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The Emergence of Practical Self-Understanding

Authors
  • de Mul, Jos1
  • 1 Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Philosophy, Room J5-45, Rotterdam, 3000 DR, The Netherlands , Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Human Studies
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Publication Date
Dec 18, 2018
Volume
42
Issue
1
Pages
65–82
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10746-018-09483-2
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Helmuth Plessner’s Levels of Organic Life and the Human [Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch, 1928] is one of the founding texts of twentieth century philosophical anthropology (understood as philosophical reflection on the fundamental characteristics of the human lifeform). It is argued that Plessner’s work demonstrates the fundamental indispensability of the qualitative humanities vis-à-vis the natural-scientific study of man. Plessner’s non-reductionist, emergentist naturalism allots complementary roles to the causal and functional investigations of the life sciences and the phenomenological and hermeneutic interpretation of the phenomenon of life in its successive levels and stages. Within this context, human agency can be understood as a higher-order property of organic life, which act by the selective activation of lower-level psychophysical powers. Plessner’s three ‘anthropological laws’ are used to situate the notion of practical self-understanding in between two extremes: deterministic views that deny human freedom and responsibility and views that ascribe an unrealistic amount of autonomy to human beings.

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