The Difference that Self-Consciousness Makes
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: Petrus - On Human Persons, 2003
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. With all the attention given to the study of consciousness recently, the topic of self-consciousness1 has been relatively neglected. “It is of course [phenomenal] consciousness rather than ... self-conscious that has seemed such a scientific mystery,” a prominent philosopher comments. Phenomenal consciousness concerns the aspect of a state that feels a certain way: roses smell like this; garlic tastes like that; middle C sounds like this, and so on. Although phenomenal consciousness is surely a fruitful area of scientific investigation, I hope to demonstrate here that investigation of self-consciousness2 offers its own rewards, ontologically speaking.
  2. My aim here is two-fold.
    • First, I want to show that self-consciousness3 is what distinguishes persons from everything else.
    • Second, and more controversially, I want to argue that, not only is self-consciousness4 definitive of us persons, but also that self-consciousness5 makes an ontological difference. By an ‘ontological difference,’ I mean a difference in the inventory of the world. The coming-into-being of a new person is the coming-into-being of a new kind of entity; it is not just a change in an already-existing entity. I shall begin by discussing consciousness and self-consciousness6; then I shall give a very brief account of my view of persons as necessarily self-conscious. Although we human persons are the only kind of thing that we know to be self-conscious, on my view, anything that is self-conscious — Martians, computers, or whatever — is a person.
  3. Next, I shall discuss a view of human persons that opposes my view. (The opposing view is called ‘Animalism7;’ I call my preferred view ‘the Constitution View8.’)
  4. Finally, I shall discuss and defend the claim that the difference that self-consciousness9 makes is an ontological difference.


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