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Consciousness and the First Person

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According to John Searle’s connection principle (CP) all intentional states are, necessarily, potentially conscious (Searle 1992). Thus formulated, CP implies that intentionality is ontologically dependent on consciousness. Searle’s argument in favour of CP is based on the assumption that, while every intentional state is endowed with an aspectual shape, only conscious intentional states are intrinsically so endowed. In turn, the contention that only conscious intentional states are intrinsically aspectual and perspectival is based on what I call the Cartesian view of subjectivity (CS), according to which subjectivity implies consciousness. I argue that, though intuitive, CS is ultimately untenable. A plea is made for an alternative, ‘Aristotelian’ view of subjectivity (AS), on which the roots of subjectivity lie not in consciousness per se, but in the more basic capacity for autonomous conduct. Searle’s failure to appreciate this point, I argue, accounts for the unresolved dualistic tension over- shadowing his conception of mind.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa., Email:

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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