Complexity and the self

De Villiers, Tanya (2002-12)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis it is argued that the age-old philosophical "Problem of the Self' can benefit by being approached from the perspective of a relatively recent science, namely that of Complexity Theory. With this in mind the conceptual features of this theory is highlighted and summarised. Furthermore, the argument is made that the predominantly dualistic approach to the self that is characteristic of the Western Philosophical tradition serves to hinder, rather than edify, our understanding of the phenomenon. The benefits posed by approaching the self as an emergent property of a complex system is elaborated upon, principally with the help of work done by Sigmund Freud, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Paul Cilliers. The aim is to develop a materialistic conception of the self that is plausible in terms of current empirical information and resists the temptation see the self as one or other metaphysical entity within the brain, without "reducing" the self to a crude materialism. The final chapter attempts to formulate a possible foil against the accusation of crude materialism by emphasising that the self is part of a greater system that includes the mental apparatus and its environment (conceived as culture). In accordance with Dawkins's theory the medium of interaction in this system is conceived of as memes and the self is then conceived of as a meme-complex, with culture as a medium for memetransference. The conclusion drawn from this is that the self should be studied through narrative, which provides an approach to the self that is material without being crudely physicalistic.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis word daar aangevoer dat die relatiewe jong wetenskap van Kompleksiteitsteorie 'n nuttige bydra kan lewer tot die eeue-oue filosofiese "Probleem van die Self'. Met die oog hierop word die konseptueie kenmerke van hierdie teorie na vore gebring en opgesom. Die argument word gemaak dat die meerendeels dualistiese benadering van die Westerse filosofiese tradisie tot die self ons verstaan van die fenomeen belemmer eerder as om dit te bemiddel. Die voordele van dié nuwe benadering, wat die self sien as 'n ontluikende (emergent) eienskap van In komplekses sisteem, word bespreek met verwysing na veral die werke van Sigmund Freud, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett en Paul Cilliers. Daar word beoog om In verstaan van die self te ontwikkel wat kontemporêre empiriese insigte in ag neem en wat die versoeking weerstaan om ongeoorloofde metafisiese eienskappe aan die self toe te ken. Terselfdetyd word daar gepoog om geensins die uniekheid van die self te "reduseer" na 'n kru materialisme nie. In die finale hoofstuk word daar gepoog om 'n teenargument vir die voorsiene beswaar van kru materialisme te ontwikkel. Dit word gedoen deur te benadruk dat die self gesien word as deel van 'n groter, komplekse sisteem, wat die masjienerie van denke en die omgewing (wat as kultuur gekonseptualiseer word) insluit. Insgelyks, in die teorie van Dawkins word die medium van interaksie in hierdie sisteem gesien as "memes", waar die self dan n meme-kompleks vorm, en kultuur die medium van meme-oordrag is. Daar word tot die konklusie gekom dat die self op 'n narratiewe manier bestudeer behoort te word, wat dan 'n benadering tot die self voorsien wat materialisties is, sonder om kru fisikalisties te wees.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52744
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