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Consciousness it/self

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For better or for worse, I find myself in the company of the ‘misers’ of Galen Strawson's portrayal who, in response to the question, ‘Is there such a thing as the self?’ rejoin: ‘Well, there is something of which the sense of the self is an accurate representation, but it does not follow that there is any such thing as the self’ (Strawson, 1997, p. 410). Far from representing a form of ‘metaphysical excess’ (ibid.), the rejoinder seems faithfully and reliably phenomenological. We need not assume that reflection (‘self'-reflection) is mere fabrication, or that it crucially distorts the thematic posit that funds our sense of self. The focus, recognition and contextual sensitivity that condition perception may, and admittedly do, limit and modify the activity of reflection as well. Observation disturbs the observed. And likewise, reflection may well compromise its object. But the product of this ‘compromise’, the object as disturbed, the reflective posit as distorted, is nonetheless ‘there’, for reflection. If the way a given object appears to us is a function of our perspectival insertion into the visible world, we need not deny that the world still appears to us in just this way. And analogously, our ‘sense of self’ may represent -- in fact, faithfully represent -- the resultant ‘distortion’, but it would be a breach of logic to infer from this that our ‘sense of self’ therefore represents a self untouched by distortion, an independent, ‘undistorted’ self. Indeed, if reflection distorts, we would have no reflective access to an undistorted self, and would thus have no phenomenological warrant for assuming its existence. Pace Strawson, however, the ‘something’ represented by our ‘sense of self’ is not some thing. It is not ‘as much a thing or object as any . . . grain of salt’ (p. 425), but rather, as we shall see, an atmospheric haze, or at best, an adventitious ‘sheen’.
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Keywords: Consciousness; Strawson; phenomenology; reflection; self

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Philosophy, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43606, USA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 1998-01-01

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