Self-Awareness and Ontological Monism

Idealistic Studies 32 (3):237-254 (2002)
Any convincing theory of self-awareness must do the following: (a) avoid what Henry terms “ontological monism” (OM), the belief that there is only one kind of awareness, namely, object-awareness; for as long as we stick to OM, we remain wedded to the reflection theory of self-awareness and its well-known difficulties (the infinite regress being the worst). And, (b) account for the concrete personal facts about self-awareness: familiarity, unity, identity, etc. First, I go through the tradition, starting with Descartes, of accounts of self-awareness which fail to satisfy constraint (a). Second, I discuss the standard solution to the problem of self-awareness found in Sartre’s pre-reflective self. I argue that Sartre’s pre-reflective self contains a residue of the bias of “ontological monism,” therefore satisfying neither (a) nor (b). Third, I suggest an alternative in Kant’s transcendental subject, which possesses self-awareness independently of a cognitive attitude in the traditional sense of object-intentionality, and thereby intimates the beginnings of a phenomenology of the invisible
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