Adrian J. T. Alsmith
University of Copenhagen
I tend to think of myself as bodily. Probably, so do you. Philosophically this takes some explaining. A candidate explanation is this: The bodily self is a physical agent. Knowledge of oneself as bodily is fundamentally knowledge of oneself as agentive; such knowledge is grounded in both experience of oneself as instantiating a bodily structure that affords a limited range of actions; and experience of oneself as a physical agent that tries to perform a limited range of actions over time. By contrast René Descartes famously argued that all self-knowledge is grounded in, and cannot extend beyond, knowledge of oneself as a mental entity. If correct this would preclude the possibility of any knowledge of a bodily self, for such a thing would ex hypothesi not exist. Accordingly, this dissertation serves a dual purpose: to demonstrate why a Cartesian theory of self-knowledge is no threat to an account of bodily self knowledge; and to provide such an account. This dual purpose is achieved over the course of three chapters. The first chapter will set up the remaining two, by introducing the notion of self-identifying judgements, providing an argument in favour of bodily self knowledge on its basis, and noting two failures of this argument in light of a Cartesian response. The second and third chapter are respective attempts to address these two failures. The second chapter is explicitly concerned with the Cartesian, but is overall devoted to giving an account of the relationship between bodily experience and action. The third chapter is more programmatic, comprising a consistent set of suggestions concerning the sense of agency and its role in an account of bodily self knowledge.
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