Selfhood and the Flow of Experience

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Abstract:

Analytic philosophy in the 20 th century was largely hostile territory to the self as traditionally conceived, and this tradition has been continued in two recent works: Mark Johnston's Surviving Death, and Galen Strawson's Selves. I have argued previously that it is perfectly possible to combine a naturalistic world-view with a conception of the self as a subject of experience, a thing whose only essential attribute is a capacity for unified and continuous experience. I argue here that this conception of the self is unthreatened by the otherwise valuable considerations advanced by Johnston and Strawson. Both are inclined to identify selves-at-times with momentary episodes of experience (or centres or 'arenas' of consciousness). Both go on to argue, albeit in different ways, that individual selves cannot extend beyond the confines of these brief episodes. However, in so doing they give insufficient weight to an important phenomenological datum: the continuity of our ordinary experience. When the latter is recognized, and appropriately understood, it provides us with a secure basis upon which a more recognizable conception of the self can be constructed.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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