The Self : a Humean bundle and/or a Cartesian substance ?

Jiri Benovsky
University of Fribourg
Is the self a substance, as Descartes thought, or is it 'only' a bundle of perceptions, as Hume thought ? In this paper I will examine these two views, especially with respect to two central features that have played a central role in the discussion, both of which can be quickly and usefully explained if one puts them as an objection to the bundle view. First, friends of the substance view have insisted that only if one conceives of the self as a substance is it possible to account for genuine particularity of selves and genuine persistence through time of them. I will discuss in detail this claim as well as a special case of persistence - the case of a fission of a self - and I will ask, as Shoemaker (1997) did, how such a case can be handled by the two competing theories. The second central point of traditional disagreement concerns independence : it is often said that only a substance, but not a mere bundle, is independent enough of its properties to play properly the role of a self, and I will have something to say about this. Concerning all these points, my thesis will be a meta-theoretical one : contrary to appearances, both views can accommodate all of them (particularity at a time, persistence, fission, independence) in the same way, and I will examine two possible conclusions to be drawn from this : either that the differences between the two views are no more than terminological and that they turn out to be equivalent views, or that the differences are metaphysical but that it is epistemically under-determined which one of the views we should choose.
Keywords self  substance  bundle theory
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