Self and World

Self and World

Self and World

Self and World


Self and World is an exploration of the nature of self-awareness. Quassim Cassam challenges the widespread and influential view that we cannot be introspectively aware of ourselves as objects in the world. In opposition to the views of many empiricist and idealist philosophers, including Hume,Kant, and Wittgenstein, he argues that the self is not systematically elusive from the perspective of self-consciousness, and that consciousness of our thoughts and experiences requires a sense of our thinking, experiencing selves as shaped, located, and solid physical objects in a world of suchobjects. Awareness of oneself as a physical object involves forms of bodily self-awareness whose importance has seldom been properly acknowledged in philosophical accounts of the self and self-awareness. The conception of self-awareness defended in this book helps to undermine the idealist thesis that the self does not belong to the world, and also the claim that the existence of subjects or persons is only a derivative feature of reality. In the final part of the book, Cassam argues that theexistence of persons is a substantial fact about the world, and that it is not possible to give a complete description of reality without claiming that persons exist. This clear, original, and challenging treatment of one of the deepest of intellectual problems will demand the attention of all philosophers and cognitive scientists who are concerned with the self.


My deepest intellectual debt is to P. F. Strawson, whose writings have had a profound influence on my thinking about a wide range of philosophical issues. I first became seriously interested in philosophy when I read his book Individuals as an undergraduate, so it is fitting that Strawson's work should figure so prominently in what follows.

In The Bounds of Sense, his brilliant commentary on Kant, Strawson claims that to be self-conscious one must conceive of oneself as a corporeal object among corporeal objects. This claim, together with Strawson's arguments for it, was the focus of the research leading up to this book. Although I have my doubts about these arguments, there is hardly a single page in the present work which has not been shaped by my engagement with them.

My central thesis is that it is not possible to give an adequate account of self-consciousness without acknowledging the importance of certain forms of bodily self-awareness which have received surprisingly little attention in the analytical tradition. My interest in the topic of bodily self-awareness was first stimulated by my colleague Michael Ayers, from whom I have learned a great deal over the years. His influence on this book, both through his writings and through his comments on an earlier draft, has been very considerable.

I have profited from many vigorous discussions with John Campbell, whose scepticism about my approach to self-consciousness has helped me to sharpen up my arguments. I am also grateful to an anonymous reader for Oxford University Press, and to Naomi Eilan, whose incisive comments on earlier drafts of the first four chapters were enormously helpful. Bill Brewer's comments on an earlier version of the discussion of immunity to error through misidentification in Chapter 2 led to a significant change in the argument of this chapter. My response to Reductionism about persons in the final chapter owes much to discussions with Derek Parfit.

This book first began to take shape in 1993 in a class given at the University of California, Berkeley, and in subsequent classes in Oxford. I am grateful to the audiences on these occasions for some extremely stimulating responses, and to audiences in Birmingham, Cambridge,

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