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Self-Consciousness

Edited by Kristina Musholt (Otto von Guericke Universität, Magdeburg)
Assistant editor: Felicia Höer
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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 1977, Perry 1979, Castaneda 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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Immunity to Error through Misidentification
  1. 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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  2. Jose Luis Bermudez (2012). Memory Judgments and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. Grazer Philosophische Studien 84 (1):123-142.
  3. 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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  4. 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.
  5. 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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  6. 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.
  7. 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 (...)
    In the passage in which this remark is found, Wittgenstein distinguishes between two kinds of use of "I". The first use, as object, as in "I have broken my arm" or "The wind is blowing in my hair", he holds, involves the recognition of a particular person, and there is the possibility of error as concerns the identity of the person. In the other use, as subject, as in "I think it will rain" or "I am trying to lift my arm", no person is recognised. No mistake can be made about who the subject is. (shrink)
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  8. 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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  9. J. Campbell (1999). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification and the Meaning of a Referring Term. Philosophical Topics 26 (1/2):89-104.
  10. J. Campbell (1999). Schizophrenia, the Space of Reasons and Thinking as a Motor Process. The Monist 82 (4):609-625.
  11. 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.
  12. H. N. Castaneda, J. G. Hart & T. Kapitan (1999). The Phenomeno-Logic of the I: Essays on Self-Consciousness. Indiana University Press.
  13. Hector-Neri Castaneda (1987). Self-Consciousness, Demonstrative Reference, and the Self-Ascription View of Believing. Philosophical Perspectives 1:405-454.
  14. Hector-Neri Castañeda (1966). `He': A Study in the Logic of Self-Consciousness. Ratio 7 (2):130--57.
  15. Marc Champagne (2013). Can “I” Prevent You From Entering My Mind? Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 12 (1):145-162.
    Shaun Gallagher has actively looked into the possibility that psychopathologies involving “thought insertion” might supply a counterexample to the Cartesian principle according to which one can always recognize one’s own thoughts as one’s own. Animated by a general distrust of a priori demonstrations, Gallagher is convinced that pitting clinical cases against philosophical arguments is a worthwhile endeavor. There is no doubt that, if true, a falsification of the immunity to error through misidentification would entail drastic revisions in how we conceive (...)
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  16. Cheryl K. Chen (2011). Bodily Awareness and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. European Journal of Philosophy 19 (1):21-38.
    Abstract: Some first person statements, such as ‘I am in pain’, are thought to be immune to error through misidentification (IEM): I cannot be wrong that I am in pain because—while I know that someone is in pain—I have mistaken that person for myself. While IEM is typically associated with the self-ascription of psychological properties, some philosophers attempt to draw anti-Cartesian conclusions from the claim that certain physical self-ascriptions are also IEM. In this paper, I will examine whether some physical (...)
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  17. Andrea Christofidou (2000). Self-Consciousness and the Double Immunity. Philosophy 75 (294):539-570.
    It is accepted that first-person thoughts are immune to error through misidentification. I argue that there is also immunity to error through misascription, failure to recognise which has resulted in mistaken claims that first-person thoughts involving the self-ascription of bodily states are, at best, circumstantially immune to error through misidentification relative to.
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  18. Annalisa Coliva (2006). Error Through Misidentification: Some Varieties. Journal of Philosophy 103 (8):407-425.
  19. Annalisa Coliva (2002). Thought Insertion and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 9 (1):27-34.
    John Campbell (1999) has recently maintained that the phenomenon of thought insertion as it is manifested in schizophrenic patients should be described as a case in which the subject is introspectively aware of a certain thought and yet she is wrong in identifying whose thought it is. Hence, according to Campbell, the phenomenon of thought insertion might be taken as a counterexample to the view that introspection-based mental selfascriptions are logically immune to error through misidentification (IEM, hereafter). Thus, if Campbell (...)
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  20. Katja Crone, Kristina Musholt & Anna Strasser (2012). Facets of Self-Consciousness-Special Issued Edited by Katja Crone, Kristine Musholt and Anna Strasser. Grazer Philosophische Studien 84.
  21. Frédérique de Vignemont (2011). A Self for the Body. Metaphilosophy 42 (3):230-247.
    Abstract: What grounds the experience of our body as our own? Can we rationally doubt that this is our own body when we feel sensations in it? This article shows how recent empirical evidence can shed light on issues on the body and the self, such as the grounds of the sense of body ownership and the immunity to error through misidentification of bodily self-ascriptions. In particular, it discusses how bodily illusions (e.g., the Rubber Hand Illusion), bodily disruptions (e.g., somatoparaphrenia), (...)
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  22. James M. Dow, Shoegenstein on Self-Ascription, Immunity to Error and I-as-Subject.
    Contemporary accounts of the self-ascription of experiences are wedded to two basic dogmas. The first is that self-ascription is immune to error through misidentification relative to the first person (IEM). The second dogma is that there is distinction between awareness of oneself qua subject and awareness of oneself qua object (the SCS/SCO distinction). In this paper, I urge that these dogmas are groundless. First, I illustrate that claims about immunity to error through misidentification are usually based upon claims about awareness (...)
