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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 1982 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. Adrian Alsmith (2015). Mental Activity & the Sense of Ownership. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (4):881-896.
    I introduce and defend the notion of a cognitive account of the sense of ownership. A cognitive account of the sense of ownership holds that one experiences something as one's own only if one thinks of something as one's own. By contrast, a phenomenal account of the sense of ownership holds that one can experience something as one's own without thinking about anything as one's own. I argue that we have no reason to favour phenomenal accounts over cognitive accounts, that (...)
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  2. Alexandre Billon (2016). Basic Self‐Awareness. European Journal of Philosophy 24 (3).
    Basic self-awareness is the kind of self-awareness reflected in our standard use of the first-person. Patients suffering from severe forms of depersonalization often feel reluctant to use the first-person and can even, in delusional cases, avoid it altogether, systematically referring to themselves in the third-person. Even though it has been neglected since then, depersonalization has been extensively studied, more than a century ago, and used as probe for understanding the nature and the causal mechanisms of basic self-awareness. In this paper, (...)
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  3. Laurence A. BonJour & Gilbert Harman (1975). Thought. Philosophical Review 84 (2):256.
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  4. Martiniano Casero Martin-Nieto (2000). Fray Luis de San José: Alcantarino Inmaculista. Verdad y Vida 58 (229):589-604.
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  5. Barry Dainton (2015). From Phenomenal Selves to Hyperselves. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 76:161-197.
    The claim that we are subjects of experience, i.e. beings whose nature is intimately bound up with consciousness, is in many ways a plausible one. There is, however, more than one way of developing a metaphysical account of the nature of subjects. The view that subjects are essentially conscious has the unfortunate consequence that subjects cannot survive periods of unconsciousness. A more appealing alternative is to hold that subjects are beings with the capacity to be conscious, a capacity which need (...)
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  6. Pedro Machado de Castro (2008). José Luis Turina. Retrato. Director: José Luis Temes. Critica 58 (956):92.
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  7. Rene Descartes (1998). G. Lynn Stephens. In N. Scott Arnold, Theodore M. Benditt & George Graham (eds.), Philosophy Then and Now. Blackwell. pp. 237.
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  8. Shaun Gallagher (2015). Relations Between Agency and Ownership in the Case of Schizophrenic Thought Insertion and Delusions of Control. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (4):865-879.
    This article addresses questions about the sense of agency and its distinction from the sense of ownership in the context of understanding schizophrenic thought insertion. In contrast to “standard” approaches that identify problems with the sense of agency as central to thought insertion, two recent proposals argue that it is more correct to think that the problem concerns the subject’s sense of ownership. This view involves a “more demanding” concept of the sense of ownership that, I will argue, ultimately depends (...)
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  9. Robert N. Goldman (1972). Philips Peril: Presenting a Puzzling Paradox of Person-Ness. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 16 (1):131-135.
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  10. Asghar Iran-Nejad (2000). Knowledge, Self-Regulation, and the Brain-Mind Cycle of Reflection. Journal of Mind and Behavior 21 (1-2):67-88.
    The structure of everyday language implies that knowledge is an object. Like an object, it can be acquired, lost, stored, retrieved, and used. Anything that might be done to an external object could also be done to knowledge. Using concepts from the emerging field of biofunctional cognition, this paper discusses an alternative to the everyday-language framework of knowledge. The central idea is that the biological subsystems that comprise the physical nervous system have the capacity to create in us a live, (...)
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  11. 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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  12. Saurav Karki, The Consciousness of the Literates.
    This essay intends to focus on the so-called 'Literates' people of our society.It labels them as a stigma.
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  13. D. Lestel (1994). Symbols of Discord: Are Apes That Talk Trivia More Interesting Than Apes That Don't Talk at All? Social Science Information 33 (2):335-369.
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  14. Philip McShane (2007). Part Four: Further Thoughts on Insight. In David S. Liptay & John J. Liptay (eds.), The Importance of Insight: Essays in Honour of Michael Vertin. University of Toronto Press. pp. 199-226.
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  15. Dean Moyar (2016). The Inferential Object: Hegel’s Deduction and Reduction of Consciousness. In Sally Sedgwick & Dina Emundts (eds.), Bewusstsein/Consciousness. De Gruyter. pp. 119-144.
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  16. Teresa Mozejko (2012). Don Luis José de Tejeda y Guzmán: peregrino y ciudadano. Anclajes 16 (1):94 - 95.
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  17. 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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  18. 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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  19. Gerardo Oviedo (2005). La Idea Del Americanismo En El Joven José Luis Romero. Dialogos 9 (3).
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  20. James R. O’Shea (2015). Kantian Reflections on the Givenness of Zahavi’s Minimal Experiential Self. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (5):619-625.
    At the core of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason was a decisive break with certain fundamental Cartesian assumptions or claims about consciousness and self-consciousness, claims that have nonetheless remained perennially tempting, from a phenomenological perspective, independently of any further questions concerning the metaphysics of mind and its place in nature. The core of this philosophical problem has recently been helpfully exposed and insightfully probed in Dan Zahavi’s book, Self and Other: Exploring Subjectivity, Empathy, and Shame. In these remarks I suggest (...)
