The Conscious Self: The Immaterial Center of Subjective States

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Humanity Books, 2005 - Philosophy - 413 pages
In philosophical work on the nature of the conscious self, the prevailing views are reductionist and materialist—i.e., the conscious self, if considered to be anything more than a remarkably tenacious illusion, is reduced to a collection of experiences strung out over time, experiences that are materialistically understood to be nothing more than physical or functional states of the body. Persons are human bodies, and thus are entirely material beings. Daniel Dennett, for instance, has called the self an abstract "Center of Narrative Gravity" and Derek Parfit has defended a reductionist view of the self in his book Reasons and Persons.

Against such views, philosopher David H. Lund advances a nonmaterialist and nonreductionist interpretation of the self in this rigorously argued work in the philosophy of mind. Using both analytic and phenomenological approaches, Lund meets well-known materialist and reductionist theories of the self head on, providing a comprehensive set of arguments against such theories. Arguing that the conscious self must be accorded the ontological status of a "metaphysically basic particular," he first establishes that the unity of consciousness experienced at the present moment reveals the presence of a unitary subject of conscious states. He then shows that the unity of consciousness that extends over time (revealed in the sense of having remained the same person over time despite numerous changes) can be plausibly explained only if the selfsame unitary subject endures through time. Finally, he demonstrates that the subject of conscious states (the conscious self) has modal properties (those reflecting the conditions under which the conscious self might have existed) that no purely material entity could possess.

This thorough, erudite, and highly original defense of dualism as a serious philosophical account of consciousness will be of interest to philosophers, cognitive scientists, and anyone with an interest in the perennial riddle of consciousness.

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The Subjectless View of Consciousness

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About the author (2005)

David H. Lund (Bemidji, MN), professor of philosophy and former chair of the philosophy department at Bemidji State University, is the author of Making Sense of It All: An Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry; Perception, Mind, and Personal Identity; and Death and Consciousness.

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