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  23. Andrea Christo Fidou (2000). Self-Consciousness and the Double Immunity. Philosophy 75:539.
    It is accepted that first-person thoughts are immune to error through misidentification. I argue that there is also immunity to error through misascription, failure to recognise which has resulted in mistaken claims that first-person thoughts involving the self-ascription of bodily states are, at best, circumstantially immune to error through misidentification relative to ‘I’ and, at worst, subject to error. Central to my thesis is that, first, ‘I’ is immune to error through misidentification absolutely, and that if there is any problem (...)
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  24. Marina Folescu & James Higginbotham (2012). Two Takes on the De Se. In Simon Prosser & Francois Recanati (eds.), Immunity to Error Through Misidentification: New Essays. Cambridge University Press.
    In this article we consider, relying in part upon comparative semantic evidence from English and Romanian, two contrasting dimensions of the sense in which our thoughts, including the contents of imagination and memory, and extending to objects of fear, enjoyment, and other emotions directed toward worldly happenings, may be distinctively first-personal, or "de se," to use the terminology introduced in Lewis (1979), and exhibit the phenomenon of immunity to error through misidentification (hereafter: IEM) in the sense of Shoemaker (1968) and (...)
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  25. M. Frank (1995). Mental Familiarity and Epistemic Self-Ascription. Common Knowledge 4:30--50.
  26. Shaun Gallagher (2012). First-Person Perspective and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. In Miguens & Preyer (eds.), Consciousness and Subjectivity. Ontos Verlag. 47--245.
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  27. Shaun Gallagher (2000). Self-Reference and Schizophrenia: A Cognitive Model of Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. In Dan Zahavi (ed.), Exploring the Self: Philosophical and Psychopathological Perspectives on Self-Experience. John Benjamins. 203--239.
  28. Brian J. Garrett (2003). Bermudez on Self-Consciousness. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):96-101.
    I argue that José Luis Bermúdez has not shown that there is a paradox in our concept of self-consciousness. The deflationary theory is not a plausible theory of self-consciousness, so its paradoxicality is irrelevant. A more plausible theory, 'the simple theory', is not paradoxical. However, I do think there is a puzzle about the connection between self-consciousness and 'I'-thoughts.
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  29. Rick Grush (2007). Evans on Identification-Freedom. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (4):605-617.
    Gareth Evans’ account of Identifi cation-freedom (IF), which he devel- ops in Chapters 6 and 7 of The Varieties of Reference (henceforth VR) is almost universally misunderstood.1 Howell is guilty of this same mis- understanding, and as a result claims to have mounted a criticism of Evans, when in fact he has not. I will take the occasion of Howell’s oth- erwise insightful article to clarify Evans’ position. Note that the bulk of Howell’s analysis is targeted at the phenomenon known (...)
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  30. Marie Guillot (2013). The Limits of Selflessness: Semantic Relativism and the Epistemology of de Se Thoughts. Synthese 190 (10):1793-1816.
    It has recently been proposed that the framework of semantic relativism be put to use to describe mental content, as deployed in some of the fundamental operations of the mind. This programme has inspired in particular a novel strategy of accounting for the essential egocentricity of first-personal or de se thoughts in relativist terms, with the advantage of dispensing with a notion of self-representation. This paper is a critical discussion of this strategy. While it is based on a plausible appeal (...)
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  31. Andy Hamilton (2009). Memory and Self-Consciousness: Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. [REVIEW] Synthese 171 (3):409 - 417.
    In The Blue Book, Wittgenstein defined a category of uses of “I” which he termed “I”-as-subject, contrasting them with “I”-as-object uses. The hallmark of this category is immunity to error through misidentification (IEM). This article extends Wittgenstein’s characterisation to the case of memory-judgments, discusses the significance of IEM for self-consciousness—developing the idea that having a first-person thought involves thinking about oneself in a distinctive way in which one cannot think of anyone or anything else—and refutes a common objection to the (...)
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  32. Melinda Hogan & R. Martin (2001). Introspective Misidentification: An I for an I. In Andrew Brook & R. DeVidi (eds.), Self-Reference and Self-Awareness. John Benjamins.
  33. Robert J. Howell (2007). Immunity to Error and Subjectivity. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (4):581-604.
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  34. Timothy Lane & Caleb Liang (2011). Self-Consciousness and Immunity. Journal of Philosophy 108 (2):78-99.
    Sydney Shoemaker, developing an idea of Wittgenstein’s, argues that we are immune to error through misidentification relative to the first-person pronoun. Although we might be liable to error when “I” (or its cognates) is used as an object, we are immune to error when “I” is used as a subject (as when one says, “I have a toothache”). Shoemaker claims that the relationship between “I” as-subject and the mental states of which it is introspectively aware is tautological: when, say, we (...)
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  35. André Leclerc (2010). Fallibilism, Demonstrative Thoughts and Russellian Propositions. Principia 5 (1-2):43-54.
