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Christopher Peacocke

(Professeur de Philosophie à l'Université Columbia et
Professeur invité à l'École normale Supérieure,
Département d'Études Cognitives)




Thème général : "The First Person, the Self, and Self-Consciousness"

My aims in these lectures are to present an account of the nature of first person representation; to present an account of the nature of the subject referred to by a first person representation; to integrate these two accounts; and to apply the integrated account to some classical issues in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of psychology, metaphysics and epistemology that turn on the nature of the first person and the self. No extant approach to these issues is in my view entirely satisfactory, though many of them contain important insights. I will be offering a new approach.


Ecole normale Supérieure, 45, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris





 - Le 14 octobre 2010 de 15h à 17h - Salle des Actes

Lecture 1.
Primitive Self-Representation

 I introduce a notion of primitive self-representation, together with some hypotheses about its nature. This primitive self-representation gets a grip even at the level of nonconceptual representation, and is needed in the proper characterization of some simple first person phenomena. I argue that this primitive self-representation also involves the operation of a subject’s file on itself. Such files have distinctive features that separate them sharply from, for instance, perceptual files on objects. Using this apparatus, I go on to distinguish three degrees of subject-involvement in representation of the objective world.
The subjects referred to by uses of the first person are entities in their own right; they are neither Cartesian immaterial egos, nor are they essentially embodied, nor are they bundles of allegedly independently individuated mental events. The nature of subjects and the nature of conscious states are ontologically interdependent, in ways to be explained. Subjects are things capable of being in conscious states; conscious states, as per Nagel, are states such that there is something it is like for the subject of that to be in. I develop a response to Hume’s argument that there is no such thing as the subject of experience. The response turns on a distinction between two kinds of attention. The deep source of the possibility of the response is connected with the nature of primitive self-representation. The account of primitive self-representation developed earlier in the lecture can be deployed to explain what is right and what is not right about Wittgenstein’s remarks about the subject of experience in the Tractatus.

- Le 15 octobre 2010 de 15h à 17h - Salle Cavaillès

Lecture 2. The Ontology of Subjects and Anchoring the First Person Concept

I explain the bearing of this account of subjects on neo-Humean views such as that of Parfit. The account also has consequences for issues in the theory of the unity of consciousness. This treatment of the ontology of subjects can be materialist, and I argue that it respects Kant’s constraint that genuine identity can never consist merely in an impression of identity. The first person concept refers to a subject of consciousness.
The first person concept, as expressed by the first person pronoun, is to be explained in terms of a more primitive nonconceptual notion of self-representation. I present six reasons in support of that view, reasons that involve the expression and description of nonconceptual states, the nature of indexical awareness, and the relations between rationality and the first person. I contrast the view I am developing with those of John Perry and Sebastian Rödl. 

Le 19 octobre 2010 de 15h à 17h - Salle des Actes

 Lecture 3. Descartes Defended

 The conception of first person contents and their referents outlined in the first two lectures vindicates Descartes on a surprising number of fronts. Not, I hasten to add, that it can do anything for his immaterialism about the self; but it does offer a relatively straightforward vindication of the Cogito and for some ancillary theses about the subject of consciousness, such as the thesis that it is the same thing that thinks, imagines, wills. The materials I develop can be marshaled not only into a response to the traditional form of Lichtenberg’s objection to the Cogito, but also to more sophisticated forms of the objection that treat “it is thought that” as semantically analogous to a modal operator.
The position of Descartes on the self, and that of other ‘rational psychologists’, was subjected to one of Kant’s most celebrated critiques in the section on the Paralogisms in the Critique of Pure Reason. Though there are deep insights in Kant’s discussion, I believe that Kant’s diagnosis of the alleged illusions of rational psychology does not undermine the position that the first person refers in the phenomena Descartes cites. Kant’s arguments fractionate in various ways if we apply the account of the first person and the self I am presenting. I also argue, contrary to both Kant and Parfit, that there is such a thing as genuine awareness of one’s identity over time. The view that there is not rests on an epistemology that we would almost all reject in other cases.

- Le 21 octobre 2010 de 15h à 17h - Salle des Actes 

Lecture 4. Perspectival and Reflective Self-Consciousness

Traditionally it has been thought that self-consciousness is something going beyond the minimal conditions for consciousness. We can also distinguish self-consciousness as something that goes beyond the minimal conditions for first person conceptual thought. In this lecture, I focus on distinguishing and explicating the significance of two such varieties of self-consciousness.
One variety I label 'perspectival self-consciousness'. I propose an account of its nature, and consider its relations to: Gallup's mirror test for self-consciousness; Shoemaker’s conception of immunity to error through misidentification; the possession of a conception of many minds; and some of Sartre's ideas on what it is to conceive of oneself as an object. A second variety of self-consciousness I label 'reflective self-consciousness'. I also offer an account of the nature of reflective self-consciousness and its epistemological significance. There are significant intellectual projects in which perspectival self-consciousness and reflective self-consciousness have to cooperate if a thinker is to attain certain epistemic goals.
I conclude with some reflections on the bearing of the metaphysics of subjects of consciousness, and the metaphysics of their properties, on the explanation of epistemic and conceptual phenomena.


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