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David L. Thompson
Memorial University of Newfoundland
  1.  85
    The Identity of the Self Over Time is Normative.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    The temporal unity of the self cannot be accounted for by the continuity of causal, factual, or contiguous relations between independently definable mental events, as proposed by Locke and Parfit. The identity of the self over time is normative: it depends on the institutional context of social rules external to the self that determine the relationship between past commitments and current responsibilities. (2005).
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  2. Contextualizing Objects.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Four philosophers, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Dennett, and Hegel, who hold for the most part radically different philosophies, all agree on rejecting the notion of atomic entities, of “things-in-themselves,” and insist that objects only make sense – can only be what they are -- in a context.
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  3.  73
    Norms of Life.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Biological organisms, languages and selves are normative entities, so must be understood in terms of norms. Mechanistic understanding is based on causal necessity, but normative understanding relies on a grasp of the contingencies of evolution, history and personal experience.
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  4.  76
    The Constitution of Objects by Systems.David L. Thompson -
    Against the concept that objects are defined by their self-contained essence – “thing-in-themselves” – Husserl and Foucault claim they are defined by intersubjectivity or social institutions. I argue that biological and even physical (complex) systems can constitute the unity and meaning of objects.
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  5.  77
    The Evolutionary Origin of Selfhood in Normative Emotions.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Modern selfhood presents itself as autonomous, overcoming emotion by following cognitive, moral and linguistic norms on the basis of clear, rational principles. It is difficult to imagine how such normative creatures could have evolved from their purely biological, non-normative, primate ancestors. I offer a just-so story to make it easier to imagine this transition. Early hominins learned to cooperate by developing group identities based on tribal norms. Group identity constituted proto-selves as normative creatures. Such group identity was not based on (...)
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  6.  42
    Attributing Responsibility to the Narrative Self.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    The self is not a metaphysical object but a mode of temporal organization unified by responsibility. Learning to be responsible constitutes the self as a self-identical entity over time. Responsibility depends on the current self interpreting previous events, attributing them to itself and thereby committing itself for the future. (2004) .
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  7.  63
    Origins of Objectivity.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Tomasello offers an evolutionary, palaeoanthropological account of the human origin of objects and objectivity. Husserl gives a phenomenological account of the constitution of objects by intersubjectivity. Comparing the two, I claim that Tomasello’s “naturalized” approach closely parallels Husserl’s transcendental approach.
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  8.  41
    The Narrative Self is Constituted by Attributing Responsibility.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    A self is a temporal unity in which responsibility for past commitments modifies how the present world is experienced and evaluated. This structure is analogous (a) to biological evolutionary changes in perception and (b) to how changes in a computer program determine how it will respond in the future. Responsibility is not an add-on to a self, but the mode of its integration over time. (Presented at Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Conference, Narrative and Understanding Persons, University of Hertfordshire, UK, (...)
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  9.  62
    Defining Language.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Language defines human existence. Yet defining language is a fraught project. I use the term "language" to refer to a specific mode of information transfer. First, it is a communicative mode. By communication I mean the information transfer serves a function, that is, an activity that occurs because it has increased the evolutionary fitness of ancestors. Secondly, while all communication is governed by norms, human communication, as opposed to biological communication, is governed by norms that have evolved within the learned (...)
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  10.  56
    Normative Binding.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Why should anyone be bound by cognitive norms, such as the norms of reason or mathematics? To become a mathematician is to learn to obey the norms of the mathematical community. A self becomes intentional by binding itself to communal norms. Only then can it have the freedom to think or make assertions about the community’s objects -- triangles or imaginary numbers, for example. Norms do not bind selves from the outside: being bound by norms is what constitutes a self.
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  11. What, If Anything, is Represented? Objects in Their Worlds.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    The received Cognitive Science paradigm holds that the brain manipulates mental representations of reality. This position is problematic. My alternative to representationalism is that each organism lives in its own "world" made up of objects defined by reference to the organism’s perceptual systems. These objects act as supervenient causes on organisms without the mediation of mental representations. (1992).
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  12.  82
    Body as the Unity of Action.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Kosgaard claims that selves/agents self-constitute during actions by relying on principles such as Kant’s Categorical Imperative. This intellectualist approach neglects the body. Merleau-Ponty considers the “lived body” and its perceptual world as the source of the unity of action, an approach that I extrapolate to all biological organisms.
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  13.  63
    Thought and Image.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Thought is not based on an image that is isomorphic to the object. Descartes, Husserl, Frege, Wittgenstein and Brandom progressively overcome this Aristotelian misconception of the intentionality of thinking.
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  14.  27
    Culture and Personality.David L. Thompson - 1970 - Dissertation, Université Catholique de Louvain
    Methodological and philosophical foundations in the anthropology of Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead.
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  15.  60
    What Makes Us Essentially Different? 2007.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    The sameness and difference of entities depend on context or horizon and these horizons may be either synchronous or diachronic. Money and qualia are examples of identity within synchronic contexts. Music, biological functions, and cultural roles are defined by their diachronic horizons. The diachronic cultural and narrative contexts of selves are what makes them distinctively different.
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  16.  60
    Causal, Teleological and Evolutionary Explanation.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Explanation is a human activity. Teleological, causal, and evolutionary explanations are all valid forms of responding to particular puzzlements. Reductionism incorrectly assumes there is one absolute explanation. While causal explanation appeals primarily to necessity, evolutionary explanation is based largely on contingency.
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  17.  41
    Constructing Responsibility.David L. Thompson - manuscript
    Jacobs, in Choosing Character, seems to assume that there are selves already capable of voluntary choice who then choose their character by developing habits. I argue that selves, choice, responsibility and character form a conceptual and practical hermeneutic circle, a whole without which selfhood makes no sense. There can be no selfhood prior to responsible character.
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