Mind in Life or Life in Mind? Making Sense of Deep Continuity



Wheeler M (2011) Mind in Life or Life in Mind? Making Sense of Deep Continuity. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 18 (5-6), pp. 148-168.

First paragraph: One of the many ground-breaking themes in Evan Thompson's rich and thought-provoking book Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind is his distinctive development and defence of an idea that he calls the deep continuity of life and mind - henceforth just deep continuity. Thompson introduces this idea as follows: "life and mind share a set of basic organizational principles, and the organizational properties distinctive of mind are an enriched version of those fundamental to life. Mind is life-like and life is mind-like" (p.128). In this initial characterization, deep continuity is (as Thompson notes) tantamount to what others (e.g. Godfrey-Smith 1994, Wheeler 1997) have called the strong continuity thesis of life and mind. Thompson claims, however, that these other theorists, in concentrating on organizational, functional or behavioural properties, have ignored a crucial aspect of life-mind continuity, namely its phenomenological dimension. The corrective, then, which recruits an insight that Thompson traces back to the work of Hans Jonas (1966), is to recognize that "certain basic concepts needed to understand human experience turn out to be applicable to life itself" (p.129). Such concepts (more on which below) include needful freedom, self-transcendence, and immanent purposiveness. In other words, "certain existential structures of human life are an enriched version of those constitutive of all life" (p.157).

Journal of Consciousness Studies: Volume 18, Issue 5-6

Publication date31/05/2011
PublisherImprint Academic
Publisher URL…0000018/f0020005

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Professor Michael Wheeler

Professor Michael Wheeler

Professor, Philosophy