Husserl, the active self, and commitment

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 20 (2):281-298 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In “On what matters: Personal identity as a phenomenological problem” (2020), Steven Crowell engages a number of contemporary interpretations of Husserl’s account of the person and personal identity by noting that they lack a phenomenological elucidation of the self as commitment. In this article, in response to Crowell, I aim to show that such an account of the self as commitment can be drawn from Husserl’s work by looking more closely at his descriptions from the time of Ideas and after of the self as ego or I and egoic experience as attentive experience. I specifically aim to sketch the beginning of a response to three questions I take Crowell to be posing to a Husserlian account of the person and personal identity: (1) What more than pre-reflective self-awareness can be attributed to the self on phenomenological grounds so that we can understand, phenomenologically speaking, how selves become persons? (2) How can what characterizes the self in addition to pre-reflective self-awareness be discerned in both our commitment to truth and our feeling bound by love and other emotive commitments that cannot be fully rationally justified, which Husserl acknowledges are both sources of personal self-constitution? And (3), do all selves become persons? In the paper I elaborate how my answers to the first two questions turn on the self not just being self-aware but active in a particular sense. And to begin to address the third question, I suggest that while any form of wakeful conscious experience is both self-aware and active, this activity of the self makes a difference for those who are socio-historically embedded in the way we are. Specifically, on the proposed Husserlian account, selves that are socio-historically embedded become persons in and through their active relating to what they attentively experience. In concluding, I indicate how this Husserlian account might compare to Crowell’s claim that “self-identity (ipseity) is not mere logical identity (A=A) but a normative achievement […] which makes a ‘personal’ kind of identity possible” (2020).

Author's Profile

Hanne Jacobs
Tilburg University


Added to PP

471 (#30,548)

6 months
201 (#10,098)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?