Naturalizing Self-Consciousness: The representationalist approach of F. Dretske

  • O. O. Kryvitchenko Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
Keywords: philosophy of mind, knowing self-reference, mental representation, intentionality, non-conceptual forms of consciousness, self-identification


The article discusses the problem of self-consciousness, which was first articulated by G. Fichte, and which refers to explaining a conscious self-reference without falling into an infinite regression when self-consciousness is implied but not explained. Analyzing S. Shoemaker’s linguistic approach to self-consciousness, the author asserts that the key feature of self-consciousness is a conscious self-reference. However, after considering Shoemaker’s arguments, the author claims impossibility of solving the problem of self-consciousness solely by means of a linguistic analysis.Therefore, the author refers to two bottom-up proposals aiming to solve this issue: the approach of non-conceptual forms of self-consciousness developed by J. Bermúdez and the conception of self-consciousness pre-reflective form coined by D. Zahavi. The article states inadequacies in both approaches and asserts the need to identify self-consciousness in non-intentional (in terms of phenomenology), non-semantic, and non-mental concepts - that is, in a naturalistic way that meets the requirements to naturalism put forward by L. Baker. For this, the author suggests referring to representationalism, in particular to, the works of F. Dretske, and trying to ground the theory of self-consciousness in his statement that representations do not require «self», a principle that spontaneously organizes mental activity and carries out all intentional acts.The author concludes that the approach of Dretske avoids an endless regression or circular way of explanation. However, the very project of naturalization of self-consciousness, based on a non-linguistic, naturalized form of representation of a cognitive system that does not contain «self», can not exist without taking into account the first-person perspective. One of the possible solutions to this problem is the assumption of a metaphysical relation everyone has to himself. However, the author stresses the need for further clarification and agreement with the theses of strong representationalism.


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How to Cite
Kryvitchenko, O. (2018). Naturalizing Self-Consciousness: The representationalist approach of F. Dretske. Grani, 21(10), 181-189.