Essays on Self-Awareness and Self-Perception

Student thesis: Phd

Abstract

The theme of this dissertation is self-consciousness, understood as the ability to think thoughts with de se content (i.e., thoughts about oneself as oneself). Specifically, I am interested in the idea that we can, in some way, perceive or experience ourselves, qua subject of conscious experience. In this thesis, I present a series of four papers that examine specific concerns and claims regarding the topic of self-perception, construed in this way. Setting it apart from the other essays in the collection, the first paper (Ch. 2) focuses on a conceptual and reflective form of self-conscious thought. Here, I present a novel criticism of a highly influential argument against the claim that introspection is a form of perception or quasi-perception. I argue that the connection between a person's belief and their knowledge of that belief is contingent, leaving open the possibility of a perception-based model of introspection. The remaining papers in the collection focus on pre-reflective forms of self-consciousness. which are thought to underpin the more complex ability to think thoughts with de se content. The second paper (Ch. 3) addresses the claim that the self is represented implicitly as an "unarticulated constituent" in the content of perception. While the notion of an unarticulated constituent is well established in philosophy of language and linguistics, I show that the notion is unconvincing at the level of perception. The last two papers take up the idea that pre-reflective self-consciousness involves non-conceptual self-representation in experience. The third paper (Ch. 4) addresses the claim that visual experience is self-locating. Rather than arguing directly against this claim, I reject the most plausible explicit argument in favour of self-locating visual experience. In the final paper (Ch. 5), I offer a fresh alternative account of what grounds self-locating judgments, based on non-sensory agential experience, and defend the view that agent's awareness is required for a normal, unified perceptual perspective on the world. Ultimately, I argue against the claim self-awareness should be understood as a type of self-perception. Taken together, the arguments of this thesis further the debate concerning the question of what grounds fully conceptual self-conscious thought by addressing the representational structure of visual perception and its connection to bodily and agential awareness. My work additionally provides a new perspective on existing debates about the nature of self-awareness, introspection, and perception.
Date of Award31 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJoel Smith (Supervisor) & Sean Crawford (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Agent's awareness
  • Self-perception
  • Self-consciousness
  • Perception
  • Non-conceptual content

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