Shaun Nichols (Arizona). "Self as Primitive: The View from Lexical Semantics." Free and open to all. Reception follows.
Abstract: Prevailing philosophical accounts of persons provide a reduction of the notion of person or self. For instance, on one prominent account, the person is the mind. On another prominent view, the person is the body or the brain. A third, supernatural view, is that the person is the soul. These are all reductive accounts that attempt to explain the person/self in terms of something else. Primitivism denies these reductionist views of persons. According to primitivism, psychological and bodily features will never constitute a person, they can only be attributes of a person. The primitivist view predicts that mind, body, and soul are mere attributes of a person; they don’t constitute a person. I’ll argue that the primitivist view best captures the lexical semantics for “I”, “mind”, “body”, and “soul".
Shaun Nichols is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, and is at Dartmouth as a visiting lecturer in the Cognitive Science Program. His research focuses on the psychological underpinnings of ordinary thinking about philosophical issues. Recently, he's been applying this method to issues surrounding free will, the self, consciousness, and causation. He is the author of Bound: Essays on Free Will and Responsibility (Oxford University Press, 2015) and Sentimental Rules: On the Natural Foundations of Moral Judgment (Oxford University Press, 2004), co-author (with S. Stich) of Mindreading: An Integrated Account of Pretense, Self-Awareness and Understanding Other Minds (Oxford University Press, 2003), as well as numerous scholarly articles. He is the current president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.
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