Self‐Consciousness and Self‐Knowledge

Brian O'Shaughnessy

in Consciousness and the World

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780199256723
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598135 | DOI:
Self‐Consciousness and Self‐Knowledge

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Self‐awareness—knowledge of self and of one's mental states—is of central importance in ensuring the properties constitutive of consciousness in rational beings. A modified Cartesian thesis is defended: that a well‐formed state of self‐conscious wakefulness is such that the present contents of that mind must be insightfully given to its owner. This is demonstrated through investigating four different states in which insight is diminished and consciousness absent or impaired: sleep, trance, intoxication, and psychosis. These states are analytically explored, and the thesis proven in each case. It emerges that the very items that constitute consciousness in unthinking animals, do the same in thinking animals, only in a more developed form. The differentia of the state of self‐conscious wakefulness is analysed into the co‐presence of a syndrome of mutually necessitating properties : self‐knowledge, rationality, freedom, thinking, etc. When this syndrome is conjoined with the availability of the perceptual attention, together with experience, the state is fully constituted. This is the answer to the fundamental question: what is consciousness?

Keywords: Cartesianism; consciousness; Descartes; freedom; intoxication; psychosis; rationality; self‐consciousness; self‐knowledge; trance

Chapter.  32723 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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