La philosophie naturelle d'Aristote et le problème contemporain de l'inscription corporelle de l'esprit

Authors: Mendoza Bustos, Sergio Antonio
Advisor: De Koninck, Thomas
Abstract: The steady progress of experimental science and information technologies has led several researchers in the neurosciences to affirm that we are now closer than ever to disclosing the way in which the physiological organisation of the brain produces the higher functions of the nervous system. Consequently, these renowned scientists have proposed hypotheses, elaborated theories and developed numerical simulation models in order to explain the emergence of consciousness from the mechanics of neural signaling and the adaptation of the brain’s neural circuits. Philosophers are currently also seeking the solution to the problem of explaining the unity of body and mind on the basis of this knowledge. But as this approach implies describing mental phenomena in terms of the underlying physical phenomena, their reflections generally lead either to a reductionist description of the mind or to a dualist theory. For this reason, certain of them have recently proposed that such research should look for inspiration in the natural philosophy of Aristotle. However, several of the arguments advanced by these contemporary researchers in the support of their theses are flawed by errors of principle, of comprehension or of method, which place serious doubt upon the solidity of their propositions. In the present dissertation these arguments are placed under detailed scrutiny in order to pinpoint the main difficulties and discard them, allowing a clearer evaluation of the true contribution of these propositions to our understanding of the natural unity formed by body and the mind. This project is divided into three major sections. The first is intended to present the current state of experimental research in neurobiology; the second evaluates two representative models from current theoretical research in neuroscience; and the third endeavours to come to as exact an understanding as possible of the way in which Aristotle treats the unity of the body and the soul, to which the intellect v i belongs in the particular case of man and whose concept does not exactly match the contemporary concept of mind. There are three general observations that can be drawn from this examination. Firstly, in reality neurobiology does not seek to explain the phenomenal aspects of the brain’s higher functions, only their neurological bases, because as an experimental science it is bound by natural limits. Secondly, the arguments put forth by theoretical models of consciousness in favour of a biological understanding of the higher neurological functions are mainly based on the alteration of the meaning of words associated with cognition in order to make the transition from biological to mental phenomena. These phenomena would then be understood essentially as the result of statistical inference accomplished by neuronal signaling, made possible by the adaptive restructuring of neural circuits. Thirdly, Aristotle’s natural philosophy truly succeeds in uniting body and soul, but his explanation of this unity is not founded on the mechanisms of perception and movement in the animal, but rather on the principles underlying his study of nature, and the objections that have been raised against his arguments have been based on fragmentary or biased readings of his writings, and on an erroneous or superficial understanding of the fundamental concepts of his philosophy. These observations allow us to draw the conclusion that the proper task of the philosophy of nature is not to accommodate its reflections concerning the unity of body, soul and spirit to the results of experimental science, but rather that of formulating the principles that unify the different aspects of reality upon which the different sciences are based.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2018
Open Access Date: 24 April 2019
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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