The Paradox of Self-Consciousness


In this book, José Luis Bermúdez 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? Bermúdez 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.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. A Note to the Reader
  4. 1. The Paradox of Self-Consciousness
  5. 2. The Form of a Solution
  6. 3. Content, Concepts, and Language
  7. 4. The Theory of Nonconceptual Content
  8. 5. The Self of Ecological Optics
  9. 6. Somatic Proprioception and the Bodily Self
  10. 7. Points of View
  11. 8. Navigation and Spatial Reasoning
  12. 9. Psychological Self-Awareness: Self and Others
  13. 10. Solving the Paradox of Self-Consciousness
  14. Notes
  15. References
  16. Index