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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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In everyday experience and language, feelings, thoughts and sorrows are experienced as “something” that we own or may partially lose. Language about “inner life” is largely metaphorical: “love is a journey”, “their marriage became a nightmare”, “he is out of his mind”, “I see what you’re saying”, and so on. The status of the “I” in this kind of discourse does not seem very problematic. In theory, the situation is much more dramatic and confusing. Within the long and rich history of philosophical thinking, philosophers have been tempted to turn thoughts, feelings or desires into mental entities, processes and events. Ludwig Wittengstein (1953) repeatedly pointed out a number of confusions resulting from this ambition. Philosophers’ “bewitchment by language”, as he claimed, resulted in the imposing of ontological commitments on everyday language. The status and func ← 7 | 8 → tion of principles and generalisations that underlie our everyday explanations of behaviour have become a deep theoretical problem known as the problem of the nature of folk psychology.

In the philosophy of the mind and cognitive science, the problem of folk psychology has been formulated in such questions as, for example: Is folk psychology – a commonsense framework we use for understanding other people – a theory? If, yes, is it a plausible theory in explaining human behaviour? If not, what credence does it have in our everyday experience? P. Churchland, for example, considered everyday language as a theory and a bad theory indeed. That is why he proposed to eliminate...

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