(2022) Husserl Studies 38 (2).

Husserl on minimal mind and the origins of consciousness in the natural world

pp. 107-127

The main aim of this article is to offer a systematic reconstruction of Husserl’s theory of minimal mind and his ideas pertaining to the lowest level of consciousness in living beings. In this context, the term ‘minimal mind’ refers to the mental sphere and capacities of the simplest conceivable subject. This topic is of significant contemporary interest for philosophy of mind and empirical research into the origins of consciousness. I contend that Husserl’s reflections on minimal mind offer a fruitful contribution to this ongoing debate. For Husserl, the embodied character of subjectivity, or consciousness, is essential for understanding minimal mind. In his view, there is an a priori necessary constitutive connection between the subjective and objective aspects of the body, between Leib and Körper, and this connection is especially important for exploring minimal mind from a phenomenological perspective. Thematically, the essay has three main parts. In Sect. 2, I present an overview of how minimal mind is framed in contemporary philosophy of mind and empirical research. I then analyse Husserl’s conception of embodiment with regard to the problem of minimal mind in Sect. 3. Finally, I present a more detailed investigation into Husserl’s account of minimal mind, highlighting features from his descriptions of animal mind and consciousness in early infancy (Sects. 4 and 5).

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(2022). Husserl on minimal mind and the origins of consciousness in the natural world. Husserl Studies 38 (2), pp. 107-127.

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