29.01.2007

The history of mind research unit

The History of Mind Research Unit is a Finnish research project on the history of the philosophy of mind. It belongs to the Academy of Finland's programme of Centres of Excellence in Research, and functions at the Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä. The group focuses on the structure and functions of the human mind in Greek philosophy, medieval Arabic and Latin philosophy and the philosophy of the Early Modern Age.

Areas of special interest include conceptions of knowledge, understanding, inference, self-consciousness, will and emotions, as well as changes in the concepts and philosophical assumptions related to these concepts. Key issues concern the distinction between body and soul, the abilities of the mind, concepts of subject and object of mental attitudes, as well as conceptions of normal and abnormal mental conditions and disorders.

The history of the philosophy of mind has been a central area of interest to several Finnish scholars working in systematic philosophy, the history of ancient Greek philosophy, medieval Arabic philosophy, medieval Latin thought, Renaissance studies, intellectual history, as well as the philosophy of the Early Modern Age. In 2001, these scholars have formed an interdisciplinary research group, "The History of Mind Research Unit". The Academy of Finland selected the group as one of the Centres of Excellence in Research for the six-year period 2002-2007. The group is based at the Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä, which also partake in its funding. The group comprises some 20 scholars and post-graduate students.

The focus of the group is the history of the philosophy of mind and is thus associated with one of the main branches of contemporary philosophy. The subtitle of the project is "Cognition, self-consciousness and the passions of the soul. Philosophy of mind from Plato to Kant". The scope has thus been specified by three interrelated themes:
1.Cognition: intuitive knowledge regarding principles accepted without proof (axioms); direct knowledge of individual objects; the psychology and processes of reasoning, as well as cognitive normality
2. Self-consciousness: the varieties of philosophical conceptions of self-consciousness and reflexive mental acts.
3. Passions of the soul: conceptions of actions and passions, including the philosophical discussions of mental disturbances and madness.

Questions concerning the philosophy of mind will be investigated by analysing the historical formation of key conceptions. A systematic interest will be combined with historical, philological and philosophical analyses of Greek, Arabic and Latin sources and traditions. The studies will be based on the view that the history of philosophy is part of problem-oriented systematic philosophy and, at the same time, a relatively independent branch of philosophy demanding both historical and philological training.

All members will participate in a regular joint seminar in which individual projects are discussed. In addition, several international symposia will be organised in Finland. In these symposia, the project will present its research results but, more importantly, the symposia also enable the group to benefit from the work of other scholars in the same areas of research.

The results of the project will, in large part, be published in the form of monographs and articles by individual scholars. The members will also contribute to a common publication -- a source book on the history of the philosophy of mind. The latter will include basic texts in Greek, Arabic, Latin and French with translations and commentaries in English, thus making available a wide range of difficult texts on connected issues.


For more information, see [http://www.helsinki.fi/teol/steol/mind/]