Selfless Activity and Experience: Radicalizing Minimal Self-Awareness



Publication Details

Hutto, D. D. & Ilundain-Agurruza, J. (2018). Selfless Activity and Experience: Radicalizing Minimal Self-Awareness. Topoi: an International Review of Philosophy, Online First 1-12.


This paper explicates how we might positively understand the distinctive, nonconceptual experience of our own actions and experiences by drawing on insights from a radically enactive take on phenomenal experience. We defend a late-developing relationalism about the emergence of explicit, conceptually based self-awareness, proposing that the latter develops in tandem with the mastery of self-reflective narrative practices. Focusing on the case of human newborns, Sect. 1 reviews and rejects claims that the capacities of actors to keep track of aspects of themselves-e.g. their bodies, body parts, movements, activities, actions and experiences-when coordinating what they do equates to or is best explained by positing minimal, tacit awareness of their experiences as their own. Section 2 then considers and resists more familiar arguments, based on the so-called reflexivity thesis, that take such minimal self-awareness to be implied wherever there is any kind of phenomenal experience. In place of these ideas, we promote an alternative proposal of what is involved when agents keep track of aspects of themselves, drawing on a radically enactive conception of basic experience. Section 3 concludes by proposing that our first conceptual, explicit sense of self is something that only arrives on the scene once we become able to hold our own-through the support of others-in discursive, narrative practices that give us a conceptual grip on what it is to be a temporally extended self that persists over time.

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