This paper takes to task Beatrice Longuenesse’s claim that we are always conscious of ourselves as selves, as we regard ourselves as accountable for our experience. She bases this claim on Kant’s dictum that the ‘I think must be able to accompany all my representations’. By drawing on Sartre, she thinks this to be true both for reflective and pre-reflective experience. I believe this cannot be correct. We are only conscious of ourselves as selves when thought is self-directed (i.e., when we reflect).
At the same time, I am in agreement with Longuenesse (and Kant):
1) The self is not an object – the “I think” can only accompany my representations but can never be turned into an object of my representation.
2) We can only know the self in and through our activity of thinking: the I think ‘exists in the act’ (CPR B423) and does not exist independently of its activity of thinking;
3) The synthesizing activity of the “I think” brings about and therefore brings into existence the consciousness of myself as a self as unitary and self-identical.
The question then arises, how can I square the claim that consciousness of myself as a self is episodic with (3), namely that I am necessarily conscious of myself as the same and self-identical self. The problem is that if we accept (1) and (2), we can no longer refer to the self as a being (ousia) that exists and is constantly present, independently of whether I am reflecting or not.
By drawing on Husserl’s accounts of intellectual habits, I shall try to tease out how Husserl provides a solution to the problem and how he helps us to articulate a coherent non-objectual account of the self.
The Seminar is going to be held via Microsoft Teams in MT20. If you would like to attend, you must write to one of the convenors or to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our mailing list.
All papers will be circulated in advance to members of the mailing list, and our hope is that attendees will read the papers in advance. The speaker will not deliver the paper at the seminar. Aside from a short opening by the speaker, most of the time will be devoted to discussion.
Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph Schear, Manuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall