Pre-Reflective Self-Consciousness: A Meta-Causal Approach

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (2):397-425 (2022)
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I present considerations surrounding pre-reflective self-consciousness, arising in work I am conducting on a new physicalist, process-based account of [phenomenal] consciousness. The account is called the meta-causal account because it identifies consciousness with a certain type of arrangement of meta-causation. Meta-causation is causation where a cause or effect is itself an instance of causation. The proposed type of arrangement involves a sort of time-spanning, internal reflexivity of the overall meta-causation. I argue that, as a result of the account, any conscious process has PRSC. Hence, PRSC does not need to be taken as a stipulation or argued for on purely phenomenological grounds or as a necessary support for reflective consciousness. I also show how it is natural to the account that PRSC is not an additional, peripheral, sort of consciousness, but is intrinsic to all consciousness, thereby fitting claims about self-intimation and co-constitution by various authors, and also being amenable to an adverbial account. As part of this, consciousness of an external object is just the form that current self-consciousness takes, the meta-causal constitution of it being inextricably modulated by the causal relationship with the object. The article also discusses how MCA helps explore issues of for-me-ness, transparency of perceptual consciousness, and possible immediacy and non-relationality of self-consciousness.

Author's Profile

John A Barnden
University of Birmingham


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