From 'Fichte's Original Insight' to a Moderate Version of Self-Representationalism

When:11 Mar 2014, 12:30pm - 2pm
Venue:Morven Brown 310 (map ref C20)
Who:Professor Manfred Frank
Manfred Frank

Philosophy Seminar

Abstract: “Self-representationalism” is a relatively recently explored view about the nature of those occurrent mental states that we are used to calling “conscious”. Some of its main representatives (e.g., Charles Siewert, Terence Horgan, Uriah Kriegel, and Kenneth Williford) have recently become curious about classical phenomenology and even some achievements of the so-called ‘Heidelberg School’. With some important differences of emphasis and interpretation, these authors think that (1) all consciousness is representational or intentional, and that representation or intentionality is, in general, the appropriate basic term for any philosophy of mind. And secondly they maintain that (2) those and only those acts or experiences may pass for “conscious” that, in addition to their intentional (or representational) object, co-represent themselves. This co- (or peripheral) representation of the conscious episode itself does not, on this view, come about by a different, higher-order act or by an inner duplication (“reflection”), but is, rather, thought to be “built-into” the primitive experience itself (hence the appellation “Same-Order Theory”). This form of self-awareness is supposed to be “ubiquitous”, occurring wherever mental states occur as conscious events.

Self-representationalism thereby embraces a basic conviction of Fichte as it was presented in Dieter Henrich’s ground-breaking paper, “Fichte’s Original Insight” (1966). Differently than Fichte, self-representationalists keep sticking to representation as the basic core concept in understanding the problem of self-awareness — and thereby adopt the erroneous “reflection model of self-consciousness”. This is what Frank’s lecture turns against, defending a “pre-reflective” model of self-awareness. Constructing his argument on the thought of Michael Tye, Tyler Burge and Jean-Paul Sartre, Frank proposes a model in which the non-objectuality and transparency of self-awareness appears compatible with a concept of representation of outer reality.

Bio: Manfred Frank is Emeritus Professor of philosophy at the University of Tübingen and member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. His work focuses on early German idealism and romanticism, theories of self-consciousness, hermeneutics, theory of literature, aesthetics, and contemporary French philosophy. Frank’s books include What Is Neostructuralism? (1984), Selbstbewußtsein und Selbsterkenntnis (1991), the 950-page study of German romanticism Unendliche Annäherung (1997), The Subject and the Text: Essays on Literary Theory and Philosophy (1997), Selbstgefühl (2002), The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism (2004), and many others.

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