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Summary

Self-consciousness is consciousness of oneself as oneself. This is usually thought to distinguish self-consciousness from an awareness of what just happens to be oneself. In the latter, but not the former, case, one can fail to recognise that the object of one's awareness is oneself. We think of individual creatures as self-conscious, but we also think of particular psychological states as being instances of self-consciousness. Such states are often considered to possess certain special features that mark them out from non-self-conscious states. For example, it is plausible to suppose that self-consciousness is manifest in thoughts and other states that have first-person contents – thoughts of the form ‘I am F’ – and such thoughts are immune to certain sorts of error. For example, many claim that self-conscious thoughts have guaranteed reference, they cannot fail to refer. Others claim that, for a certain range of self-conscious thoughts, one cannot know somebody to be F and mistakenly think that it is oneself.

Much of the literature on self-consciousness focuses on how to articulate and account for such special features of first-person thought. A central question is whether self-consciousness is reducible. Further questions include: whether consciousness entails self-consciousness; whether self-consciousness involves an awareness of the self as an object; whether there can be non-conceptual or pre-reflective self-conscious states; whether the existence of self-consciousness poses a serious challenge to certain accounts of the nature of mind.

Key works The historical philosopher with the greatest influence on contemporary debates concerning self-consciousness is Kant, especially the First Critique. Ameriks 2000 and Keller 1998 are historically oriented accounts of Kant’s views in this area; Brook 2001 relates Kant’s views to more recent work.  The semantic peculiarities of first-person contents entered into the contemporary debate through the work of Kaplan 1989, Perry 1979, Castañeda 1966 and Lewis 1979, a central theme of which is the irreducibility of first-person thought. An earlier source is Wittgenstein 1958 who was influential on both Anscombe 1975, who defends the surprising view that “I” is not a referring term and Evans 1982, Ch.7, who offers a functionalist account of self-consciousness.  Shoemaker 1986 defends the claim, associated with Hume, Kant and Sartre, that self-consciousness does not involve an awareness of the self as an object. This claim had previously been rejected by Chisholm 1976 Ch.1.  Sartre 1957 defends the view that consciousness entails a pre-reflective form of self-consciousness. A similar view has recently been defended by Kriegel 2009. Bermudez 1998 articulates and defends the claim that some non-conceptual states are instances of self-consciousness.  Significant recent discussions of self-consciousness from the perspective of the cognitive sciences include Damasio 1999 and Metzinger 2003.
Introductions Cassam 1994 contains a number of classic papers and a useful introduction. Bermudez 2007 and Kriegel 2007 are also helpful introductions to some of the central issues.
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Subcategories:See also:History/traditions: Self-Consciousness
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  1. Stephen T. Asma (2012). Affective Neuroscience and the Philosophy of Self. Journal of Consciousness Studies 19.
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  2. Susan Blackmore (1994). Demolishing the Self. Journal of Consciousness Studies 1 (2):280-282.
    [opening paragraph]: Do you believe, deep down, that you exist? Do you feel as though `you' make the decisions and run `your' life? Above all do you think that `you' are conscious? If so, according to Guy Claxton's latest book, you have got it all wrong.
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  3. Andreas Blank (2006). Michael Tye,Consciousness and Persons. Unity and Identity. Pragmatics and Cognitionpragmatics and Cognition 14 (1):188-191.
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  4. Robert James M. Boyles (2012). Artificial Qualia, Intentional Systems and Machine Consciousness. In Proceedings of the Research@DLSU Congress 2012: Science and Technology Conference. 110a–110c.
    In the field of machine consciousness, it has been argued that in order to build human-like conscious machines, we must first have a computational model of qualia. To this end, some have proposed a framework that supports qualia in machines by implementing a model with three computational areas (i.e., the subconceptual, conceptual, and linguistic areas). These abstract mechanisms purportedly enable the assessment of artificial qualia. However, several critics of the machine consciousness project dispute this possibility. For instance, Searle, in his (...)
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  5. Martiniano Casero Martin-Nieto (2000). Fray Luis de San José: Alcantarino Inmaculista. Verdad y Vida 58 (229):589-604.
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  6. Daniel O. Dahlstrom (1999). Selbstbewußtseinsmodelle. Review of Metaphysics 52 (4):938-940.
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  7. Barry F. Dainton (1989). The Nature and Identity of the Self. Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
    Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;We are mental beings whose identity is absolute, intrinsic and real. This conception of the self, which, it is argued, corresponds to our deeper beliefs about, and attitudes towards, ourselves and others, is a consequence of taking the experienced unity and continuity of consciousness as the key to self-identity. Some of the difficulties often taken as fatal to this "subjectivist" view of the self, considerations concerning private languages and (...)
