The Rational Unity of the Self

Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh (2008)

Authors
Graham Hubbs
University of Idaho
Abstract
The topic of my dissertation is selfhood. I aim to explain what a self is such that it can sometimes succeed and other times fail at thinking and acting autonomously. I open by considering a failure of autonomy to which I return throughout the dissertation. The failure is that of self-deception. I show that in common cases of self-deception the self-deceived individual fails, due to a motive on his part, to be able to explain the cause of some belief or action of his. There are several philosophical projects that arise when one reflects on this failure. They are presented by the following questions: what are our minds like, such that this failure is possible? For what should we criticize the self-deceived individual, given that he has a motivated lack of self-knowledge but does not know he is so motivated? Is the self-deceived individual epistemically criticizable for lacking explanatory self-knowledge in a way that he is not criticizable for lacking knowledge that would help him explain another's thoughts and actions? By answering these questions I provide an account of the rational unity that goes missing in self-deception and in the related phenomenon of epistemic akrasia. This unity can—and I argue, should—be present in bodily action as well. When a person acts without this unity, he acts in a weak-willed, akratic way. I provide an account of this disunity, which, when added to my account of the disunity of self-deception, reveals the rational unity of an autonomous agent, the rational unity of the self.
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