    Russeilian or singular propositions are very useful in sernantics to specify "what has been said" by a literal and serious utterance of a sentence containing a proper name, an indexical or a dernonstrative, or for modeling demonstrative thoughts. Based on an example given by S. Guttenplan, I construct a case showing that if our only option for modeling dernonstrative thoughts is a singular proposition à la Russell, we run the risk of admitting infallible empirical (existential) beliefs. I defend the principle (...)
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  36. J. Liu & J. Perry (eds.) (2011). Consciousness and the Self: New Essays. Cambridge University Press.
    'I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.' These famous words of David Hume, on his inability to perceive the self, set the stage for JeeLoo Liu and John Perry's collection of essays on self-awareness and self-knowledge. This volume connects recent scientific studies on consciousness with the traditional issues about the self explored by Descartes, Locke and Hume. Experts in the field offer contrasting perspectives on matters such as (...)
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  37. Beatrice Longuenesse (2012). Two Uses of 'I' as Subject? In Simon Prosser & François Recanati (eds.), Immunity to Error through Misidentification.
  38. Béatrice Longuenesse (2008). Self-Consciousness and Self-Reference: Sartre and Wittgenstein. European Journal of Philosophy 16 (1):1–21.
  39. Aidan McGlynn (2013). Simon Prosser and François Recanati, Eds. , Immunity to Error Through Misidentification . Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 33 (4):318-321.
  40. Aidan McGlynn (2011). Review of Anthony Hatzimoysis (Ed.), Self-Knowledge, Oxford University Press. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
  41. Conor McHugh, Self-Knowledge in Consciousness.
    When you enjoy a conscious mental state or episode, you can knowledgeably self-ascribe that state or episode, and your self-ascription will have a special security and authority (as well as several other distinctive features). This thesis argues for an epistemic but nonintrospectionist account of why such self-ascriptions count as knowledge, and why they have a special status. The first part of the thesis considers what general shape an account of self-knowledge must have. Against a deflationist challenge, I argue that your (...)
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  42. R. Meeks (2006). Why Nonconceptual Content Cannot Be Immune to Error Through Misidentification. European Review of Philosophy 6:81-100.
  43. Masaharu Mizumoto & Masato Ishikawa (2005). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification and the Bodily Illusion Experiment. Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (7):3-19.
    In this paper we introduce a paradigm of experiment which, we believe, is of interest both in psychology and philosophy. There the subject wears an HMD (head-mount display), and a camera is set up at the upper corner of the room, in which the subject is. As a result, the subject observes his own body through the HMD. We will mainly focus on the philosophical relevance of this experiment, especially to the thesis of so-called 'immunity to error through misidentification relative (...)
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  44. Kristina Musholt (2013). A Philosophical Perspective on the Relation Between Cortical Midline Structures and the Self. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7.
    In recent years there has been increasing evidence that an area in the brain called the cortical midline structures (CMSs) is implicated in what has been termed self-related processing. This article will discuss recent evidence for the relation between CMS and self-consciousness in light of several important philosophical distinctions. First, we should distinguish between being a self (i.e., being a subject of conscious experience) and being aware of being a self (i.e., being able to think about oneself as such). While (...)
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  45. Kristina Musholt (2013). Self-Consciousness and Nonconceptual Content. Philosophical Studies 163 (3):649-672.
    Self-consciousness can be defined as the ability to think 'I'-thoughts. Recently, it has been suggested that self-consciousness in this sense can (and should) be accounted for in terms of nonconceptual forms of self-representation. Here, I will argue that while theories of nonconceptual self-consciousness do provide us with important insights regarding the essential genetic and epistemic features of self-conscious thought, they can only deliver part of the full story that is required to understand the phenomenon of self-consciousness. I will provide two (...)
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  46. Kristina Musholt (2012). Selbstbewusstsein als perspektivische Differenzierung. Pädagogische Rundschau 66:477-487.
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  47. Anne Newstead (2006). Evans's Anti-Cartesian Argument: A Critical Evaluation. Ratio 19 (June):214-228.
    In chapter 7 of The Varieties of Reference, Gareth Evans claimed to have an argument that would present "an antidote" to the Cartesian conception of the self as a purely mental entity. On the basis of considerations drawn from philosophy of language and thought, Evans claimed to be able to show that bodily awareness is a form of self-awareness. The apparent basis for this claim is the datum that sometimes judgements about one’s position based on body sense are immune to (...)
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  48. Alfredo Paternoster (2013). Il tarlo dell'autocoscienza non riflessiva. Rivista di Filosofia 104 (3):421-442.
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  49. Christopher Peacocke (2011). Self-Consciousness. Revue de Métaphysique Et de Morale 4 (4):521-551.
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  50. Simon Prosser & Francois Recanati (eds.) (2012). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification: New Essays. Cambridge University Press.
    In this collection of newly commissioned essays, the contributors present a variety of approaches to it, engaging with historical and empirical aspects of the subject as well as contemporary philosophical work.
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