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  8. Pedro Machado de Castro (2008). José Luis Turina. Retrato. Director: José Luis Temes. Critica 58 (956):92.
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  9. Rene Descartes (1998). G. Lynn Stephens. In N. Scott Arnold, Theodore M. Benditt & George Graham (eds.), Philosophy Then and Now. Blackwell Publishers 237.
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  10. Jörg Disse (2001). Souveränität und Selbstbehauptung. Zur Subjektphilosophie von Emmanuel Levinas. In Hans-Ludwig Ollig & Gerhard Krieger (eds.), Fluchtpunkt Subjekt-Facetten und Chancen des Subjektgedankens. Schöningh 169-180.
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  11. Jörg Disse (1992). Das unmittelbare Selbstverhältnis bei Søren Kierkegaard. Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 17 (1):17.
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  12. Lorenzo Greco (2007). Daniel Dubuisson, La formazione dell'io. Dalle saggezze antiche alla conquista della personalità (Bari: Dedalo, 2007). [REVIEW] Rivista di Filosofia 98 (3):464-65.
  13. R. Gupta (1994). Mirror of Consciousness. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 21 (3):249.
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  14. Mathilde Jakobsen (2005). A Review Of D. Zahavi, T. Grunbaum & J. Parnas , The Structure And Development Of Self-Consciousness. [REVIEW] Psyche 11.
    The Structure and Development of Self-Consciousness is a collection of articles on self- consciousness by psychologists, cognitive scientists and philosophers. In the preface Zahavi and Grunbaum state the two main aims of the collection as being, first, to demonstrate that self-consciousness is a complex phenomenon requiring an interdisciplinary approach and, second, to argue for the existence of a kind of self-consciousness which is primitive, implicit, pre-reflective and bodily. In this review I will first give a summary of each of the (...)
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  15. L. E. Jakovleva (1996). José Luis Abellán y la «especificidad» de la Filosofía Española (Traducción de Elena Pliousnina). Anales Del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía 13 (13):305.
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  16. Tim Kenyon (2000). A Review Of Jose Luis Bermudez's The Paradox Of Self-Consciousness. [REVIEW] Psyche 6.
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  17. Jakub Limanowski, A Generative Model of Body Ownership and Minimal Selfhood.
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  18. Pessi Lyyra (2005). Review of Jose Luis Bermudez: Thinking Without Words. [REVIEW] Psyche 11.
    Cognitive sciences such as developmental psychology, cognitive ethology and cognitive archaeology continuously produce evidence of high-level thinking in non-linguistic creatures. José Luis Bermúdez applies this evidence in formulating a philosophical theory of non-linguistic thought, the main elements of which I summarise here. While I agree with most of the positive aspects of his theory of non-linguistic thought, I argue that the negative aspects of his theory—according to which non-linguistic creatures are denied metacognitive capacities—fails to take into account the evidence from (...)
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  19. Thomas Metzinger (2013). The Myth of Cognitive Agency: Subpersonal Thinking as a Cyclically Recurring Loss of Mental Autonomy. Frontiers in Psychology 4:931.
    This metatheoretical paper investigates mind wandering from the perspective of philosophy of mind. It has two central claims. The first is that, on a conceptual level, mind wandering can be fruitfully described as a specific form of mental autonomy loss. The second is that, given empirical constraints, most of what we call “conscious thought” is better analyzed as a subpersonal process that more often than not lacks crucial properties traditionally taken to be the hallmark of personal-level cognition - such as (...)
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  20. Thomas Metzinger (2013). Why Are Dreams Interesting for Philosophers? The Example of Minimal Phenomenal Selfhood, Plus an Agenda for Future Research. Frontiers in Psychology 4:746.
    This metatheoretical paper develops a list of new research targets by exploring particularly promising interdisciplinary contact points between empirical dream research and philosophy of mind. The central example is the MPS-problem. It is constituted by the epistemic goal of conceptually isolating and empirically grounding the phenomenal property of “minimal phenomenal selfhood,” which refers to the simplest form of self-consciousness. In order to precisely describe MPS, one must focus on those conditions that are not only causally enabling, but strictly necessary to (...)
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  21. Teresa Mozejko (2012). Don Luis José de Tejeda y Guzmán: peregrino y ciudadano. Anclajes 16 (1):94 - 95.
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  22. María G. Navarro (2011). José Luis L. Aranguren: Influencia, cambio, movilidad. Vida y obra de un intelectual heterodoxo. Revista Ateneo de La Laguna 29:99-102.
