Humanities and the Idea of a Person in the 22nd Century
Pedro V. Amaral.
Science starts out with the idea of a person as billions of neurons housed in a body that is a cloud of particles. Common sense starts out with the idea of a person having capacities belonging to a single individual. The common sense person does not have parts. Our objectifying science slowly takes over the person as it tends toward physical materialism. Where will it end? What is being gradually pushed out of the world? If science had already taken over, if the categories of neuroscience were complete, then it would be possible to speculate about its relation to earlier stages of thought. However, that is not the situation. The categories of science have yet to emerge. The puzzling character of new scientific objects reveals that we are on the threshold of profound conceptual change. The Humanities are at a crossroad. Do the Humanities scoff at the encroachment of science and risk the fate of those who resisted the Copernican revolution? Do they embrace the changes only to be burned at the stake like those who accepted the Copernican revolution? I suggest that the Humanities mobilize their collective power to create the categories in terms of which science will explicate the very idea of a person. Over the last fifty years, philosophers in the Kantian tradition have offered strategies for developing the new categories in humanistic terms. One approach follows “color” and “consciousness” through their passage from a common sense image of the world to a developing scientific image. It is a journey that illustrates the problems and the puzzles ahead. It indicates the perils of the next recategorization of the world.
Pedro V. Amaral (United States)
Professor of Philosophy
The College of Arts and Humanities
American Philosophical Association
Professor in Philosophy and Cognitive Science at California State University, Fresno. Graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.
Person as Subject
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)