Varieties of Self-Apprehension

In Marc Borner, Manfred Frank & Kenneth Williford (eds.), Senses of Self: Approaches to Pre-Reflective Self-Awareness. pp. 186-220 (2019)
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Abstract
The Brentanian idea that every state of consciousness involves a consciousness or awareness of itself (Brentano 1874), which has been a central tenet of the phenomenological school, is a current topic in contemporary philosophical debates about consciousness and subjectivity, both in the continental and the analytic tradition. Typically, the self-awareness that accompanies every state of consciousness is characterized as pre-reflective. Most theorists of pre-reflective self-awareness seem to converge on a negative characterization: pre-reflective self-awareness is not a kind of reflective awareness. Whereas reflective self-awareness is attentive and descriptive, pre-reflective self-awareness is non-attentive and non-descriptive. This paper aims to show that the reflective/pre-reflective dichotomy overlooks a finer-grained distinction. The first part is devoted to arguing that the typical use of the adjective ‘pre-reflective’ conflates two properties (non-attentiveness and non-descriptiveness), which are in fact separable. Accordingly, not only can there be non-descriptive and non-attentive self-consciousness (i.e. pre-reflective self-awareness), but also non-descriptive but attentive self-consciousness. I call the latter primitive introspection. The second part of the paper is devoted to arguing that, whereas both pre-reflective self-awareness and primitive introspection enable the subject to apprehend the phenomenology of their experience, the kind of apprehension each allows for is different. By analyzing the notion of apprehension in terms of information acquisition and personal-level availability of information, it is proposed that, although both pre-reflective self-awareness and primitive introspection allow for acquisition of the maximal amount of information about the experience, only primitive introspection makes all such information personal-level available.
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