    "Aranguren: filosofía en la vida y vida en la filosofía" llevó por nombre la exposición sobre la figura y el legado de José Luis L. Aranguren (Ávila 1909- Madrid 1996) que pudo verse desde el 4 de junio al 26 de julio de 2009 en el Pabellón Transatlántico de la Residencia de Estudiantes de Madrid con ocasión del centenario del nacimiento del filósofo abulense.
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  23. Adela Cortina Orts (1988). Antrhopos. Revista de Documentación Científica de la Cultura, nº 80 (1988), "José Luis L. Aranguren. Propuestas morales: Problematicidad y actitud ética". [REVIEW] Diálogo Filosófico 11:237-239.
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  24. Gerardo Oviedo (2005). La Idea Del Americanismo En El Joven José Luis Romero. Dialogos 9 (3).
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  25. Enrique Bonete Perales (2009). El Pensamiento Ético-Moral de José Luis L. Aranguren. In Manuel Garrido (ed.), El Legado Filosófico Español E Hispanoamericano Del Siglo Xx. Cátedra
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  26. Antonio Pizza, Jaume Freixa & José Luis Sert (1997). J. Ll. Sert y El Mediterráneo. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  27. Robert Roczeń (2006). The Subjectivity of the Great Apes. Diametros 9.
    The question of the intellectual abilities and personal features of the Great Apes is widely discussed in academic literature. The discourse usually concentrates on comparisons to the human mind, but such criteriona areis not reliable because they don’t allow us to analysisze the personal being of primates in terms of its fundamental features. The borderline between Homo sapiens and the Great Apes is not as sharp as it seems. There is a continuous transition between them as regards Pparticulars phenomena, which. (...)
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  28. José Rubio Carracedo (1996). José Luis L. Aranguren (In Memoriam). Contrastes: Revista Interdisciplinar de Filosofía 1:1-6.
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  29. Carol Slater (1999). José Luis Bermúdez, The Paradox of Self Consciousness. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 19:166-168.
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  30. Antonio Heredia Soriano (1979). José Luis Abellán en la tradición historiográfica de la filosofía española. Cuadernos Salmantinos de Filosofía 6:463-467.
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  31. Valdo H. Viglielmo, Takeuchi Toshinori & Joseph S. O'Leary (eds.) (1987). Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness. State University of New York Press.
    Nishida Kitaro's reformulation of the major issues of Western philosophy from a Zen standpoint of "absolute nothingness" and "absolutely contradictory self-identity" represents the boldest speculative enterprise of modern Japan, continued today by his successors in the "Kyoto School" of philosophy. This English translation of Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness evokes the movement and flavor of the original, clarifies its obscurities, and eliminates the repetitions. It sheds new light on the philosopher's career, revealing a long struggle with such thinkers as Cohen, (...)
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  32. Philip J. Walsh (2016). Dan Zahavi: Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame. [REVIEW] Husserl Studies 32 (1):75-82.
  33. Brett Welch, A Phenomenological-Enactive Theory of the Minimal Self.
    The purpose of this project is to argue that we possess a minimal self. It will demonstrate that minimal selfhood arrives early in our development and continues to remain and influence us throughout our entire life. There are two areas of research which shape my understanding of the minimal self: phenomenology and enactivism. Phenomenology emphasizes the sense of givenness, ownership, or mineness that accompanies all of our experiences. Enactivism says there is a sensorimotor coupling that occurs between us and the (...)
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  34. Dan Zahavi (2008). Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective. A Bradford Book.
    What is a self? Does it exist in reality or is it a mere social construct--or is it perhaps a neurologically induced illusion? The legitimacy of the concept of the self has been questioned by both neuroscientists and philosophers in recent years. Countering this, in Subjectivity and Selfhood, Dan Zahavi argues that the notion of self is crucial for a proper understanding of consciousness. He investigates the interrelationships of experience, self-awareness, and selfhood, proposing that none of these three notions can (...)
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Immunity to Error through Misidentification
  1. Wolfgang Barz (2009). Irrtum durch Fehlidentifikation. Conceptus: Zeitschrift Fur Philosophie 93 (93):7-15.
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  2. JosÉ Luis BermÚdez (2003). ‘I’-Thoughts and Explanation: Reply to Garrett. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (212):432-436.
    Brian Garrett has criticized my diagnosis of the paradox of self-consciousness. In reply, I focus on the classification of 'I'-thoughts, and show how the notion of immunity to error through misidentification can be used to characterize 'I'-thoughts, even though an important class of 'I'-thoughts are not themselves immune to error through misidentification. 'I'-thoughts which are susceptible to error through misidentification are dependent upon those which are not. The dependence here has to do with how a thinker understands what would defeat (...)
