The Connection Principle and Re-enchantment of Nature

Dr Yujian Zheng
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Disenchantment of nature is directly related to the scientific revolution and its unprecedented achievements which seem to reveal an undeniable fact, i.e., nature is a law-governed realm. Mental phenomena, if natural, can be nothing other than determined effects of causal laws. On the other hand, however, meaningful life of human beings takes place in a different space of reasons (as opposed to causes). The challenging question becomes: how can we connect the above two spaces, i.e., the space of reasons vs. that of causes, if neither of them is deniable?

With regard to this question, McDowell’s work Mind and World bears unique importance in terms of re-focusing the contemporary empiricist problematics on a Kantian style of inquiry: how can unconceptualized sense data, thus inhabiting the space of causes, become a resident of the space of reasons? By abandoning the common presupposition underlying the two polarized positions (the Myth of Given vs. a Davidsonian coherentism), the conceptual content becomes boundless. I will critically engage this McDowllian resolution from a unique vantage point, i.e., grasping a crucial link between some deep, yet naturalized form of normativity, and the emergence of human intentionality in the natural evolutionary process. I will argue for an extension of a “Connection Principle,” initially proposed by Searle in the context of individual intentionality, into the evolutionary, cross-species context. This discussion parallels (yet goes beyond) a Dennettian line of thought. What appears intriguing is the fact that long before human specie emerged, the “Darwinian reasons” (or “free-floating rationale”) had taken effects and precisely due to such effects human specie had been “selected;” yet only after human rationality was born, did the Darwinian reasons become thinkable as bona fide reasons. In other words, the intentionality of man is the epistemologically legislative condition for nature to be possessed of rational relations (Darwinian reasons), while mother nature is the ontologically enabling condition for man to become intentional interpreter (meaning-endower). This deep-seated interdependence between man and nature in regard to reason relations is the ultimate ground for re-enchantment.

Keywords: Logical spaces (of reason vs. cause), Connection Principle, Evolution, Normativity, Re-enchantment
Stream: Philosophy, Ethics, Consciousness
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Normative Connection and Re-enchantment of Nature

Dr Yujian Zheng

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lingnan University
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Ref: H06P0461