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A Cognitive-Developmental Theory of Human Consciousness: Incommensurable Cognitive Domains of Purpose and Cause as a Conjoined Ontology of Inherent Human Unbalance

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Abstract:

Kant's account of the experience of the sublime in nature and the incommensurability of its bases in the two European traditions of philosophy that feed into modern cognitive psychology, the holism of Leibniz and the analytic reductionism of Locke, are used to develop a new theory of human nature in terms of developmental interactions between initially separate cognitive domains. More recent illustrations of this separation/interaction are found in debates over 'emergence' in modern science and theories of consciousness. Shifting from competitive epistemologies to a resulting ontology of human nature, the cognitive development of mind through childhood can itself be understood as multiple but necessarily incomplete fusions between person knowing ('theory of mind') and a thing/tool knowing ('naive physics'), based here on a Vygotskian model of their reciprocal internalizations, and leading into our ostensibly differentiated and humanly unique multiple adult intelligences. A consequence is that human consciousness, while based on these selective and necessarily partial domain integrations, as in the separate directionalities of spirituality and science/technology, is fundamentally and permanently unbalanced. Kant's sublime and Rudolf Otto's related analysis of numinous-uncanny feeling exemplify the inner dynamism of this intrinsic unbalance, constituting the species specific form of the perpetual orientation to novelty that drives us forward toward the very best and very worst of the human condition.

Keywords: James on 'pure experience' Kant's sublime; cognitive domains; domain fusions; person and thing; species specific forms of life; uncanny-numinous experience

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Department, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, L2S 3A1, Email: hhunt@brocku.ca

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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