On this view, it is the unity of the self that guarantees thatco-conscious experiences are jointly self-ascribable; that unityrequires self-consciousness (there is a question as to whetherself-consciousness is here supposed to explain the unity ofconsciousness; cf. Dainton’s strong and weak“I-thesis” (2000: §2.3)). This Kantian picture isassociated with the claim that unified self-consciousness requires aconception of the world as objective; as transcending the perspectivethat one has on it. The idea here is that to self-ascribe anexperience one must have some grasp of the distinction betweenone’s (subjective) experience that the (objective) condition ofwhich it is an experience (these issues are explored in P.F. Strawson1966; Bennett 1966; Evans 1980; Cassam 1997; Sacks 2000; also seeBurge 2010: ch. 6).
is the source of reason. When we become conscious of the workings ofan incentive within us, the incentive is experienced not as a force ora necessity but as a proposal, something we need to make a decisionabout. (Korsgaard 2009: 119; for discussion of Korsgaard’saccount of the relation between self-consciousness and the perspectiveof practical reason, see, for example, Nagel 1996; Fitzpatrick 2005;Soteriou 2013: ch. 12).
I hear the train'd soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them,
It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves,
I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death,
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg
of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress'd head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.
Less the reminders of properties told my words,
And more the reminders they of life untold, and of freedom and extrication,
And make short account of neuters and geldings, and favor men and
women fully equipt,
And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that
plot and conspire.
Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb'd
head, laughter, and naivete,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations,
They descend in new forms from the tips of his fingers,
They are wafted with the odor of his body or breath, they fly out of
the glance of his eyes.
The Kantian account of self-awareness and its relation to the capacityfor objective thought set the agenda for a great deal of post-Kantianphilosophy. On the nature of self-awareness, for example, in anunpublished manuscript Schopenhauer concurs with Kant, asserting that,“that the subject should become an object for itself is the mostmonstrous contradiction ever thought of” (quoted in Janaway1989: 120). Further, a philosophical tradition stemming fromKant’s work has tried to identify the necessary conditions ofthe possibility of self-consciousness, with P.F. Strawson (1959,1966), Evans (1980, 1982), and Cassam (1997), for example, exploringthe relation between the capacity for self-conscious thought and thepossession of a conception of oneself as an embodied agent locatedwithin an objective world (see ). Another, related tradition has argued that an awareness of subjectsother than oneself is a necessary condition of self-consciousness (see ). Historical variations on such a view can be found in Fichte(1794–1795; Wood 2006), Hegel (1807; Pippin 2010), and, from asomewhat different perspective, Mead (1934; Aboulafia 1986).
Magnifying and applying come I,
Outbidding at the start the old cautious hucksters,
Taking myself the exact dimensions of Jehovah,
Lithographing Kronos, Zeus his son, and Hercules his grandson,
Buying drafts of Osiris, Isis, Belus, Brahma, Buddha,
In my portfolio placing Manito loose, Allah on a leaf, the crucifix
With Odin and the hideous-faced Mexitli and every idol and image,
Taking them all for what they are worth and not a cent more,
Admitting they were alive and did the work of their days,
(They bore mites as for unfledg'd birds who have now to rise and fly
and sing for themselves,)
Accepting the rough deific sketches to fill out better in myself,
bestowing them freely on each man and woman I see,
Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house,
Putting higher claims for him there with his roll'd-up sleeves
driving the mallet and chisel,
Not objecting to special revelations, considering a curl of smoke or
a hair on the back of my hand just as curious as any revelation,
Lads ahold of fire-engines and hook-and-ladder ropes no less to me
than the gods of the antique wars,
Minding their voices peal through the crash of destruction,
Their brawny limbs passing safe over charr'd laths, their white
foreheads whole and unhurt out of the flames;
By the mechanic's wife with her babe at her nipple interceding for
every person born,
Three scythes at harvest whizzing in a row from three lusty angels
with shirts bagg'd out at their waists,
The snag-tooth'd hostler with red hair redeeming sins past and to come,
Selling all he possesses, traveling on foot to fee lawyers for his
brother and sit by him while he is tried for forgery;
What was strewn in the amplest strewing the square rod about me, and
not filling the square rod then,
The bull and the bug never worshipp'd half enough,
Dung and dirt more admirable than was dream'd,
The supernatural of no account, myself waiting my time to be one of
The day getting ready for me when I shall do as much good as the
best, and be as prodigious;
By my life-lumps!
A central topic throughout the history of philosophy—andincreasingly so since the seventeenth century—the phenomenasurrounding self-consciousness prompt a variety of fundamentalphilosophical and scientific questions, including its relation toconsciousness; its semantic and epistemic features; its realisation inboth conceptual and non-conceptual representation; and its connectionto our conception of an objective world populated with others likeourselves.
Much of the philosophical work on self-consciousness concerns itsrelation to a variety of other phenomena. These include the nature ofpersonhood, rationality, consciousness, and the awareness of otherminds. In each case we can ask whether self-consciousness is anecessary and/or sufficient condition for the phenomenon inquestion.