The Paradox of Self-consciousness

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MIT Press, 2000 - Psychology - 338 pages

In this book, Jos Luis Berm dez addesses two fundamental problems in the philosophy and psychology of self-consciousness: (1) Can we provide a noncircular account of fully fledged self-conscious thought and language in terms of more fundamental capacities? (2) Can we explain how fully fledged self-conscious thought and language can arise in the normal course of human development? Berm dez argues that a paradox (the paradox of self-consciousness) arises from the apparent strict interdependence between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. The paradox renders circular all theories that define self-consciousness in terms of linguistic mastery of the first-person pronoun. It seems to follow from the paradox of self-consciousness that no such account or explanation can be given.

Drawing on recent work in empirical psychology and philosophy, the author argues that any explanation of fully fledged self-consciousness that answers these two questions requires attention to primitive forms of self-consciousness that are prelinguistic and preconceptual. Such primitive forms of self-consciousness are to be found in somatic proprioception, the structure of exteroceptive perception, and prelinguistic forms of social interaction. The author uses these primitive forms of self-consciousness to dissolve the paradox of self-consciousness and to show how the two questions can be given an affirmative answer.

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Contents

IV
1
V
2
VI
5
VII
9
VIII
14
IX
21
X
24
XI
27
XXXI
135
XXXII
145
XXXIII
151
XXXIV
163
XXXV
168
XXXVI
188
XXXVII
193
XXXVIII
198

XII
28
XIII
39
XIV
43
XV
49
XVI
50
XVII
58
XVIII
62
XIX
76
XX
83
XXII
94
XXIII
103
XXV
115
XXVI
123
XXVII
128
XXVIII
131
XXIX
132
XXX
134
XXXIX
203
XL
207
XLI
220
XLII
229
XLIII
230
XLIV
237
XLV
241
XLVI
247
XLVII
267
XLVIII
275
XLIX
291
L
294
LI
299
LII
313
LIII
327
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Page 104 - For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.
Page 231 - In the case of other human beings I have the evidence of my senses for the first and last links of the series, but not for the intermediate link.
Page 112 - If a terrestrial surface is nearly horizontal (instead of slanted), nearly flat (instead of convex or concave), and sufficiently extended (relative to the size of the animal) and if its substance is rigid (relative to the weight of the animal), then the surface affords support. It is a surface of support, and we call it a substratum, ground, or floor. It is stand-on-able, permitting an upright posture for quadrupeds and bipeds. It is therefore walk-on-able and run-over-able. It is not sink-into-able...
Page 231 - By what evidence do I know, or by what considerations am I led to believe, that there exist other sentient creatures ; that the walking and speaking figures which I see and hear, have sensations and thoughts, or in other words, possess Minds ? The most strenuous Intuitionist does not include this among the things that I know by direct intuition. I conclude it from certain things, which my experience of my own states of feeling proves to me to be marks of it.
Page 231 - ... because, first, they have bodies like me, which I know, in my own case, to be the antecedent condition of feelings; and because, secondly, they exhibit the acts, and other outward signs, which in my own case I know by experience to be caused by feelings.
Page 5 - It is possible that, say in an accident, I should feel a pain in my arm, see a broken arm at my side, and think it is mine, when really it is my neighbor's.
Page 5 - Examples of the second kind are: "/ see so-and-so", "/ hear so-and-so", "/ try to lift my arm", "I think it will rain", "/ have toothache". One can point to the difference between these two categories by saying: The cases of the first category involve the recognition of a particular person, and there is in these cases the possibility of an error, or as I should rather put it: The possibility of an error has been provided for.
Page 104 - But the I or ego is the dark point in consciousness, just as on the retina the precise point of entry of the optic nerve is blind, the brain itself is wholly insensible, the body of the sun is dark, and the eye sees everything except itself.
Page 105 - Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be found ? You will say that this is exactly like the case of the eye and the visual field. But really you do not see the eye. And nothing in the visual field allows you to infer that it is seen by an eye.
Page 245 - Any thinker who has an idea of an objective spatial world — an idea of a world of objects and phenomena which can be perceived but which are not dependent on being perceived for their existence — must be able to think of his perception of the world as being simultaneously due to his position in the world, and to the condition of the world at that position. The very idea of a perceivable, objective, spatial world brings with it the idea of the subject as being in the world, with the course of...

About the author (2000)

José Luis Bermúdez received an undergraduate degree from Cambridge University in 1988 and a PhD in 1992. He was a professor and chair of the philosophy department at the University of Stirling, U. K. before becoming a professor of philosophy at Washington University of St. Louis. His works include The Paradox of Self-Consciousness, Thinking Without Words, and Philosophy of Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction.

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