Reply to Himma: Personal Identity and Cartesian Intuitions

Thomas Metzinger
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
In Kenneth Einar Himma’s substantial commentary, there are a number of conceptual misunderstandings I want to get out of the way first. This will allow us to see the core of his contribution much clearer. On page 2, Himma writes about the problem of “explaining how it is that a particular phenomenal self is associated with a set of neurophysiological processes.” This philosophical question is ill posed: no one is identical to a particular phenomenal self. “Phenomenal self” must not be conflated with “me.” Under SMT, phenomenal selves, in standard situations, are highly specific forms of representational content. They are not particulars in an ontological sense. First, Himma introduces the notion of a “mental subject,” without giving any defining characteristics. He then proceeds to make a strong claim about conceptual necessity, presenting it as selfevident without an independent argument: “…it is not conceptually possible for a conscious mental state to occur that is not instantiated by a mental subject” . I must admit that I do not have this modal intuition, the point is not self-evident to me
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