The Myth of Nonconceptual Self-Consciousness

Roberto Horacio de Sa Pereira


This paper is a defense of the old orthodox view that self-consciousness requires self-concepts. We will try to persuade the reader that intelligent beings lacking self-concepts are not self-conscious. The alleged cases of primitive nonconceptual self-consciousness are better understood as ancestors in the developmental prehistory of genuine self-consciousness. We distinguish three levels of subject-involvement. In the first, the representational content of experiences is subject-free and the being is merely concerned rather self-referred by its own experiences. We call this view self-concernment without self-representation. In the second level, the being is self-aware in the sense that it is the object of its own attention. The key feature of this level is what psychologists call “objectivation.” Self-awareness is not genuine self-consciousness, however, in the sense of being conscious of oneself as the subject of representations. We therefore call this level self-awareness without self-consciousness. The emerging picture is this: selves are not just the subjects of representations. Their metaphysical nature lies in their capacity to represent themselves as the subjects of their own representations.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Roberto Horacio de Sa Pereira

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Journal of Social Science Studies ISSN 2329-9150

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