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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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VI. The Complex metaphor of subject-self


VI    The Illusory nature of the inner experience

Keywords: illusion, self, subject of experience, conscious will, authorship

A crucial point of departure on the nature of the self can be outlined by the contemporary debate between egological and non-egological accounts of the self. For the followers of egological theories, it is in general a conceptual and experiential truth that any episode of experiencing necessarily includes a subject of experience. Non-egological theories, on the contrary, deny that every experience is for a subject. A prominent representative of this approach is, for Zahavi, the neuroscientist, T. Metzinger, who has proposed a theory based on a kind of no-ownership view according to which the phenomenological notion of the self has no explanatory value and therefore nothing exists “behind” the concept itself.

Recent discussions have revealed even more diverse meanings of the term. Galen Strawson, who considers himself a materialist, argues that: when I talk about selves ← 63 | 64 → I mean selves as classically conceived: “internal mental things, internal mental presences” (Strawson, 2010). Whatever a self is, it is certainly a) a subject of experience and it is not b) a human being considered as a whole. So, according to Strawson, the problem about the existence of a self arrives from our everyday self-experience. It is a self described as: a) a subject of experience, a conscious feeler and thinker, b) a thing, c) a mental thing, d) a persisting thing, e) an agent, or f) something that...

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