Displacing Desire: An Essay on the Moral-Existential Dynamics of the Mind-Body Problem

Tutkimustuotos: Kirja/lehti/raporttiKirjaTieteellinenvertaisarvioitu


This thesis is an essayistic exploration of human self-alienation, of the split or strife between the 'inner' and the 'outer', or 'mind' and 'body'. Its central aim is to open up a perspective on the problem of the life of the mind, a perspective that suggests a shift in the understanding of this problem form a purely epistemological-ontological (or structural) to a radically moral-existential one.The thesis begins with a certain idea of the mind-body problem, which is in turn identified as confused and unclear, but out of which a certain general logic and dynamic is distilled. It then moves on to analyse this logic and dynamic and develops a specific perspective on or understanding of it. Perhaps one might say that the ‘truth’ of the perspective that is opened up lies in the way in which it is able to guide us to a radically moral-existential horizon without losing touch with the general logic and dynamics from which it sets out. One of the central claims that the thesis makes, through the perspective it attempts to open up, is that the ‘inner-outer’ split, or human self-alienation, concerns a moral-existential displacement of desire, and more specifically, a displaced desire for (social) affirmation. The rationale of this temptation or urge to displace desire, it is argued, lies in the way in which (social) affirmation phantasmatically manage to secure a (displaced or split) desire from the other. Moreover, it is in and in relation to this logic and dynamic of desire and affirmation that the ‘body’ or the ‘outer’ enters the picture and is identified as announcing itself as the object and instrument of displaced desire. ‘Body’ is disassociated form the soul or the ‘inner’ and its desire, or, alternatively, (mis)identified with it, and thus seen as somehow the cause of the ‘mind-body strife’, or, alternatively, seen as that which somehow necessarily veils the ‘real of the soul’.The narrative of the thesis is structured along the following lines. It begins by identifying the contemporary naturalist ‘mind-body problem’. Distilling or deciphering out of this, so it is argued, confused problem a general logic and dynamic, the thesis moves on to discuss Francis Bacon’s, and more importantly, René Descartes’ epistemological outlook and mind-body dualism. Here the discussion centrally revolves around how Bacon’s and Descartes’ mind-body dualism and the associated mind-body strife binds together epistemology with ethics; their claim that the mind-body strife essentially concerns a ‘problem of the will’.This discussion is followed by an extensive reflection on Plato’s dialogue Gorgias. The suggestion is that the Gorgias ties together the different themes and concerns that have emerged in relation to the discussion on the mind-body strifeand helps clarify issues that remains obscure in Descartes’ philosophy and, consequently, in contemporary naturalist philosophy of mind. It is also in connection to the reading of Gorgias that one of the central claims of the thesis is developed, namely that the mind-body strife is rooted in a displaced desire for social affirmation. In the final chapter, the central questions and concerns identified throughout the thesis are re-discussed, now with the question of meaning at the epicentre. Drawing on resources identified in both Plato andWittgenstein, the chapter develops critical perspectives on what is termed the Augustinian-Cartesian picture of the soul and meaning, as well as on Jacques Lacan's theory of (decentred) subjectivity. The final chapter ends with a sketchy account of how the central claims developed in the thesis can be illustrated in terms of ‘examples’.
KustantajaUniversity of Helsinki
ISBN (painettu)978-951-51-6157-4
TilaJulkaistu - kesäk. 2020
Julkaistu ulkoisestiKyllä
OKM-julkaisutyyppiC1 Erilliset tieteelliset kirjat


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