DMCA. Copyrighted Work that you can Claim.
Base have 820 524 books.
Search: 


๐Ÿ“™ The Act of Thinking by Derek Melser โ€” free pdf


For some reason, Amazon has not posted my review of this book (yet), though I submitted it almost four days ago. For those interested in my fairly lengthy review, it is at my blawg: veniaminov DOT blogspot DOT com, search for Melser. [I have tried editing my review to include my review in full. If it appears below, I was successful; if not, I feel your pain.]As indicated by the laudatory quotations provided above and in the book's endorsement section, Derek Melser's _The Act of Thinking_ (AT) cannot be written off as easily as the reviewer, R. Jones, suggests with his 3-star mini-review. To call AT an update of the behaviorist paradigm is rather like calling Thomistic anthropology an update of Aristotelian anthropology. "Well, yes, I guess you could look at it that way, but, well...." Just as Thomistic anthropology "sublimates" various aspects on Aristotelian hylomorphism both out of its pantheistic, impersonal cosmology and into a Christian triune imagining of God in man-as-icon, so Melser's AT sublimates old school behaviorism out of its narrow operationism and into a holistic humanism of human action. To call Thomism or "Melserism" (if I may) updates of their general predecessors is to lose a whole lot in critical appraisal. My drawing a link between Thomism and Melserism is not completely irrelevant to further points I shall make in my review of AT.The key difference between Melserism and behaviorism is that Melser insists action is a total-person reality, whereas behaviorism treats discrete actions as a series of impersonal stimulus-response data. (This hearkens back to Wittgenstein's objections to behaviorism as trying to force a 'physiological occasionalism', as it were, upon the seemingly autonomous order and timing of psychological operations.) Skinner need not have analyzed the personal role of action (as when he put his daughter in a glass cage for observation), since he is only interested in monitoring the discrete acts, or motions, that result from various stimuli. Behaviorists of yore were insistent that no matter how "lifelike" an action, or a series of responses, was, it gave no scientific justification for seeing in them anything really personal "behind" or "beneath" them. A "person" was just shorthand for what motions were under observation in a given time frame. Melser insists, in stark contrast, that we cannot work up to the personal level, but must begin, empathetically, with the person as the only proper locus of actions as such. This thesis leads him to some startling claims, for example, that humans are not even properly said to be biologically determined and that cognitive talk of modules, representation, neural powers, etc., are just as erroneous as Cartesian talk of a homunculus. There are only inner agents, or an inner agent, Melser says, because we allow our ingrained metaphorical speech patterns mislead us into reifying actions as such agents. Thinking is for Melser neither a "supernatural" power nor a natural ability (of the brain), but is simply something we, we persons, do. If we had not learned to perceive things as we perceive them, and if we had not learned to react to those percepts in the ways we do, and if we had not learned to signal responses as we signal them (usu. with words and gestures), we would not be conscious thinkers. Nor is thought a proper target of scientific scrutiny or explanation, since, Melser argues, recognizing, let alone understanding and explaining, action requires empathy, requires the action of being willing and able to "enter in to" the action being perceived. As soon as we zoom into the neural-synaptic-hormonal level of analysis we become not only overwhelmed in a welter of data, the sheer volume and minuteness of which do not lend themselves to synthetic comprehension, but also cease to study an action. We would only zoom in on various brain regions as we do because we already understand the larger actions which the neural analysis is supposed to explain. If we had to wait for brain scans to understand action, we would have never been cognizant of anything being there to explore neuroscientifically. Synapses are not actions, and thus a synaptic analysis gives us only that: an objective picture of synapses firing quietly to themselves. Melser's claim is that unless we add empathy, as person-agents, to the whole-action level of observation, presumably before the micro-level analysis, we can't say we have any scientific knowledge of the action. Indeed, Melser argues, it is impossible by definition to have scientific knowledge of actions. Science requires repeatable objectivity not influenced by human subjectivity, whereas as action-theory requires empathy and personal subjectivity. Is this really an update of behaviorism, or in fact its dialectical sublimation?I admit that, given my middling familiarity with quantum mechanics coupled with my awareness of the old lure of positivism, I find Melser's discussion of empathy and objectivity a bit cursory (which is very much the tone of AT), but I still do strongly agree with his emphasis on the personal level as the proper mode of personal knowledge. Another author of the same mind is Mary Midgley; cf. esp. her _The Myths We Live By_. I also wrote a lengthy review of Midgley's book in "inFORM: A Catholic Review", which should be online in the near future at informmag.wordpress.com . Just an FYI for those interested in this line of thought.One of the common criticisms against AT is that it is behind the times with respect to logical behaviorism and cognitive science. Didn't Austin, Wittgenstein, Ryle, et al., already say about thought--as a linguistic illusion--what Melser is trying to say? Doesn't neuroscience clearly prove thought is just a brain function? Knowing something about Melser's biography throws an interesting light on these complaints. He took an MA in the 1960s under G. E. Hughes, a former student of Wittgenstein, and then worked in the non-academic world until taking his PhD in 2001. This means that he got his MA in the heyday of logical behaviorism and then got his PhD in the thick of neuroscientific physicalism, which indicates he was not some entrenched curmudgeon, a barnacle on the ivory tower, who only gradually came to grips with this new-fangled brain science all the kids are talkin' about. Melser stands, was academically formed, in two worlds, having seen his foundational master's level thinking continuously and automatically challenged by the cognitive revolution of the 1990s--and yet he still sees greater merit in his personal action theory than in just-so brain science. Melser is hardly unaware of cognitive science; he simply thinks it misses the point, in a big way. As he states in his online journal (2007): "...all the modern attempts at sciences of mind, language, and action will have to be abandoned. Psychology, cognitive science, linguistics qua science, evolutionary psychology, etc., and perhaps all the putative social sciences should go by the board. The problem is that, to the extent one adopts a truly objective, scientific attitude, to that extent the necessary empathic component is excluded."The reason such "hard" sciences can and should go by the board, in Melser's opinion, is that because while they are designed to explore natural processes, thinking is not a natural process. It is not something our body does, and it is not even something we "use" our various organs to "do". It is simply how we imbibe, imitate, transmit, and alter culture as the entire ground of our consciousness. There is, for Melser, nothing natural about conscious, thinking, rational hominids. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, if rational consciousness is not natural, then it is supernatural, which leads me to my next, closing points.Above I drew a connection between Melserism and Thomism, and in my title I mentioned not setting the clock far enough back. While it is true AT harks back to the mid-twentieth century in its logical behaviorist tendencies, I would say that what Melser is reaching for with his theory is in fact something more venerable--something quite like classical Thomistic hylomorphism (THM). This claim would almost certainly shock, and perhaps bemuse, Melser, but I want to make clear why I am right, if I read him correctly.[1] Melser is right to bring things like logical analysis and Reid's commonsense views to bear critically on neuroscience, but he should have kept regressing into the Middle Ages for an equally holistic view of human nature. To be clear: THM *does not* claim there is something immaterial "inside" the human body; Cartesianism claims that. Given its more fundamental commitment to a matter-form (or 'hardware-software') ontology, THM simply says that the way we account for humans' ability to rationally, freely, and uniquely act in the world, is by virtue of a rational principle called the 'soul'. Only because certain of humans' ends are immaterial (i.e., spiritual) can we say there is an integral immaterial principle of action which constitutes the human person. This principle cannot really be extracted from the concrete, embodied person, since it is just the formal and rational coherence of that very person. As Melser argues, we are not who we are from birth, but are born humans-becoming-persons. This aspect of human nature is not simply due to culture, since culture is itself informed by transcendent goods that need accounting outside 'mere' culture. We can transcend our natal biology because are by nature creatures that transcend biology. This is so by virtue of the soul. The soul is no more a ghost than the body is mere clump of atoms; both body and soul are simply the basic modes of human existence as demonstrated in substantial persons.If he were transported back in time as I believe his theory urges upon him, the way Melser would have diff

