Non-Cartesian Philosophies of Mind: Early Modern Alternatives

May 23, 2023 - May 24, 2023
University of Oulu

Pentti Kaiteran katu 1
Oulu 90570

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University of Oulu
University of Oulu

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Confirmed speakers:

  • Ruth Boeker (University College Dublin)
  • Julia Borcherding (University of Cambridge/LMU Munich)
  • Andrea Christofidou (University of Oxford)
  • Philippe Hamou (Sorbonne Université)

Descartes’s innovative account of the mind and his dualist theory of the mind-body relationship broke with Aristotelian-scholastic hylomorphism. Today, Cartesian inspired ways of looking at the relationship between mind and body, and how the mind functions, commonly inform both philosophical and non-philosophical discussions. However, the limits of dualist accounts of the mind have been brought to light through philosophical debates, such as the “hard problem” of consciousness, critiques of emergentist views of mentality, discussions in neurosciences on embodied cognition, and criticisms from postcolonial and gender studies, which contest the primacy of the mental over the body.

In the 17th century, many philosophers contemporary to Descartes also envisaged alternative ways to explain mentality, which depart from both the Cartesian mind-body dualism and the Aristotelian-scholastic hylomorphism. Some were developed in direct opposition to Descartes’s theory, while others arose relatively independently from his views. A few notable examples are Hobbes, Spinoza, Cavendish, Locke, Conway, and Leibniz, though this list is far from complete. Thereby, accounts now labeled as “parallelism”, “occasionalism”, “materialism”, “panpsychism”, as well as the birth of notions such as that of “consciousness”, flourished from the 17th century onwards.

The workshop, which will be held at the University of Oulu on 23-24 May 2023, aims to shed light on strands of early modern philosophy of mind (broadly understood as the historical period running from Descartes to Hume), which accounted for mentality and its functions within a non-Cartesian framework. We will investigate the explanatory power that non-Cartesian accounts of mind and mind-body relationship displayed within their historical and intellectual context, how they informed the development of the history of the philosophy of mind, and how they can be relevant to present-day discussions.

The workshop arises out of the Academy of Finland funded project “Thick Subjects: A Reconsideration of Early Modern Views of the Self”. For further information, please contact [email protected].

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