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  21. 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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  22. Antonio Pizza, Jaume Freixa & José Luis Sert (1997). J. Ll. Sert y El Mediterráneo.
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  23. José Rubio Carracedo (1996). José Luis L. Aranguren (In Memoriam). Contrastes: Revista Interdisciplinar de Filosofía 1:1-6.
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  24. Fiona Woollard (2016). I, Me, Mine: Body‐Ownership and the Generation Problem. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (2):n/a-n/a.
    The Body Ownership Thesis states that each person owns her body. I address a prominent objection, the Generation Problem: the Body Ownership Thesis apparently implies that parents own their children: as we own the fruit of our property, if a parent owns her own body, she must own her child and her child's body. I argue that a person does not own the fruit of her property when that fruit is a person or the body of a person. Persons have (...)
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  25. Fiona Woollard, I, Me, Mine: Body-Ownership and the Generation Problem.
    The Body Ownership Thesis states that each person owns her body. I address a prominent objection, the Generation Problem: the Body Ownership Thesis apparently implies that parents own their children: as we own the fruit of our property, if a parent owns her own body, she must own her child and her child’s body. I argue that a person does not own the fruit of her property when that fruit is a person or the body of a person. Persons have (...)
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Immunity to Error through Misidentification
  1. William P. Alston (1971). Varieties of Priveleged Access. American Philosophical Quarterly 8 (July):223-41.
    This paper distinguishes and interrelates a number of respects in which persons have been thought to be in a specially favorable epistemic position vis-A-Vis their own mental states. The most important distinction is a six-Fold one between infallibility, Omniscience, Indubitability, Incorrigibility, Truth-Sufficiency, And self-Warrant. Each of these varieties can then be sub-Divided as the kind of modality, If any, Involved. It is also argued that discussions of self-Knowledge have been hampered by a failure to recognize these distinctions.
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  2. Wolfgang Barz (2009). Irrtum durch Fehlidentifikation. Conceptus: Zeitschrift Fur Philosophie 93 (93):7-15.
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  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 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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.
  8. 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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  9. 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.
  10. 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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  11. Ingar Brinck (1997). The Indexical 'I' the First Person in Thought and Language. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    The subjct of this book is the first person in thought and language. The main question is what we mean when we say 'I'. Related to it are questions about what kinds of self-consciousness and self-knowledge are needed in order for us to have the capacity to talk about ourselves. The emphasis is on theories of meaning and reference for 'I', but a fair amount of space is devoted to 'I'-thoughts and the role of the concept of the self in (...)
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  12. 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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  13. F. M. Burnet (1960). Theories of Immunity. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 3 (4):447-458.
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  14. Arnon Cahen & Kristina Musholt (forthcoming). Perception, Nonconceptual Content, and Immunity to Error Through Misidentification. Inquiry:1-21.
    The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we clarify the notion of immunity to error through misidentification with respect to the first-person pronoun. In particular, we set out to dispel the view that for a judgment to be IEM it must contain a token of a certain class of predicates. Rather, the importance of the IEM status of certain judgments is that it teaches us about privileged ways of coming to know about ourselves. We then turn to examine how (...)
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  15. J. Campbell (1999). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification and the Meaning of a Referring Term. Philosophical Topics 26 (1/2):89-104.
  16. J. Campbell (1999). Schizophrenia, the Space of Reasons and Thinking as a Motor Process. The Monist 82 (4):609-625.
  17. Alessandro Capone (2013). Immunity to Error Through Misidentification, 'de Se', and Pragmatics. In Perspectives on pragmatis and philosophy. pp. 413-437..
  18. 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.
  19. Mariaflavia Cascelli (2016). Dilemma della prima persona e fenomenologia dell’azione: quanto è minimale l’autocoscienza? Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 7 (1):61-74.
    Riassunto : Negli ultimi anni sempre maggiore attenzione viene data alla possibilità che una forma minima, pre-riflessiva di auto-coscienza preceda l’auto-coscienza introspettiva. Diversi sono stati i tentativi fatti per sostenere che questa forma “sottile” di auto-coscienza sia un prerequisito necessario della coscienza. Dopo una breve considerazione dei problemi semantici ed epistemologici relativi all’uso del pronome di prima persona, questo articolo si concentrerà sulla letteratura che analizza le eccezioni al principio di immunità dall’errore per misidentificazione dalla prospettiva della fenomenologia dell’agentività. Il (...)
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  20. 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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  21. Hector-Neri Castaneda (1987). Self-Consciousness, Demonstrative Reference, and the Self-Ascription View of Believing. Philosophical Perspectives 1:405-454.
  22. Hector-Neri Castañeda (1966). 'He': A Study in the Logic of Self-Consciousness. Ratio 8 (December):130-157.
  23. 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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  24. 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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  25. 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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