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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Andy Hamilton

Hamilton, Andy (2015). Metaphysics and The Anti-Metaphysics of the Self. Journal of Consciousness Studies 22(11-12): 60-83.

Author(s) from Durham


The modern conception of self-consciousness holds that, in self-conscious thought, I think of myself as both subject and object; and that the subject is essentially embodied. This understanding begins with Kant. An anti-metaphysical treatment regards 'What is a self?' as expressing a pseudo-problem; it regards the claim of an immaterial self as nonsensical, and diagnoses its postulation. A moderate anti- metaphysical position analyses self-consciousness by appeal to the Analytic Principle: that self-consciousness is a phenom-enon expressed -- or interpreted -- by use of a device with the pro-perties of the first person. This article proposes a strong interpreta-tion of the Principle, involving the conceptual holism of self-consciousness and self-reference. But how essential is the use of 'I' to self-consciousness? In the name-user scenario, each speaker uses their own name self-consciously to self-refer. However, in this scenario, against appearances, 'I' is not in fact eliminated without loss of the language's expressive power, and so the Analytic Principle is preserved.