A remarkable feature of many philosophical accounts of the nature of self-consciousness has been their commitment to the idea that the self is, in some important sense, systematically elusive. 1 The supposedly elusive self is the thinking, experiencing self, and the perspective from which this self has seemed so elusive is that of introspective self-awareness. As Hume puts it in his Treatise of Human Nature, 'when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other . . . I can never catch myself without a perception, and can never observe anything but the perception' (Hume 1978 : 252). From this, Hume concluded that the self is nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, and that the identity which we ascribe to the mind of man is only a fictitious one (p. 259).
Later, in an appendix to the Treatise, Hume expressed dissatisfaction with his own account of the self on the grounds that it failed to 'explain the principles, that unite our successive perceptions in our thought or consciousness' (p. 636). This point was taken up by Kant, who argued that for different perceptions or 'representations' to be united in one consciousness, it must be possible for their subject to attach the representation 'I think' to each of them (B131). 2 The 'I think' is 'the one condition which accompanies all thought' (A398), and is a representation which cannot itself be accompanied by any further representation. A self-conscious subject is one who is at least capable of consciousness of its own identity as the subject of different representations, but self-consciousness is not and cannot be a matter of one's being perceptually or 'intuitively' aware of the subject of one's representations as an object. As Kant puts it, 'this identity of the subject, of which I can be conscious in
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Publication information: Book title: Self and World. Contributors: Quassim Cassam - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 1.
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