CSMN Colloquium: Sebastian Watzl

Sebastian Watzl (IFIKK)

Attention, Self, and Subjectivity




No Self Views of consciousness deny any substantial role or any interesting place for the self in conscious experience. No Self Views have held a prominent position in both Western philosophy – famous through David Hume – and in Eastern philosophy – in the Buddhist tradition. Given the fluidity of the notions of self and of consciousness No Self Views can amount to a number of different positions. In this paper, I will focus on what has come to be called “phenomenal consciousness”, distinguish three No Self positions about it, and use arguments that make use of attention to undermine all three of them. The first is a No Subjectivity position. On this view, there is (surprisingly!) nothing subjective about phenomenal consciousness. The character of our conscious experience just is the character of the world that opens up in a stream of consciousness (see also work by Mark Johnson and Michael Tye). The second view is a No Bearer position. On this position an (intuitively) single stream of consciousness has no single bearer or subject, neither synchronically (at a single time) nor diachronically (over periods of time) (see also Galen Strawson and Geoffrey Lee). The third view is a No Self-Awareness position. On this view we are never consciously aware of ourselves qua subjects of experience (see also Gilbert Harman, Alex Byrne, and others). My arguments against all three positions will draw on the way attention shapes consciousness. Against the Buddhist tradition, and against recent work by Jonardon Ganeri (forthcoming) that draws on it, I argue that considerations about the way attention shapes consciousness undermine any support for No Subjectivity, No Bearer, and No Self-Awareness, and commit defenders of them to rather unappealing consequences.

Published Mar. 1, 2017 12:40 PM - Last modified Mar. 20, 2017 8:59 AM