Jim Matthews


Jim Matthews became interested in his research project through a class on phenomenology taught by Professor Smith. His project is unique, addressing the fundamental philosophical question of whether we create the world for ourselves or simply assign meaning to an objectively existing world. His favorite part of the research was finding and developing connections between modern theories and those that are 100 years old. Jim says that his research experience has given him a good introduction to some of the complex questions of philosophy that might not be addressed in the classroom. After graduation, Jim hopes to pursue a Ph.D., working in the field of philosophy of cognitive science. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




Some theorists claim that cognitive science suffers from an explanatory gap. They believe that, even in its most potentially fruitful breakthroughs, it will never account for the subjective character of experience. As early as 1900, however, Edmund Husserl provided a rich, subjective theory of consciousness. I begin with a description of Husserl and his theory of transcendental phenomenology while trying to draw out the representational intent of his work. I then transition to an analysis of a newly emerging theory called conscious realism, proffered by Donald Hoffman, and show the implications it has for the study of the objective world. Ultimately, I argue that, despite some fundamental differences, the two theories cohere in significant ways, and can therefore provide a framework from which to analyze the explanatory gap. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

David Woodruff Smith

School of Humanities

Jim Matthews has taken a bold approach to the mind-body problem of how conscious experience relates to brain process. The reigning model of mind as computational neural process omits the subjective character of our experience. Matthews looks to an alternative mathematical model developed by UCI cognitive scientist Donald Hoffmann. This neo-idealist model, Matthews proposes, can be understood in terms of Edmund Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, according to which our intentional acts of consciousness are the building blocks of our “constitution” of the world around us. Matthews uses Husserlian concepts to frame Hoffman’s model and to reframe the mind-body problem. Jim is to be congratulated for tackling such heady issues and producing a compact statement of a complex and timely scientific-philosophical vision. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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