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I do not mean that there are philosophical positions on the theory of mind (as there most certainly are), but that philosophising must be part of the theory of mind, with a natural 'osmotic' unwilled component (which would have a genealogical willed process), and a willed component.

How far one takes that willed component distinguishes what we would then ordinarily call philosophers to those that aren't. The relationship I'm hinting at is that of the concious mind to that of the unconcious. But not the same.

One of the reasons I'm asking this is that I believe that all men/women are philosophers, but I want to distinguish this from the activities of professional philosophers, academic or otherwise. So I'm proposing a notion of a natural unwilled philosophical activity.


What do I mean by unwilled philosophy? That it's not under conscious will, but that it's unconsciously willed. (I do not make the claim that all his philosophising is unwilled, only that a part is).

But if this unwilled philosophising is in his unconscious then we cannot get 'thinking about'. This can only mean that his unwilled philosophising can happen in the conscious mind. I'm not positing a constant force of will here, but in fits and starts, strengthening & weakening, in this direction or that direction. Our consciously willed philosophising must also occur in the concious mind. Ergo, they can interact.

I'm holding that for most people that both willed & unwilled philosophising weakens and dies, but in professional philosophers & students of philosophy the willed philosophising carries on for longer

What do I mean by a genealogical willed process?

I'm also considering, in part, is how a mind develops over an evolutionary period of time. It's clear we have minds, it is not unreasonable to posit that say a fox doesn't; over my evolutionary (genealogical) history at some point I'm related to something like a fox. I'm trying, in part, to understand how that can happen. I want to relate the naive conception of will referred to above to that of Schopenhauers. But maybe thats best saved for a different question.

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1 Answer 1

I like the question, but the answer is pretty simply "no" unless you take a very weak view of your "unconscious philosophizing" - so weak, in fact that you may want to consign it to the heap. It could also stand a little editing for clarity.

Let's start with "a theory of mind" here. Do you want it to be an explanation of why minds exist, how they come to exist, etc., or do you mean it in the sense that a theory provides us with a mental framework for understanding what a mind is?

If the former, the answer is trivially no- it's easy to hypothesize that we could have a complete explanation for how minds arise and function based entirely on neuroscientific facts. Let's say (for argument's sake) that someone discovers Descartes was right, and I can affect what a person thinks about with complete control just by squeezing the pineal gland like a stress toy. Thus ends the explanatory Theory of Mind, and there's not really anything to philosophize about. You could be philosophical about the situation, in the more colloquial sense, but that's not part of the theory given a squishy, gland-based mind.

So on to the latter view: that "a theory of mind" is how we understand what a mind is, and philosophy is a crucial (i.e., logically necessary) component to understanding. Here, the problem is that you want to draw a line from philosophizing to this understanding, but we need to unpack this notion of "unwilled philosophy" first. If you mean to say that the philosophizing is wholly unconscious, how do you get the "thinking about" which is endemic to philosophy in any sense, out of an unconscious process? That resembles cold information processing, and even if you want to say all "thinking about" is just information processing (à la Dennett et al.), you'd still have to account for what makes it 'willed' or 'unwilled', which is incoherent. I'm pretty sure that's not what you want to say.

You could potentially take something closer to a panpsychist view, and say that "unconscious" thinking is only unavailable to consciousness, in much the same manner as other people's minds are. If this is the case, then fine. However, it would turn out that this brand of unconscious philosophizing would be crucial to having a theory of almost anything, let alone a theory of mind, because we're still using "thinking about" as the only qualifying term for philosophy here. This is a horribly weak sense of philosophizing - you'd need to narrow down what you mean by "unconscious philosophizing" to make it sensible. Still, this seems to fit the bill of your belief that "all men and women are philosophers" in some respect.

Let's toss all that to the side though and just look at the question from this angle: that philosophizing is a normative conscious process that most people engage in at some point of their lives. The question we can ask now is, do people need to engage in this process before they can have a theory of mind? It's not trivially false, but it's easy enough to come up with a counterexample. Just ask any six-year old "what is it like to imagine a pink pony?"

We all have an understanding of what a mind is, because we can't very well not have one and then philosophize about it. So additional philosophizing may refine that understanding, that theory, and may very well be crucial to having a good theory, but it's clearly not necessary to having a theory of mind.

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I'm not sure that physicalism solves the question as to how minds come to exist. Unless theres a good solution to the mind-body problem. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 11 '12 at 0:00
It may not, but it's still conceivable that it could provide an answer, which was the only point I needed to get at for that part of my argument. –  Ryder Dec 11 '12 at 0:04
@Dain: It's unwilled philosophising, rather than unconscious. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 11 '12 at 11:37
This whole project you're presenting of separating the willing (volition?) of a mental activity from the activity itself and classifying it as conscious vs. unconscious is interesting, but I have to admit I'm still confused by what you mean by it, or hope to accomplish. There's actual data you can perhaps refer to: split-brain patients displaying hemifield neglect comes to mind, but I've no idea if you would even see that sort of example as useful in drawing a comparison for what you want to say vis à vis "unwilled philosophizing". –  Ryder Dec 11 '12 at 12:15
Could I possibly encourage you to generate a new question, with better elaboration on this topic? I'm personally finding your terms a bit obscure, and I'd hate to see an interesting idea left behind out of unnecessary impenetrability. –  Ryder Dec 11 '12 at 12:16

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