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Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2002 (Swedish)In: Sociologisk forskning, ISSN 0038-0342, no 1, 28-61 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

"The blind spot:Mind, body or matter". Taking its startingpoint in an acclaimed work by Nick Crossley, where he argues for a "non-reductive" materialism, the author tries to show that Crossley like many others in his attempt to steer free of "idealism", contrary to his stated aims ends precisely in material reductionism. By means of an illustration taken from Merleau-Ponty, where it according to Crossley is neither necessary nor possible to isolate a "mind-content", an "inner intention" etc. he draws his (erroneous) conclusion about the fundamental materialism. He does not even consider the possibility that the illustration rather reveals matter as intrinsically "knowing" or "knowing" as embodied among other things in forms which are designated "material", thus collapsing the very dualist distinction which is the starting point. Since to talk about a situation, present, remembered, imagined presupposes meaning and a knowing of a whole situation, always arbitrarily delimited, which can and need not be reduced to the inner of some separate individual observer or "knower" but rather signals an unlimited "space" of knowing(ness) which allows for different presentation of reality, distinctions, such as that between matter and mind, matter and knowing. The "being" of a situation is thus confused with the "words" that are "analytically" used to single out this or that, "making up" the relative level. A common view of "mind" inspired by G.H.Mead is critisized in the same way as based both on an understanding of interaction that intially presupposes a split between mind and matter, then projecting that backwards assuming that "mind" appeared somewhere along the line, as were it some kind of gaseous substance. This view consequently has in tow a confusion of the question how "mind", "knowing" or "knowingness" ever appeared in "evolutionary" history with the question how a particular self-identity or self-image is created. However, the author argues, Meadian theory does not allow for an explanation of mind in general as suddenly arising out of matter, but does if not to its explicit intention by its logic rather presuppose mind or "knowing" as an everpresent "aspect" of reality. It is further argued that the assumption of an unreducible "knowingness" characterizing "reality" by no means commits us to a "theoretical" idealism - that means another confusion of levels quite common in social theorizing about dualism. It is at last asked why dualism is constantly brought up as a problem in social science given some very common declarations of social scientists that their task or ambition is not to present views that encompass the whole, but rather to describe, interpret and explain parts or aspects of (social) reality. The tendency to worry about "the problem of dualism", i e between individual and society, agent and structure etc. is also strange both considering the widespread methodological view that theoretical distinctions and concepts do not "mirror" reality "as it is" but rather are conceptual tools more or less useful for the elucidation of different aspects of reality also dependent on the particual research tasks. Add to this the postmodern doxa of "difference" as basic to reality. Could it be that the constant recurrence of "the problem of dualism" within social science in direct opposition to the explicit disavowal of such goals signals an unacknowledged, "indecent" drive away from "alienation" towards a theoretical wholeness which also spells existential? This implicitness is then contrasted with the view of certain "eastern traditions" where "the problem of dualism" from the start is tackled not as a theoretical problem, but explicitly as a deep existential issue, where the root-cause of suffering is seen as basically embodied in the self/world, me/other split, that is the identification and reification of a certain identification with a presumed separate self, which in its turn branches off in a myriad of other seemingly unavoidable dualisms. In this view dualism is a lived problem to be solved in practice -a (dis)solution which in its turn may dissolve the concern with dualism as a theoretical problem. Considered as a theoretical problem it probably remains just that: A disturbing, constantly recurring theoretical problem unresolvable on its own terms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Sveriges sociologförbund , 2002. no 1, 28-61 p.
Keyword [en]
Body/mind-dualism, reductionism, self, suffering.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-42335OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-42335DiVA: diva2:70236
Available from: 2007-02-15 Created: 2007-02-15 Last updated: 2011-01-04Bibliographically approved

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Håkanson, Kaj
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