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. Bermúdez 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. Bermúdez 2007 and Kriegel 2007 are also helpful introductions to some of the central issues.|
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