A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain. Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander (...) or daydream, we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the "I" as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate--either in the waking state or in a lucid dream--we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as "me." We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self. Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life's profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives. (shrink)
Self to Self brings together essays on personal identity, autonomy, and moral emotions by the distinguished philosopher J. David Velleman. Although each of the essays was written as an independent piece, they are unified by an overarching thesis, that there is no single entity denoted by 'the self', as well as by themes from Kantian ethics, psychoanalytic theory, social psychology, and Velleman's work in the philosophy of action. Two of the essays were selected by the editors (...) of Philosophers' Annual as being among the ten best papers in their year of publication. Aimed primarily at professional philosophers and advanced students, Self to Self will also be of interest to psychologists and others who theorize about the self. (shrink)
I have therefore decided to venture out of the philosophical armchair in order to examine the empirical evidence, as gathered by psychologists aiming to prove or disprove motivational conjectures like mine. By and large, this evidence is indirect in relation to my account of agency, since it is drawn from cases in which the relevant motive has been forced into the open by the manipulations of an experimenter. The resulting evidence doesn’t tend to show the mechanism of agency humming along (...) in accordance with my specifications; it tends to show the knocks and shudders that such a mechanism emits when put under stress. But we often learn about the normal workings of things by subjecting them to abnormal conditions; and viewed in this light, various programs of psychological research offer indirect support to my account of agency. I’ll begin by reviewing the relevant research, leaving its relevance to my account of agency for the final section of the paper. (shrink)
Dan Zahavi engages with classical phenomenology, philosophy of mind, and a range of empirical disciplines to explore the nature of selfhood. He argues that the most fundamental level of selfhood is not socially constructed or dependent upon others, but accepts that certain dimensions of the self and types of self-experience are other-mediated.
This article reviews a number of recent books and practices that address a renewed interest in the role that philosophy might play in the living of a rich and fulfilling life. The review looks at books addressed to the general public as well as books which discuss such classical and Hellenistic philosophers as took their task to be helping people achieve happiness in life. It then turns to contemporary studies of the self and of wisdom and turns finally (...) to some newly emerging philosophical practices such as philosophical counselling and philosophical discussion groups of various kinds in order to explore whether philosophy can still be a source of consolation or guidance in contemporary life. (shrink)
Does metacognition--the capacity to self-evaluate one's cognitive performance--derive from a mindreading capacity, or does it rely on informational processes? Joëlle Proust draws on psychology and neuroscience to defend the second claim. She argues that metacognition need not involve metarepresentations, and is essentially related to mental agency.
Part of Nietzsche’s blistering attack against Western morality is the argument that it stems from a lack of self-control that the weak have. Since the moralist cannot control and direct his own sexuality, he creates a “universal” set of moral values to be imposed externally on everyone. Despite the enchanting diversity of life, moralists prefer drab worlds of absolutes to help bolster their weak-willed selves: “Let us finally consider how naïve it is altogether to say: ‘Man ought to be (...) such and such!’ Reality shows us an enchanting wealth of types, the abundance of a lavish play and change of forms—and some wretched loafer of a moralist comments: ‘No! Man ought to be different.’ He even knows what man should be .. (shrink)
remarks some lessons about self-knowledge (and some other self-relations) as well as use them to throw some light on what might seem to be a fairly distant area of philosophy, namely, Sartre's view of the person as of a divided nature, divided between what he calls the self-as-facticity and the self-as-transcendence. I hope it will become clear that there is not just perversity on my part in bringing together Wittgenstein and the last great Cartesian. One (...) specific connection that will occupy me here is their shared hostility to the idea of theoretical certainty as our model for the authority of ordinary self-knowledge, and their relating of such a theoretical model to specific forms of self-alienation. This, in turn, is related to another concern they share, a concern with the difficulties, philosophical and otherwise, in conceiving of oneself as but one person in the world among others. (shrink)
_Self-Reflection for the Opaque Mind_ attempts to solve a grave problem about critical self-reflection. Psychological studies indicate not just that we are bad at detecting our own "ego-threatening" thoughts; they also suggest that we are ignorant of even our ordinary thoughts. However, self-reflection presupposes an ability to know one’s own thoughts. So if ignorance is the norm, why attempt self-reflection? While admitting the psychological data, this book argues that we are infallible in a limited range of (...) class='Hi'>self-discerning judgments—that in some cases, these judgments are self-fulfilling or self-verifying. Even so, infallibility does not imply indubitability, and the author does not wish to provide a "foundation" for empirical knowledge. The point is rather to explain how self-reflection as a rational activity is possible. The book will be of interest to scholars working on the issue of self-reflection across a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. (shrink)
This volume brings together some of the most important and influential recent writings on knowledge of oneself and of one's own thoughts, sensations, and experiences. The essays give valuable insights into such fundamental philosophical issues as personal identity, the nature of consciousness, the relation between mind and body, and knowledge of other minds. Contributions include "Introduction" by Gilbert Ryle, "Knowing One's Own Mind" by Donald Davidson, "Individualism and Self-Knowledge" and "Introspection and the Self" by Sydney Shoemaker, "On the (...) Observability of the Self" by Roderick M. Chisholm, "Introspection" by D. M. Armstrong, "The First Person" by G. E. M. Anscombe, "On the Phenomeno-Logic of the I" by Hector-Neri Casta((n-))eda, "The Problem of the Essential Indexical" by John Perry, "Self-Identification" by Gareth Evans, and "The First Person--and Others" by P. F. Strawson. The only reader of its kind, Self-Knowledge fills a major gap in the history of philosophy and will be an accessible addition to a wide range of courses. (shrink)
Revisiting the work of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century philosophers, when the split between analytical and continental philosophy began, Thomas-Fogiel finds both traditions followed the same path—the road of reference—which ...
