Sub-phenomenology

Human Studies 19 (2):153-73 (1996)

Abstract

This paper argues that cognitive psychology's practice of explaining mental processes in terms which avoid invoking phenomenology, and the person-level self-conception with which it is associated in common sense psychology, leads to a hybrid Cartesian dualism. Because phenomenology is considered to be fundamentally irrelevant in any scientific explanation of the mind, the person-level is regarded as scientifically invisible: it is a ghost-like housing for sub-personal computational cognition. The problem of explaining how the sub-personal and sub-phenomenological machinery of mind is related to person-level experience is as troublesome for cognitive psychology as the problem Descartes faced in explaining how the ghost (the non-corporeal mind) is related to the machine (the material body).This paper outlines the historical roots of cognitive dualism, showing how it has come to recapitulate a number of puzzling conceptual dichotomies that have hindered scientific and philosophical psychology since Kantian constructivism. It then defends the view that cognitive psychology's commitment to the sub-personal explanatory level leads to exaggerated deflationary claims about the explanatory significance of phenomenology, and the personlevel framework. It is argued that phenomenological description must function as a constraint upon, and guide for, theory formation in cognitive psychology (as illustrated in the work of the cognitive neuro-psychologist A.R. Luria). Phenomenology must be brought into a kind of reflective equilibrium with the cognitive and neuro-sciences

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David Alan Jopling
York University

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