Brook, A., Cognitive Science PhD Programme, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada email@example.com
I am in complete sympathy with Galen Strawson's conclusions in 'The
Self' (1997). He takes a careful, measured approach to a topic that lends
itself all too easily to speculation and intellectual extravaganzas. The
results are for the most part balanced and plausible. I am even in sympathy
with his claim that a memory-produced sense of continuity over time is
less central to selfhood than many researchers think, though he may go
too far in the opposite direction. Thus my purpose in these comments is
not to criticise his conclusions. Instead, I want to look at certain aspects
of the framework of argument and observation that he uses to reach them.
Gendler, T.S., Department of Philosophy, Syracuse University, Syracuse NY 13244-1170, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever since Locke (and particularly in the last 50 years or so) the philosophical literature on personal identity has centred on arguments of a certain type. These arguments use an assumed convergence of response to purely imaginary cases to defend revisionary conclusions about common-sense beliefs concerning the nature or importance of personal identity. So, for instance, one is asked to contemplate a case in which A's brain is transplanted into B's body, or a case in which some of C's memories are implanted in D's brain, or a case in which information about the arrangement of the molecules which compose E is used to create an exact replica of E at another point in space-time.
Thinking about these cases is supposed to help us tease apart the relative
roles played by features that coincide in all (or almost all) actual cases,
but which seem to be conceptually distinguishable. So, for instance, even
though we can ordinarily assume that the beliefs, desires, memories, etc.
which are associated with a given body will not come to be associated with
another body, it does not seem to be in principle impossible that such
a state of affairs should come about. Indeed, it seems that we can describe
a mechanism by which such a situation might come about: for instance, A's
brain (and with it A's beliefs, desires and memories) might be transplanted
into B's body. And since the scenario described strikes us as something
of which we can make sense, it seems we can make judgments of fact or value
about which of the two factors really matters in making A who she is. We
might ask, for instance, whether it would be true to say that A had survived
in a body that used to belong to B, or whether it would be right to punish
the B-bodied human being for A's actions, or whether if we were A before
the intended operation, we ought to worry about what would be happening
to the B-bodied person afterwards. And on the basis of these judgments
about what we would say in the imaginary case, we can return to the actual
case having learned something about which features are essential and which
accidental to our judgments concerning the nature or value of personal
identity. My goal in this paper is to suggest reasons for thinking that
this methodology may be less reliable than its proponents take it to be,
for interesting and systematic reasons.
Hayward, J., Shambhala Training Institute, 33 Acorn Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3P 1G7 email@example.com
A rDzogs-chen (Tibetan Buddhist) interpretation of the sense of self
is presented that is grounded in the disciplined method of shamatha-vipashyana
meditation. This model of self/non-self agrees with Strawson's analysis
as far as the discontinuity of self, but elaborates the momentary self
not as any kind of 'thing', but as an energy process having both particle-like
and field-like aspects. The moment-by-moment appearance of a sense of self
is described as arising in stages over a finite duration from a background
of non-dual intelligence and energy. There are implications for further
scientific research into the structure of self-consciousness as well as
for the cultivation of individual wisdom and compassion.
Legerstee, M., Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Canada
In this article, I will draw on my own work and related publications
to present some intuitions and hypotheses about the nature of the self
and the mechanisms that lead to the development of consciousness or self
awareness in human infants during the first 6 months of life. My main purpose
is to show that the origins of a concept of self include the physical and
the mental selves. I believe that it is essential when trying to understand
what a mental state is, that one identifies the social and physical aspects
of the person to whom the mental state belongs. How can one identify a
mental state or thought without making reference to a subject who experiences
it (Hobson, 1990)? The other important feature of the self is that it is
distinguished from other people and inanimate objects. 'One's concept of
self is a concept of a person; one's concept of persons cannot be a concept
applicable only to a single individual (oneself), for the reason that in
this case it would no longer constitute a concept' (Hobson, 1990, p. 165).
I would like to argue that infants must be able to represent their physical
and social selves in order to recognize that they are similar and different
from other people, and to develop expectations and predictions about the
behaviour of others (theory of mind). Unlike Strawson, I do not believe
that the social and physical aspects of the self are, or become redundant
to the nature of the self. I posit that the mature conscious self is a
unique mythical and constantly changing entity, the formation of which
is created not by the individual alone, but through continuous dialectical
inquiry with other people.
Olson, E.T., Churchill College, Cambridge CB3 0DS, UK firstname.lastname@example.org
Because there is no agreed use of the term 'self', or characteristic
features or even paradigm cases of selves, there is no idea of 'the self'
to figure in philosophical problems. The term leads to troubles otherwise
avoidable; and because legitimate discussions under the heading of 'self'
are really about other things, it is gratuitous. I propose that we stop
speaking of selves.
Panksepp, J., Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA
An adequate understanding of 'the self' and/or 'primary-process consciousness'
should allow us to explain how affective experiences are created within
the brain. Primitive emotional feelings appear to lie at the core of our
beings, and the neural mechanisms that generate such states may constitute
an essential foundation process for the evolution of higher, more rational,
forms of consciousness. At present, abundant evidence indicates that affective
states arise from the intrinsic neurodynamics of primitive self-centred
emotional and motivational systems situated in subcortical regions of the
brain. Accordingly, a neural understanding of 'the self' may arise from
a study of how various biological value-coding systems (emotional circuits)
converge and interact with coherent brainstem representations of the body
and nearby attentional/waking systems of the brain. Affective feelings
may be caused by the neurodynamics of basic emotional circuits interacting
with the neural schema of bodily action plans. One key brain area where
such interactions occur is found within centromedial diencephalic midbrain
areas such as the periventricular and periaqueductal gray (PAG) and nearby
tectal and tegmental zones. Here I will envision that a Simple Ego-type
Life Form (a primitive SELF structure) is instantiated in those circuits
The ability of this 'primal SELF' to resonate with primitive emotional
values may help yield the raw subjectively experienced feelings of pleasure,
lust, anger, hunger, desire, fear, loneliness and so forth. A study of
such systems is a reasonable starting point for the neurological analysis
of affective feelings, which may lie at the periconscious core of all other
forms of animal consciousness. If such a neurodynamic process was an essential
neural preadaptation for the emergence of higher levels of consciousness,
it may help us close the explanatory gap between brain circuit states and
the psychological nature of affective feelings. Thereby, it may also help
us conceptualize the nature of psychological binding within higher forms
of consciousness in new ways.