Plotinus, the founder of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy, conceptualises two different notions of self : the corporeal and the rational. Personality and imperfection mark the former, while goodness and a striving for understanding mark the latter. In this text, Dr Remes grounds the two selfhoods in deep-seated Platonic ontological commitments, following their manifestations, interrelations and sometimes uneasy coexistence in philosophical psychology, emotional therapy and ethics. Plotinus' interest lies in what it means for a human being to be (...) a temporal and a corporeal thing, yet capable of abstract and impartial reasoning, of self-government and perhaps even invulnerability. The book argues that this involves a philosophically problematic rupture within humanity which is, however, alleviated by the psychological similarities and points of contact between the two aspects of the self. The purpose of life is the cultivation of the latter aspect, the true self. (shrink)
According to one tradition in the philosophy of language and mind, the content of a psychological attitude can be characterized by a set of possibilities. On the classic version of this account, advocated by Hintikka (1962) and Stalnaker (1984) among others, the possibilities in question are possible worlds, ways the universe might be. Lewis (1979, 1983a) proposed an alternative to this account, according to which the possibilities in question are possible individuals or centered worlds, ways an individual might be. (...) The motivation for the centered worlds theory has primarily to do with self-locating – or de se – attitudes. The focus of this paper is on the less-discussed question of how other-locating – or de re – attitudes ought to be treated within this framework. Most advocates of what we might call the modal approach to attitudes, Stalnaker and Lewis included, offer some kind of descriptivist solution to the well-known problems that other-locating attitudes raise. There are intramural differences between Stalnaker, Lewis, and other modal theorists (e.g. two-dimensionalists) on a number of issues: on the precise nature of the descriptivism involved, how attitude content relates to the asserted content of the sentences we utter, and on the proper semantic treatment of attitude reports. I pass over these differences to focus on a problem common to these various approaches: all face a problem when it comes to characterizing the contents of counterfactual attitudes like imagining, dreaming, and wishing. (shrink)
"Self-knowledge" is commonly used in philosophy to refer to knowledge of one's particular mental states, including one's beliefs, desires, and sensations. It is also sometimes used to refer to knowledge about a persisting self -- its ontological nature, identity conditions, or character traits. At least since Descartes, most philosophers have believed that self-knowledge is importantly different from knowledge of the world external to oneself, including others' thoughts. But there is little agreement about what precisely distinguishes (...) class='Hi'>self-knowledge from knowledge in other realms. Partially because of this disagreement, philosophers have endorsed competing accounts of how we acquire self-knowledge. These accounts have important consequences for the scope of mental content, for mental ontology, and for personal identity. (shrink)
Rationalism is the key to the connected oppressions of women and nature in the West. Deep ecology has failed to provide an adequate historical perspective or an adequate challenge to human/nature dualism. A relational account of self enables us to reject an instrumental view of nature and develop an alternative based on respect without denying that nature is distinct from the self. This shift of focus links feminist, environmentalist, and certain forms of socialist critiques. The critique of anthropocentrism (...) is not sacrificed, as deep ecologists argue, but enriched. (shrink)
Review of Philosophy and Psychology has lately published a number of papers that in various ways take issue with and criticize my work on the link between consciousness, self-consciousness and selfhood. In the following contribution, I reply directly to this new set of objections and argue that while some of them highlight ambiguities in my work that ought to be clarified, others can only be characterized as misreadings.
