Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lynne Rudder Baker: The Metaphysics of Everyday Life

This is an interesting paper from PhilPapers site (short for philosophy papers). Here is the abstract (clicking the title will download the PDF file of the paper):

Lynne Rudder Baker: The Metaphysics of Everyday Life.
I hope that my title, “The Metaphysics of Everyday Life,” brings to mind the title of the lively little book, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, which Sigmund Freud published in 1904. Although scientifically obsolete, this small volume describes numerous kinds of familiar phenomena that go unnoticed: Forgetting proper names; forgetting foreign words; making mistakes in reading and writing; concealing memories from childhood; mislaying things, and so on. These banal errors appear to be random but, according to Freud, they are bursting with psychological importance. What I find congenial in Freud is not his diagnosis of these little mistakes, but his finding consequence in occurrences that are usually overlooked as haphazard and purposeless. Whereas Freud saw the psychological significance of ordinary mistakes, I want to show the ontological significance of ordinary things that we encounter in everyday life.
Early in the paper are the following paragraphs, which I think provide a bit of a thesis for those who are curious about what she has in mind:
One noticeable feature of the world as encountered is that it is populated by things—such as pianos, pacemakers, and paychecks—whose existence depends on there being persons with propositional attitudes. I call any object that could not exist in a world lacking beliefs, desires and intentions an ‘intentional object.’(2) Intentional objects that we are familiar with include emails, kitchen utensils, precision instruments, and so on. Other communities may be familiar with other intentional objects; but all communities recognize many kinds of intentional objects—as well as other intentional phenomena like conventions, obligations, and so on. All artifacts and artworks, and most human activities (getting a job, going out to dinner, etc.), are intentional in this way: They could not exist or occur in a world without beliefs, desires, and intentions.

However, not all things in the world as encountered depend on intentionality. For example, planets and dinosaurs could—and did—exist in a world without beliefs, desires and intentions.(3) In the world as encountered, whether an object is intentional or not is often insignificant: Whether a ball is constituted by a piece of natural rubber or artificial rubber is usually not salient feature of it. My theory of the world as encountered allows for the distinction between intentional and nonintentional objects, but does not highlight it.
I probably enjoyed this article in part because that one paragraph (the 2nd one above) offers the best commonsense argument against anthropocentric thinking (the universe depends on human consciousness for its existence) that I have seen recently.

Maybe you will enjoy it, too.

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