164 pages, no illustrations
The subject matter of philosophy has always consisted of unsolved problems. Consciousness, perception, action and semantic meaning are some of those currently outstanding. William Reynolds believes that progress is impeded by the concept of causation, which philosophers generally take to be real (not simply a construction on our part) and often treat as a quasi-scientific touchstone. By re-conceptualizing biological systems, including the human brain, in a certain way, he shows how it is possible to discern in biological function an unsuspected type of coherence, which owes nothing to causation. On this basis the problems of mind can be radically recast in such a way that a general metaphysical solution may be envisaged. Having resisted all attempts to eliminate it, meaning on this schema becomes central and in fact real. It reveals a metaphysics of constraint uniquely exploited by organisms but also underlying natural laws, with implications for determinism and the problem of free will.
The term 'satisfaction' denotes the axial relation of a biological type to its functional condition of satisfaction. The type may be a gene complex, a phenotypic character, a phenotypic extension, a speech act, an appetitive desire, a psychological attribute such as an intention, or a social institution. The brain, unusually, has dual conditions of satisfaction. In each case the type can be said to mean its condition of satisfaction, which in turn necessitates the type. This downward metaphysical necessitation is stronger than any imagined upward, causal or emergent alternative and may point to a feature of reality that would otherwise be hidden from us.
Satisfaction has been written with the non-specialist but intellectually curious reader in mind, being partly intended as an accessible introduction to the philosophy of mind and language. At the same time its argument will be relevant to linguistics, psychology and neuroscience as well as to the fundamentals of biology and even physics.
Socrates was a teacher and, ever since, it has been unusual to find serious philosophers outside of the academy. These days, it is exceedingly rare to find any substantial contribution to philosophy written by someone who has never held an academic post, let alone to find a breathtakingly original and rigorous book length contribution to philosophy written by someone who has never published an article in a refereed journal. Yet that is precisely what we have in William Reynolds' book Satisfaction. --Aarre Laakso, University of Michigan - Dearborn
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