Experiment, Imagination, and the Self

Jonardon Ganeri

in The Self

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652365
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740718 | DOI:
Experiment, Imagination, and the Self

Show Summary Details


This chapter contrasts two methodologies for thinking about the nature of self, neither of which are fully satisfactory. The method of philosophical naturalism, which affirms a continuity between philosophy and natural science, leads to a conception of self as at best a reducible entity, reducible either simply to the body (Materialism) or else to an interconnected flow of mental particulars (the Humean view). Diametrically opposed to philosophical naturalism is an approach to the study of the self that rests on the use of imagination and intuition. Exercises of imagination lead to the discovery of a different kind of self, a self which consists essentially in thinking. The heart of the method is that if something can be imagined as separated from something else without being destroyed, then that other thing cannot be a part of its essence. This chapter then describes formulations of the cogito in the Islamic philosopher Ibn Sina and the Jaina Prabhācandra (both born in the year 980 ce). We learn from the Indian materialist Payāsi that any temptation to provide an explanation of the behaviour of the self by analogy with the behaviour of some physical entity or phenomenon is a trap, for such an attempt invariably ends up making the self sound like a mysterious crypto‐physical being, a recherché denizen in the physical world.

Keywords: Hume; Payāsi; the cogito; Ibn Sina; philosophical naturalism

Chapter.  7154 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.