The Implicit Self in Perception

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Theory of Consciousness
Deposited by: 
Arnon Cahen
Date of Issue: 
Arnon Cahen
Event Dates: 
23-26 June 2006
Event Location: 
Oxford, UK
Event Title: 
10th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
A host of philosophical problems in the philosophy of mind, consciousness, self-awareness, and perception, have led various philosophers to appeal to an implicit presence of the self within the contents of perception as a way towards a possible solution. For example, such appeals have been made in response to Hume’s elusiveness of the self thesis; to ground the possibility of self-awareness in general; to explain the possibility of immunity to error through misidentification with respect of the first person pronoun; and most importantly, in this context, to explain the distinctiveness of the contents of experience. This last project, which is also my central concern in this paper, is widely present in recent literature on consciousness in attempts to explain the essentially perspectival nature of the contents of experience (For example, Noe 2004, Eilan 1995, Van Gulick, 2004). However, while an appeal to the implicitness of the self seems on the right track, it has generally been left unclear what it would mean for the self to be implicit, rather than explicit, in perception, and how such an appeal is to explain the perspectival nature of experience. It is my main goal in this paper to give a positive account of the implicit participation of the self in the contents of experience as it relates to the distinctive nature of such contents. I argue that the way we should understand the implicitness of the self in perception is by recognizing that at least part of the contents of perception are relational properties that hold between the perceiving subject and its environment. However, while such relational properties are part of the content represented in perception, it is only one of the relata that the subject is made aware of in having the perception, namely that object to which the subject bears the relation in question; it is in this sense that the self is implicit in perception. I then proceed to explain how such relational properties could be part of the content of perception, given that in having the perception one is made perceptually aware of only one of its relata.
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