A New Deflationary Account of the “Primitive Sense of Selfhood”

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien

This paper proposes a new deflationary reading of the metaphor of the “primitive sense of selfhood” in perception and proprioception, usually understood as an “experiential self-reference” that takes place before reflection and any use of concepts. As such, the paper is also a new defense of the old orthodox view that self-consciousness is a highly complex mental phenomenon that requires equally complex concepts. The author’s defense is a clear case of inference to the best explanation. He argues that postulating an “experiential self-reference” to explain the “primitive sense of selfhood” (ecological self, proprioception and the first-person perspective) is as explanatory overkill as attributing perceptions to bacteria to explain the remarkably sophisticated ways in which they adapt, attune, and respond to their environments. This is what the author calls trivialization of self-consciousness. The metaphor of the “primitive sense of selfhood” in perception and proprioception is far less extravagantly explained by what, based on Recanati, the author calls self-involvement without self-consciousness: there is no “experiential self-reference” because there is no self-reference in the first place. Rather than being articulated as a constituent of the contents of her/his perceptions or proprioception, the self/subject is the key element of the circumstance of evaluation of these selfless contents.

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