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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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VIII. Life of the “I”


VIII    Life of the “I”

Keywords: experience, schizophrenia, fiction, metaphor, conscious life

In the sections of the preceding text, I have outlined a much shortened story of the nature of the self. The self has undergone many transformations, from its neglect to revival and again back to disappearance and even abandonment. A negative attitude towards the study and explanation of the phenomenon of the self derived from various, even conflicting reasons, such as: a) The “I” is not an object in the (physical) world (Wittgenstein); b) the “self” is not a legitimate explanandum in science (Chalmers); or c) there is no self in the world of physics, everything is matter and its properties (Churchland) etc.

The conceptual history of the self can be traced far back in the history. Since, at least, Hellenistic philosophy, it has been saddled with all manner of allegories and roles. St Augustine’s view that it provided an inner private space for religious transactions has proved ← 85 | 86 → enduring. Taken up by the rhetoric of the Reformation, this view became central to the definitions of identity, responsibility, autonomy and individuality in modern society. To earlier religious, moral, and metaphysical versions of the self, the 18th century added a psychological one and versions thereof became available into the next century. The anatomo-clinical model of disease encouraged a reification of these selves and soon claims started to be made as to their brain localisation and pathology. This is one of the sources...

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