The paper begins by acknowledging that weakened systematic precision in phenomenology has made its application in philosophy of science obscure and ineffective. The defining aspirations of early transcendental phenomenology are, however, believed to be important ones. A path is therefore explored that attempts to show how certain recent developments in the logic of self-reference fulfill in a clear and more rigorous fashion in the context of philosophy of science certain of the early hopes of phenomenologists. The resulting (...) dual approach is applied to several problems in the philosophy of science: on the one hand, to proposed rejections of scientific objectivity, to the doctrine of radical meaning variance, and to the Quine-Duhem thesis, and or. the other, to an analysis of hidden variable theory in quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The flowering of creative and speculative philosophy that emerged in modern Europe--particularly in Germany--is a thrilling adventure story as well as an essential chapter in the history of philosophy. In this integrative narrative, Solomon provides an accessible introduction to the major authors and movements of modern European philosophy, including the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Rousseau, German Idealism, Kant, Fichte, Schelling and the Romantics, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, Max Brentano, Meinong, Frege, Dilthey, Bergson, Nietzsche, Husserl, Freud, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, hermeneutics, (...) Sartre, Postmodernism, Structuralism, Foucault, and Derrida. (shrink)
The problem of self-knowledge is one of the most fascinating in all of philosophy and has crucial significance for the philosophy of mind and epistemology. Gertler assesses the leading theoretical approaches to self-knowledge, explaining the work of many of the key figures in the field: from Descartes and Kant, through to Bertrand Russell and Gareth Evans, as well as recent work by Tyler Burge, David Chalmers, William Lycan and Sydney Shoemaker. -/- Beginning with an outline of (...) the distinction between self-knowledge and self-awareness and providing essential historical background to the problem, Gertler addresses specific theories of self-knowledge such as the acquaintance theory, the inner sense theory, and the rationalist theory, as well as leading accounts of self-awareness. The book concludes with a critical explication of the dispute between empiricist and rationalist approaches. (shrink)
Over the centuries, the idea of the self has both fascinated and confounded philosophers. From the ancient Greeks, who problematized issues of identity and self-awareness, to Locke and Hume, who popularized minimalist views of the self, to the efforts of postmodernists in our time to decenter the human subject altogether, the idea that there is something called a self has always been in steady decline. But for Richard Sorabji, one of our most celebrated living intellectuals, this (...) negation of the self is dispiriting. In Self , he sets out to recover the rich variety of positive accounts of the self from Antiquity right up to the present, while offering his own inspiring view of what precisely the self might be. Drawing on Eastern religion, classical antiquity, and Western philosophy, Sorabji proceeds to tackle a number of thematic debates that have preoccupied philosophers over the ages, including the concept of the self, its sameness and mutability, the idea of the resurrection of the body and spirit, and the fear of death. According to Sorabji, the self is not an undetectable soul or ego, but an embodied individual whose existence is plain to see. It is also neither a linguistic creation nor a psychological fiction, but something that owns both a consciousness and a body. Ultimately, Sorabji argues, the demise of a positive idea of the self stems from much older and more pervasive problems of identity than we realize. Through an astute reading of this tradition, he helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about the subject in an account that will be at the forefront of philosophical debates for years to come. (shrink)
The Early Modern Subject explores the understanding of self-consciousness and personal identity--two fundamental features of human subjectivity--as it developed in early modern philosophy. Udo Thiel presents a critical evaluation of these features as they were conceived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He explains the arguments of thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Wolff, and Hume, as well as their early critics, followers, and other philosophical contemporaries, and situates them within their historical contexts. Interest in the issues of (...)self-consciousness and personal identity is in many ways characteristic and even central to early modern thought, but Thiel argues here that this is an interest that continues to this day, in a form still strongly influenced by the conceptual frameworks of early modern thought. In this book he attempts to broaden the scope of the treatment of these issues considerably, covering more than a hundred years of philosophical debate in France, Britain, and Germany while remaining attentive to the details of the arguments under scrutiny and discussing alternative interpretations in many cases. (shrink)
This paper explores the factors that contribute to the degree of a mood disorder patient’s self- insight, defined here as her understanding of the particular contingencies of her life that are responsive to her personal identity, interpersonal relationships, illness symptoms, and the relationship between these three necessary components of her lived experience. I consider three factors: (i) the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), (ii) the DSM culture, and (iii) the cognitive architecture of the self. I argue (...) that the symptom-based descriptions of mood disorders which eliminate the subjective features of the patient’s illness experience, in conjunction with the features of the DSM-culture and the cognitive biases that guide the patient, contribute to the impoverishment of her self-insight. The resulting impoverished self-insight would prevent her from developing resourceful responses to her interpersonal problems. In analyzing how these factors combine to influence the patient’s self-insight, I distinguish the therapeutic impact of receiving a psychiatric diagnosis, which facilitates patient’s clinical treatment, from its reflective impact, how the diagnosis informs the patient’s reflection on who she is, how her mental disorder is expressed, and how her interpersonal relationships proceed. I substantiate my argument by considering a patient’s memoir of psychopathology. (shrink)