Radden, J., Dept. of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Boston MA 02125, USA
In this paper, I explore the implications of adopting one model of self
rather than another in respect to one particular feature of our mental
life. The need to explain synchronic unity in normal subjectivity, and
also to explain the apparent and puzzling absence of synchronic unity in
certain symptoms of severe mental disorder, I show, becomes more pressing
with one particular model. But in the process of developing that explanation
we learn something about subjectivity, and perhaps also something about
Sass, L.A., Department of Clinical Psychology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA LouisSass@aol.com
This paper uses certain of Michel Foucault's ideas concerning modern
consciousness (from The Order of Things) to illuminate a central paradox
of the schizophrenic condition: a strange oscillation, or even coexistence,
between two opposite experiences of the self: between the loss or fragmentation
of self and its apotheosis in moments of solipsistic grandeur. Many schizophrenic
patients lose their sense of integrated and active intentionality; even
their most intimate thoughts and inclinations may be experienced as emanating
from, or under the control of, some external being or mysterious foreign
soul ('I feel it is not me who is thinking'; 'I have been programmed').
Yet the same patients may also experience the self as preeminent, all-powerful
or all-knowing ('My thoughts can influence things'; 'This event happens
because I think it'). Here one may feel confronted with the very paradigm
of irrationality: profound contradictions suggesting regression to primitive
'primary-process' thinking or utter collapse of the higher faculties of
mind. I argue, however, that these dualities so basic to schizophrenia
can best be understood very differently: as consequences of a kind of alienation
and hyper-self-consciousness ('hyper- reflexivity') that is closely analogous
to what occurs in the post-Kantian era of Western intellectual history.
The parallel dualities of modern thought have been most extensively discussed
by Foucault, who describes paradoxes, tensions and other dilemmas central
to what he calls the modern 'episteme'; these result from what Foucault
sees as the modern human being's introverted and ultimately self-deceiving
preoccupation with, and overvaluing of, the phenomenon of his own consciousness.
Parallels between these contradictions and those characteristic of several
withdrawn schizophrenic individuals are described and analysed. The paper
concludes with an Afterword in which some possible neurobiological underpinnings
of these schizophrenic experiences are discussed.
Shear, J., Dept. of Philosophy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284-2025, USA email@example.com
This paper presents the pure consciousness theory of self, derived from
Eastern meditation traditions, and uses it to unravel some of the paradoxes
of Western philosophical models of the self. The theory is ontologically
neutral and compatible with the widest variety of different ontologies.
However the theory does, I think, have significant implications for questions
of personal identity, emotional maturity and moral values, but exploring
these topics here would take us too far afield. The article attempts to
show something of the potential value for our traditional philosophical
discussions of self of taking into account the pure consciousness experience,
widely discussed in Eastern, but not Western, philosophical traditions.
For if the phenomenological analyses are even roughly correct, it would
appear that the experience is capable of resolving some major Western issues
about self, clarifies our commonsense intuition, and is properly identified
by philosophical analysis as being experience of self itself.
Tani, J., Sony Computer Science Laboratory Inc., 3-14-13 Higashi-gotanda, Tokyo, 141, JAPAN firstname.lastname@example.org
This study attempts to describe the notion of the 'self' using dynamical
systems language based on the results of our robot learning experiments.
A neural network model consisting of multiple modules is proposed, in which
the interactive dynamics between the bottom-up perception and the top-down
prediction are investigated. Our experiments with a real mobile robot showed
that the incremental learning of the robot switches spontaneously between
steady and unsteady phases. In the steady phase, the top-down prediction
for the bottom-up perception works well when coherence is achieved between
the internal and the environmental dynamics. In the unsteady phase, conflicts
arise between the bottom-up perception and the top-down prediction; the
coherence is lost, and a chaotic attractor is observed in the internal
neural dynamics. By investigating possible analogies between this result
and the phenomenological literature on the 'self', we draw the conclusions
that (1) the structure of the 'self' corresponds to the 'open dynamic structure'
which is characterized by co-existence of stability in terms of goal-directedness
and instability caused by embodiment; (2) the open dynamic structure causes
the system's spontaneous transition to the unsteady phase where the 'self'
Zahavi, D., Department of Philosophy, University of Copenhagen
& Parnas, J., email@example.com
Given the recent interest in the subjective or phenomenal dimension of consciousness it is no wonder that many authors have once more started to speak of the need for pheno- menological considerations. Often however the term 'phenomenology' is being used simply as a synonym for 'folk psychology', and in our article we argue that it would be far more fruitful to turn to the argumentation to be found within the continental tradition inaugurated by Husserl. In order to exemplify this claim, we criticize Rosenthal's higher-order thought theory as well as Strawson's recent contribution in this journal, and argue that a phenomenological analysis of the nature of self-awareness can provide us with a more sophisticated and accurate model for understanding both phenomenal consciousness and the notion of self.