(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
This is a very difficult book for anybody who is not a professional philosopher.
Not because the theory here presented is particularly difficult but because
Samuel Todes (an American philosopher who died in 1994)
writes in the convoluted style of so many philosophers.
Worse: this his basically his dissertation, written in 1963, and it was not
meant to be easy to read for the general public.
Todes' philosophy belonged to the general school of existential phenomenology, as practiced by Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty studied the role of the body in perception and action. He emphasized that the structure of our body produces the spatiotemporal field of our experiences. The body is unified capacity for action in that field. Today, we can relate his general theory to situated cognition (the idea that everybody we think and do is due to the fact that we live in such and such an environment).
The roots of Todes' philosophy appear to be in Aron Gurwitsch's theory of FIELD OF CONSCIOUSNESS (Dusquesne Univ Press, 1964), which was a reworking of William James' theory of the field of consciousness (consciousness has a center and a margin and spreads from the center to the margin). Todes reinterprets that field of consciousness as a (spatiotemporal) field of perception and of action. Our actions are aimed at finding a balance with this field such that we can cope with the objects present in that field. This is a feedback process: we act on the world, and the objects of the world act back on us and then we act on the world and so forth. This two-way dependency Todes calls "intentional arc". This interaction between body and environment basically instantiates our entire experience. Since the starting point is the body's need for homeostasis with the environment (which Todes calls generally "needs"), then Todes concludes that our experience is basically our quest to satisfy our needs. Merleau-Ponty's spatiotemporale field becomes the field of our body's needs. (This is pretty much what any evolutionary biologist believes).
Most of the book is actually a critique of Kant's idealism.