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  3. J. L. Bermudez (2013). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification and Past-Tense Memory Judgements. Analysis 73 (2):211-220.
    Autobiographical memories typically give rise either to memory reports (“I remember going swimming”) or to first person past-tense judgements (“I went swimming”). This article focuses on first person past-tense judgements that are (epistemically) based on autobiographical memories. Some of these judgements have the IEM property of being immune to error through misidentification. This article offers an account of when and why first person past-tense judgements have the IEM property.
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  4. Jose Luis Bermudez (2012). Memory Judgments and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. Grazer Philosophische Studien 84 (1):123-142.
    First person judgments that are immune to error through misidentifi cation (IEM) are fundamental to self-conscious thought. The IEM status of many such judgments can be understood in terms of the possession conditions of the concepts they involve. However, this approach cannot be extended to first person judgments based on autobiographical memory. Th e paper develops an account of why such judgments have the IEM property and how thinkers are able to exploit this fact in inference.
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  5. José Luis Bermúdez (2003). 'I'-Thoughts and Explanation: Reply to Garrett. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (212):432–436.
    Brian Garrett has criticized my diagnosis of the paradox of self-consciousness. In reply, I focus on the classification of 'I'-thoughts, and show how the notion of immunity to error through misidentification can be used to characterize 'I'-thoughts, even though an important class of 'I'-thoughts (those whose expression involves what Wittgenstein called the use of 'I' as object) are not themselves immune to error through misidentification. 'I'-thoughts which are susceptible to error through misidentification are dependent upon those which are not. The (...)
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  6. Jose Luis Bermudez (2003). The Elusiveness Thesis, Immunity to Error Through Misidentification, and Privileged Access. In Brie Gertler (ed.), Privileged Access: Philosophical Accounts of Self-Knowledge. Ashgate
  7. Alexandre Billon (2011). Does Consciousness Entail Subjectivity? The Puzzle of Thought Insertion. Philosophical Psychology 26 (2):291 - 314.
    (2013). Does consciousness entail subjectivity? The puzzle of thought insertion. Philosophical Psychology: Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 291-314. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2011.625117.
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  8. Cordula Brand (2013). Gottfried Vosgerau, Mental Representation and Self‐Consciousness. From Basic Self‐Representation to Self‐Related Cognition, Paderborn: Mentis, 2009, 179 Pp., € 24.00, ISBN: 3897856271. [REVIEW] Dialectica 67 (2):248-252.
  9. Ingar Brinck (1998). Self-Identification and Self-Reference. Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 6.
    [1] To know who one is, and also know whether one's experiences really belong to oneself, do not normally present any problem. It nevertheless happens that people do not recognise themselves as they walk by a mirror or do not understand that they fit some particular description. But there are situations in which it really seems impossible to be wrong about oneself. Of that, Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote: " It is possible that, say in an accident, I should feel pain (...)
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  10. Christopher Buford (2009). Memory, Quasi-Memory, and Pseudo-Quasi-Memory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 87 (3):465 – 478.
    Bishop Butler objected to Locke's theory of personal identity on the grounds that memory presupposes personal identity. Most of those sympathetic with Locke's account have accepted Butler's criticism, and have sought to devise a theory of personal identity in the spirit of Locke's that avoids Butler's circularity objection. John McDowell has argued that even the more recent accounts of personal identity are vulnerable to the kind of objection Butler raised against Locke's own account. I criticize McDowell's stance, drawing on a (...)
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  11. J. Campbell (1999). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification and the Meaning of a Referring Term. Philosophical Topics 26 (1/2):89-104.
  12. J. Campbell (1999). Schizophrenia, the Space of Reasons and Thinking as a Motor Process. The Monist 82 (4):609-625.
  13. Glenn Carruthers (2011). The Nature of Representation and the Experience of Oneself: A Critical Notice on Gottfried Vosgerau's Mental Representation and Self-Consciousness. Philosophical Psychology 24 (3):411 - 425.
  14. H. N. Castaneda, J. G. Hart & T. Kapitan (eds.) (1999). The Phenomeno-Logic of the I: Essays on Self-Consciousness. Indiana University Press.
    This unique volume will appeal to those interested in the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence as well as students of Castaneda and Latin American philosophy.
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  15. Hector-Neri Castaneda (1987). Self-Consciousness, Demonstrative Reference, and the Self-Ascription View of Believing. Philosophical Perspectives 1:405-454.
  16. Hector-Neri Castañeda (1966). 'He': A Study in the Logic of Self-Consciousness. Ratio 8 (December):130-157.
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