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The Death and Life of the Self

Post-Wittgensteinian Investigations


Silvia Gáliková

What is a self? What is the relation between phenomenal consciousness and the self? What are we talking about when we speak of conscious experience, the self, an inner mental world? In order to answer these questions the author reconsiders the «turn to the self» in contemporary philosophy of mind. The human self is considered as a natural phenomenon open to careful theoretical analysis, empirical and experimental research. The loss of everyday intuitions on the nature of self plays a significantly liberating role in self-understanding and explaining man’s behaviour.
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I. Who am “I”?


I    Who am “I”?

Keywords: first person, third person, psychiatry, neuroscience, intrasubjective content

The study of the nature of the self, similarly, as in the case of the mind and consciousness, is closely linked with the problem of the complementarity of used methods. This is due to the fact that different sciences start from not only different, but also opposing perspectives, namely the first-person perspective, second-person perspective and third-person perspective. The different perspectives are characterised according to their epistemic limitations and abilities. Furthermore, these perspectives lead to characteristic implications concerning theories of the self in the different sciences. The self and self-consciousness have always been important problems in philosophy, especially dealt with in the philosophy of the mind.

However, recently philosophy of the mind often refers to Descartes’ theory as its beginning. His special ← 11 | 12 → methodology and theses have deeply influenced many of his successors. Descartes begins with our reflective consciousness, which questions anything. This results in a fundamental doubt towards everything except the fact that we think or doubt, e.g. the mind does not doubt its own existence. Descartes formulates this in his famous statement: “I think, therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum). His central thesis contains the premise of the epistemic privilege of judgements about our minds, our consciousness and our self-consciousness. This means that our own consciousness is better accessible to us than anything outside of it, which is normally called the external world. As Descartes puts it: “For it...

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