If the self—as a popular view has it—is a narrative construction, if it arises out of discursive practices, it is reasonable to assume that the best possible avenue to self-understanding will be provided by those very narratives. If I want to know what it means to be a self, I should look closely at the stories that I and others tell about myself, since these stories constitute who I am. In the following I wish to question this (...) train of thought. I will argue that we need to operate with a more primitive and fundamental notion of self; a notion of self that cannot be captured in terms of narrative structures. In a parallel move, I will argue that there is a crucial dimension of what it means to be other that is equally missed by the narrative approach. I will consequently defend the view that there are limits to the kind of understanding of self and others that narratives can provide. (shrink)
The article examines some of the main theses about self-awareness developed in recent analytic philosophy of mind (especially the work of Bermúdez), and points to a number of striking overlaps between these accounts and the ones to be found in phenomenology. Given the real risk of unintended repetitions, it is argued that it would be counterproductive for philosophy of mind to ignore already existing resources, and that both analytical philosophy and phenomenology would profit from a more (...) open exchange. (shrink)
Imagine that you and a duplicate of yourself are lying unconscious, next to each other, about to undergo a complete step-by-step exchange of bits of your bodies. It certainly seems that at no stage in this exchange of bits will you have thereby switched places with your duplicate. Yet it also seems that the end-result, with all the bits exchanged, will be essentially that of the two of you having switched places. Where will you awaken? I claim that one and (...) the same person possesses both bodies, occupies both places and will experience both awakenings, just as a person whose brain has been bisected must at once experience both of the unconnected fields of awareness, even though each of these will falsely appear to him as the entirety of his experience. I also claim that the more usual apparent boundaries of persons are as illusory as those in brain bisection; personal identity remains unchanged through any variation or multiplication of body or mind. In all conscious life there is only one person - I - whose existence depends merely on the presence of a quality that is inherent in all experience - its quality of being mine, the simple immediacy of it for whatever is having experience. One powerful argument for this is statistical: on the ordinary view of personhood it is an incredible coincidence for you (though not for others) that out of 200,000,000 sperm cells the very one required on each occasion for your future existence was first to the egg in each of the begettings of yourself and all your ancestors. The only view that does not make your existence incredible, and that is not therefore (from your perspective) an incredible view, is that any conscious being would necessarily have been you anyway. It is a consequence that self-interest should extend to all conscious organisms. (shrink)
Several philosophers, both in Buddhist and Western philosophy, claim that the self does not exist. The no-self view may, at first glance, appear to be a reason to believe that life is meaningless. In the present article, I argue indirectly in favor of the no-self view by showing that it does not entail that life is meaningless. I then examine Buddhism and argue, further, that the no-self view may even be construed as partially grounding an (...) account of the meaning of life. (shrink)
But what if in order to save 0nc’s life one has to ki]1 another person? In some cases that is obviously permissible. In a case I will call Villainous Aggrcssor, you are standing in :1 meadow, innocently minding your own business, and 21 truck suddenly heads toward you. You try to sidestep the truck, but it tums as you tum. Now you can sec the driver: he is a mam you know has long hated you. What to do? You cannot (...) outrun thc truck. Fortunately, this is not pure nightmare: you just happen to have em antitank gun with you, and can blow up the truck. Of course, if you do this you will kill thc driver, but that does not matter; it is morally permissible for you to blow up thc truck, driver and 211, in defense of your life. (shrink)
We set out an account of how self-domestication plays a crucial role in the evolution of language. In doing so, we focus on the growing body of work that treats language structure as emerging from the process of cultural transmission. We argue that a full recognition of the importance of cultural transmission fundamentally changes the kind of questions we should be asking regarding the biological basis of language structure. If we think of language structure as reflecting an accumulated set (...) of changes in our genome, then we might ask something like, “What are the genetic bases of language structure and why were they selected?” However, if cultural evolution can account for language structure, then this question no longer applies. Instead, we face the task of accounting for the origin of the traits that enabled that process of structure-creating cultural evolution to get started in the first place. In light of work on cultural evolution, then, the new question for biological evolution becomes, “How did those precursor traits evolve?” We identify two key precursor traits: the transmission of the communication system through learning; and the ability to infer the communicative intent associated with a signal or action. We then describe two comparative case studies—the Bengalese finch and the domestic dog—in which parallel traits can be seen emerging following domestication. Finally, we turn to the role of domestication in human evolution. We argue that the cultural evolution of language structure has its origin in an earlier process of self-domestication. (shrink)