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In the Beginning was the Word: Concepts, Perception, and Human Being

BERGAMIN, JOSHUA,ADAM (2016) In the Beginning was the Word: Concepts, Perception, and Human Being. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In this thesis, I argue that humans are differentiated from other animals through a faculty of linguistically-structured perception through which we directly perceive things in virtue of their higher-order, conceptually-articulated properties. Yet I also argue that we retain a non-conceptual form of awareness that we share with non-human animals. Through an investigation of the debate between Hubert Dreyfus and John McDowell, I explore a phenomenology of expertise in order to defend a Dreyfusian view that argues that the experiential content of our practical dealings must undergo a translation if it is to become the content of conceptual capacities. However, although I agree with Dreyfus that our untranslated experience is of a kind that is shared with other animals, I also argue that he plays down the interdependence of conceptual and non-conceptual content in humans. I articulate this interdependence through a discussion of phronesis, 'practical wisdom,' as it is used in the debate, as well as by Heidegger. Drawing on McDowell's assertion that our conceptual capacities develop with our acquisition of a language and our initiation into a second-nature 'world,' I argue that our practical coping is better described not as non-conceptual but as post-conceptual; that is to say, human coping involves navigating our second-nature 'worlds' in the same, direct way that animals navigate their first nature environments.

In the second part, I argue that this 'world' is ultimately linguistic in the sense that our conceptual experience is drawn from a grammatically-structured perception that Heidegger called vernehmen, 'apprehension,' which he identified with noesis. This structure creates the object-subject relationship through which we directly perceive entities as being objects. Through noesis, we experience concepts as things, and our capacity to cope post-conceptually with language and ideas powers the exponential creativity of human thought and action in our rich, second-nature ‘worlds.’ However, the cultural contingency of many concepts indicates a potential discordance between concepts and their experiential source. I conclude that while such discordances are not incommensurable, and that knowledge of reality is not inaccessible to us, we must be careful about the faith we put in language to describe it, for as soon as we conceptualise, we enter a sphere as much created as perceived.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Language, Concepts, Heidegger, Animals, Phenomenology, Consciousness, Non-Conceptual Content, Dreyfus, McDowell, Merleau-Ponty, Chomsky, Grammar, Phronesis, Flow, Expertise, Linguistic Relativity, Culture, Ostention
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2016 08:29

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