Self-Consciousness and Embodied Experience

Dissertation, UCL (2003)
Abstract
The Body Claim states that a transcendental condition of self-consciousness is that one experience oneself as embodied. The contention of this thesis is that popular arguments in support of the Body Claim are unconvincing. Understanding the Body Claim requires us to have a clear understanding of both self-consciousness and embodied experience. In the first chapter I lay out two different conceptions of self-consciousness, arguing that the proponent of the Body Claim should think of self-consciousness as first-person thought. I point out that since arguments for the Body Claim tend to proceed by stating putative transcendental conditions on self-reference, the proponent of the Body Claim must maintain that there is a conceptual connection between self-consciousness and self-reference. In the second chapter I argue against views, originating from Wittgenstein and Anscombe, which reject this connection between self-consciousness and self-reference. In chapter three I show that a well known principle governing the ascription of content, that which Evans calls ‘Russell’s Principle’, occupies an ambiguous position with regards to the Body Claim. I argue that Russell’s Principle should be rejected. Chapter four distinguishes between two conceptions of embodied experience: bodily-awareness and bodily self-awareness. I argue that there is no such thing as bodily self-awareness and so it cannot be a transcendental condition of self-consciousness. Chapter five looks at, and finds wanting, arguments for the Body Claim that can be found in the work of Strawson. Chapter six argues that it is a transcendental condition of self-consciousness that one enjoy spatial experience. Chapters seven and eight assess two influential arguments that attempt to complete a defence of the Body Claim: the solidity argument and the action argument. I argue that neither argument is convincing. Although the conclusions are primarily negative, much is learned along the way about the nature of both self-consciousness and embodied experience.
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