Those who are skeptical about the utility of giving analyses of logically necessary conditions see the Brownson case as presenting an interesting curiosity, a fringe case of personal identity. They hold that the strategic conclusions to which we are forced in extremities should not be taken to reveal the workings of these concepts in their standard uses. For them, the real point of such thought experiments is to untangle the various strands in our conceptions, to show that although they normally support one another, they are independent, and can sometimes pull apart.
  5. Thought experiments of this kind are always under-described: Suppose that Robinson limps painfully. Won’t Brown’s passion for dancing the flamenco be affected by the discomfort of expressing it in Robinson’s hulking, lumbering body? Suppose Robinson’s body suffers from an overproduction of adrenalin: will Brownson’s memories take on an irascible tone? ….


COMMENT: Also in "Gill (Christopher) - The Person and the Human Mind: issues in ancient and modern philosophy".



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Persons, Policies, and Bodies"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind


Author’s Introduction
  1. According to one tradition, persons are distinguished from their nearest neighbors — robots, corpses, clever chimpanzees — by the capacities required for rational agency. An extension of this view distinguishes individual persons from one another by the policies that guide their choices. The origins of this concept of persons lie in the social practices that require us to assign responsibility and to determine liability: we identify one another by characteristics that determine what we can expect from one another. But legal and social systems differ in the ways they demarcate distinct persons and in the criteria they use to determine the grounds for liability. For instance, liability and responsibility may rest with families or clans, or a chief may be treated as the embodiment of a tribe. A biological individual may be considered to be composed of, or hospitable to possession by, distinguishable persons.
  2. Characteristically, defenders of the theory that persons are rational agents (PRAT) find that they must treat persons as conceptually distinct from human beings and from selves as subjects of experience. Though PRAT begins with a set of social practices that are taken as definitive, analysis produces a term of art, with distinctions that may be finer, more rigid, or more extensive than those associated with the original. For those who hold the accepted and familiar view that persons are biological individuals, talk of individuals as compounded or discomposed persons is at best metaphorical. If such talk is taken literally, it must be mistaken; in any case, it is argued to presuppose a more fundamental view that identifies persons with biological individuals (the ’one person / one body’ view).
  3. I want to examine the consequences that follow from taking the capacities for rationality as the criteria for defining personal identity.
    1. In part I, I shall ignore the variants of PRAT, and trace its assumptions about the extent to which the needs and desires of persons form a consistent system. I shall argue that if the mark of a person is that he have a consistent rational policy, then the class of persons will not coincide with the class of individual human beings.
    2. In part II, I argue that paradigmatic and parasitic cases of persons cannot be distinguished without a program: the concept of persons is rooted in the beliefs and practices that define the actions of biological organisms of a complex sort. The analysis of the criteria for personal identity is vacuous without an account of the various functions that the concept plays in social life and in scientific theories.
    3. Finally, in part III, I discuss some of the political and psychological consequences of the views I have defended.



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - The Deceptive Self: Liars, Layers, and Lairs"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - The Historicity of Psychological Attitudes: Love in Not Love Which Alters Not When It Alteration Finds"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - The Transformation of Persons"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind


Author’s Introduction
  1. In the Odyssey, Menelaus tells Telemachus as much as he knows of Odysseus’s wanderings. He reports that Odysseus, wanting to learn the end of his travels and needing directions for returning safely home through the dangerous seas, captured Proteus and held fast to him, though Proteus transformed himself into a bearded lion, a snake, a leopard, a bear, running water, and finally into a flowering tree. Proteus eventually wearied, and consented to tell Odysseus something of what he wished to know.
  2. Presumably Proteus remained himself throughout these transformations; he may have chosen them; certainly his knowledge remained unaffected. Since Odysseus held fast to him throughout, the physical changes were apparently changes in a material object remaining in roughly the same place. But there are also tales of divinities who disappear in one place and reappear, in a different form, in a different place. Unless we invent spiritual or nonmaterial bodies to support these changes, the personal identity of such divinities rests on the continuity of their psychological properties.
  3. But such radical physical changes are precisely the sorts of transformations that occur to divinities or fictional heroes. It is, after all, built into our conceptions of divinities and heroes that they are exactly the sorts of beings whose activities cannot be explained in the usual ways. King Arthur shades away from history and into legend at just that point where he is regarded as capable of the sorts of transformations that we cannot ourselves perform, transformations that do not fall within the canon of our explanations of the normal changes of embryos to infants, infants to adolescents, and so on, with graceful stopping places, to senility and the grave. The fictions in which the careers of divinities and heroes are told grasp minimal threads of plausibility by such phrases as “scientists somehow transplanted," suggesting that an explanation hovers in the wings; but that explanation stays in the wings, and there is a stop to our prying.
  4. Under what circumstances might we imagine that an ordinary human being could undergo Protean changes and remain the same individual human person? If Omega Whirlpool, a very ordinary fellow, who has never been known to do anything the slightest bit unusual, one day disappeared without the aid of a mad scientist, and, exactly where he had been, drinking tea, there appeared the body of his cousin Anemone, complete with what seemed to be Omega’s memories and character traits, we wouldn’t (to put it mildly) know what to say. It is not, I think, logically impossible to imagine such changes; but by the time we have filled in the details of what might be required to make sense of them, we shall have diminished the dramatic power of the examples, and brought back into play the familiar constraints that ground the continued identities of persons in the network of our social practices and scientific theories. To show that this is so, I shall consider the criteria we use to determine whether Anemone is Omega, rather than a distinct individual who shares Omega’s essential traits.
    1. I begin with the familiar argument that the criterion of psychological continuity presupposes identifying the same physical agent.
    2. In part 2, I argue that the converse is also true: the criterion of bodily continuity presupposes a criterion of psychological continuity because it requires an account of the range of normal intentional action.
    3. In the last two sections, I pour oil on troubled waters by showing that the political and social implications of the mutual dependence of the two criteria are not disastrous, but beneficial.



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - The Two Faces of Courage"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Three Myths of Moral Theory"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Unconscious Affects, Mourning, and the Erotic Mind"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Virtues and Their Vicissitudes"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind
COMMENT: Also in "French (Peter), Uehling (Theodore) & Wettstein (Howard) - Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XIII) - Ethical Theory: Character & Virtue"



"Rorty (Amélie Oksenberg) - Where Does the Akratic Break Take Place?"

Source: Rorty (Amelie) - Mind in Action - Essays in the Philosophy of Mind



Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
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  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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