With or Without Me

In Subjectivity and Selfhood, Dan Zahavi in the chapter 5 – Consciousness and Self, talks about the issue if there is an intimate link between self and self-awareness, and what is the nature of this link. In doing so, he focuses on the issue of different notions of self, which I think is interesting, so I will put it in this post.
He contrasts two different notions of self, namely:

1.The Self as a Pure Identity-Pole (Kantian Perspective)
The need of something to provide unity of consciousness through different experiences. All of the experiences through time are given as experiences of same self.
This self is theoretical self, and it is deduced in its necessity…

As Kant wrote in Kritik der reinen Vernunf: “It is… evident that I cannot know as an object that which I must pressupose to know any object” (A 402). (104)

2.The Self as a Narrative Construction (Hermeneutical Perspective)

According to this view… the self is assumed to be a construction… When confronted with the question “Who am I?” we will tell a certain story and emphasize aspects that we deem to be of special significance…, it is construction of identity starting in early childhood and continuing for the rest of our life… Who one is depends on the values, ideals, and goals one has… is conditioned by the community of which one is part. (105)

Zahavi then puts in front the third notion:
3.The Self as Experiential Dimension (Phenomenological Perspective)
This is the alternative that Zahavi considers, and which can be seen as a replacement of the first notion of self (Kantian perspective), and as a “necessary founding supplement for the second notion of self” (Hermeneutical perspective). About this, as Zahavi calls it, notion of minimal self  or core self, which is “conceived neither as an ineffable transcendental precondition, nor as a mere social construct that evolves through time”, he says:

To be conscious of oneself… is not to capture a pure self that exists in separation from the stream of consciousness, but rather entails just being conscious of an experience in its first-personal mode of givenness; it is a question of having first-personal access to one’s own experiential life. (106)

This notion, Zahavi argues, is what is by Merleau-Ponty, by Sartre and Henry called “ipseity“.

…More about this book in some of the next posts.


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