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Durham e-Theses
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Phenomenology, Philosophy of Mind and the Subject

O-CONAILL, DONNCHADH (2010) Phenomenology, Philosophy of Mind and the Subject. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



I propose to develop a phenomenologically-informed ontological model of the subject of experiences. This model will attempt to explain how it is possible for a subject to have experiences with a subjective character, which are like something for their subject. It will also address how the subject can have experiences whose subjective character plays an intentional role, making the subject aware of objects.
The subjective character of experiences and their intentionality have both been widely discussed in the philosophy of mind. However, these discussions have focused on whether or not these features can be explained in naturalistic or physicalistic terms. As a result, there has been relatively little detailed description of the subjective character of experiences. In particular, complex experiential states such as those involving a combination of different kinds of experience have been neglected in the recent literature. There has also been little discussion of how we can be aware, not just of individual objects, but of situations, and indeed how our everyday awareness of objects involves an awareness of the world as the background to all our activities.
In order to provide detailed descriptions of the subjective character and the intentionality of experiences, I shall turn to the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. Husserl developed concepts and techniques for studying the subjective character of intentional experiences independently of their non-experiential aspects. I shall use these techniques to focus on the subject qua experiencer, and on experiences as states or episodes which are like something for the subject.
By studying the subject in this way, I shall provide a model of subjectivity, the ontological relation holding between a subject and its experiences. I shall argue that subjectivity can be explained by appealing to the temporality of experiences, the way they flow in a stream of consciousness. Every subject has a temporal structure which is the form of its particular stream of consciousness. What it is for a subject to have an experience is for that experience to pass through this temporal structure.
I shall also examine how a subject can have experiences which are objective, that is, which make the subject aware of objects as having more than the features directly presented to the subject. One view is that to explain objectivity, we must adopt a special perspective on the world, allowing us to compare how objects appear to us with how they really are. I argue that we do not need to appeal to such a special perspective. Our everyday awareness of objects and of the world is essentially structured by a sense of objectivity.
Lastly, I shall address a problem that arises for any transcendental study of the conditions for the possibility of our awareness of the world. This is the paradox of subjectivity, the problem of understanding how the one subject can be both a part of the world and that which makes sense of the entire world. I shall argue that applying phenomenological techniques can help us to understand how the one subject can answer to both of these descriptions.
This thesis will thus use phenomenological methods to develop an ontological model which can explain certain key features of the subject. In doing so, it will serve both as a contribution to the philosophy of mind, and as an illustration of what can be gained by applying phenomenological methods in this area.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Jun 2010 13:13

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