The Relationship between the Prereflective Self and the Reflective Mind: Keeping the Head and Heart Together

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Thesis type
((Thesis)/(Dissertation)) Ph.D.
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This dissertation addresses the following question: what is the optimal relationship between the prereflective self and the reflective mind? This question arises because of the waning influence of master narratives that provided guidelines for individual behaviour and social interactions. Because of the declining import of these grand narratives, received meanings have lost much of their efficacy. Consequently, the postmodern individual has to become more adept at meaning making. The fundamental process for doing so, involves a shuttling back and forth between prereflective experience and reflective meaning. That is, one attempts to give conceptual, linguistic form to one’s prereflective experience by “trying on” various metaphors, symbols, and terms. One assesses the appropriateness of these verbal forms by referring them back to the implicit experience. Some forms “fit” better than others and those become the meanings that are adopted. This approach becomes necessary as the pace of cultural change accelerates and the appropriateness of “zombie categories” comes into question. “Zombie categories” are categories for organizing understanding that no longer fit the time in which we live. Prereflective consciousness is the means by which we attune to our current circumstances. It registers what is emerging. Reflective consciousness can then forge the terms that express the patterns that have been sensed by the prereflective. Those terms can then be employed to communicate regarding the shared situation in which we find ourselves. This dissertation also suggests that through referencing the prereflective the ontological status of both the self and the world attains fullness. This is contrasted with the abstracted, ironical stance that is more characteristic of the reflective mind. The latter style results from the methodology of doubt, whereas the former embodies the impulse to affirm. Finally, my methodology employs a narrative, that repeatedly circles around the phenomenon of the prereflective. Because the prereflective is non-conceptual, whereas a thesis is conceptual and reflexive, I use the latter to point at a consciousness that is non-representational. Each conceptual iteration reveals the boundary beyond which it cannot go. The sum total of those iterations reveals the ‘shape’ of the prereflective.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Blenkinsop, Sean
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