Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

3 Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge

(1) In the previous chapter I put forward an a priori analysis of consciousness. I suggested that a particular group of mental phenomena were constitutive of the state of waking consciousness, which I assumed to be an analysable psychological complex or totality. This account was cast in terms which have application across the wide spectrum of animal kind, such as the property of supporting experience, of being mentally in a position to 'read' the environment, etc. In short, I attempted to dismantle the phenomenon of consciousness, understood as embracing both the unselfconscious and self-conscious varieties.

This chapter is concerned with elucidating the latter 'higher' more developed form of consciousness. Indeed, that is the aim of the remainder of Part I of this work, extending from the present Chapter 3 through to Chapter 6 . Then since Chapter 2 was entitled 'The Anatomy of Consciousness', these ensuing few chapters might with justice be called 'The Physiology of Self-Consciousness'. Thus, in the course of these chapters I try to bring out the functional part played in the constitution of self-conscious consciousness by certain fundamental elements of the state. I shall contend that, while important novel phenomena appear at this 'higher' stage which find no place in merely animal consciousness, the very items which make for consciousness in unthinking animals, do the same in the present case, only in more developed form. Now among the major novelties arising with self-consciousnesss are self-awareness, self-determination, rationality, and thought. The present chapter focuses on the first of these: self-awareness—by which I mean knowledge of one's own existence and the contents of one's own mind. I hope to shed light on the part that this novel mental characteristic plays in making self-consciousness a reality: that is, show how it helps make possible other equally fundamental elements in the 'higher' phenomenon which they together realize. This charting of functional roles has an analogy with physiology.

Before I embark on this enterprise, a preliminary word on the relation between 'self-consciousness consciousnesses' and self-consciousness consciousness. It is a common practice to refer to those beings who are uniquely capable of supporting the latter state by an expression referring to that state—rather as one might speak (say) of 'depressives'. The reason seems evident enough. It consists in the fact that the properties which single out the distinctive bearers of the state are themselves

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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