About book:

About file:

  • File size: 1 025 375
  • Format: pdf


Security code:
Download button

Similar books results


Animals in translation: using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior
Animals in translation: using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior free download by Temple Grandin, Catherine Johnson

I don't know if people will ever be able to talk to animals the way Doctor Doolittle could, or whether animals will be able to talk back. Maybe science will have something to say about that. But I do know people can learn to "talk" to animals, and to hear...

It Takes a Lot More Than Attitude... To Lead a Stellar Organization
It Takes a Lot More Than Attitude... To Lead a Stellar Organization epub download by Stever Robbins

It Takes a Lot More than Attitude is the ultimate road map to building, growing, and leading a successful company. Written with humor and attitude by one of the country's foremost experts on corporate leadership, Stever Robbins created a how-to book tha...

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural
Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural free download by Jim Steinmeyer

The seminal biography of the twentieth centuryโ€™s premier chronicler of the paranormal, Charles Fortโ€”a man whose very name gave rise to an adjective, fortean, to describe the unexplained. By the early 1920s, Americans were discovering that the world was a...

Understanding the Millennial Mind: A Menace or Amazing?
Understanding the Millennial Mind: A Menace or Amazing? free download by Scott Degraffenreid

Even their own parents often don't understand Millennials! Discover the real reasons they act, think and work like they are on a different wavelength than any previous generation, why they question absolutely everything and how they are the key resource t...

Mapping the Subject: Geographies of Cultural Transformation
Mapping the Subject: Geographies of Cultural Transformation free epub by Steve Pile, Nigel Thrift

Rejecting static and reductionist understandings of subjectivity, this book asks how people find their place in the world. Mapping the Subject is an inter-disciplinary exploration of subjectivity, which focuses on the importance of space in the constituti...

Towards Cultural Psychology of Religion: Principles, Approaches, Applications
Towards Cultural Psychology of Religion: Principles, Approaches, Applications pdf free by Jacob A. Belzen (auth.)

This book takes a bold stand: all psychology should be culturally sensitive psychology, especially when studying religious phenomena. It explains that culture is not simply to be conceived of as a variable that possibly influences behavior. Rather, it str...

Towards Cultural Psychology of Religion: Principles, Approaches, Applications
Towards Cultural Psychology of Religion: Principles, Approaches, Applications free pdf by Jacob A. Belzen (auth.)

This book takes a bold stand: all psychology should be culturally sensitive psychology, especially when studying religious phenomena. It explains that culture is not simply to be conceived of as a variable that possibly influences behavior. Rather, it str...

Thinking about acting: logical foundations for rational decision making
Thinking about acting: logical foundations for rational decision making free pdf by John L. Pollock

John Pollock aims to construct a theory of rational decision making for real agents--not ideal agents. Real agents have limited cognitive powers, but traditional theories of rationality have applied only to idealized agents that lack such constraints. Pol...

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment
Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment epub download by Steve Harvey

Steve Harvey, the host of the nationally syndicated Steve Harvey Morning Show, can't count the number of impressive women he's met over the years, whether it's through the ''Strawberry Letters'' segment of his program or while on tour for his comedy shows...