Tuesday, 6 February 2018

"Me and I are not friends"

Today's post is by Dr Pablo López-Silva, who is Lecturer in Psychology at the Faculty of Medicine of the Universidad de Valparaíso in Chile. He is the director of the 3-years FONDECYT Research Project titled 'The Agentive Architecture of Human Thought' granted by the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research of the Government of Chile. 

Pablo López-Silva currently works on the philosophy of mind, clinical psychiatry, and psychopathology with a special focus on the way mental pathologies and empirical research inform our understanding of the nature of consciousness.

Self-awareness i.e. the awareness we have of being the subject of our own experience is, perhaps, one of the most elusive elements of human mind. A common idea within current philosophy of mind is that the awareness we have of different external and internal experiences might necessarily involve a degree of self-awareness. In other words, every time you reach a cup, read a book, and so on, you enjoy a degree of awareness of yourself as the one who is doing the reaching, reading, etc. Although such an idea sounds highly intuitive, philosophers disagree on the ways in which the link between our awareness of our experiences and our self-awareness is established.

A very specific group of philosophers has suggested that a sense of mineness intrinsically contained in the qualitative structure of all conscious experiences is a necessary condition for a subject to become aware of himself as the subject of his experiences. Thus, on this view, consciousness necessarily entails phenomenal self-awareness.

In my last paper titled 'Me and I are not friends, just acquaintances: On thought insertion and self-awareness' I first argue that cases of delusions of thought insertion undermine this claim and that such a phenomenal feature plays little role in accounting for the most minimal type of self-awareness entailed by phenomenal consciousness. Patients suffering from thought insertion report the belief that external agents of heterogeneous nature have placed thoughts into their minds/heads. I’m aware of the fact that my strategy for evaluating this argument is not new in philosophy.

As a second step, I offer a systematic evaluation of all the strategies used by the defenders of this view to deal with the challenge from thought insertion. Finally, I conclude that most of these strategies are unsatisfactory for they rest in unwarranted premises, imprecisions about the agentive nature of cognitive experiences, and especially, lack of distinction between the different ways in which subjects can become aware of their own thoughts.

For further questions and comments, just drop me an email!

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