A phenomenological-enactive theory of the minimal self

Dissertation, University of St Andrews (2015)
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The purpose of this project is to argue that we possess a minimal self. It will demonstrate that minimal selfhood arrives early in our development and continues to remain and influence us throughout our entire life. There are two areas of research which shape my understanding of the minimal self: phenomenology and enactivism. Phenomenology emphasizes the sense of givenness, ownership, or mineness that accompanies all of our experiences. Enactivism says there is a sensorimotor coupling that occurs between us and the environment in a way which modulates the dynamic patterns of our self development; the laying down of these basic patterns helps make us who we are and gives rise to the phenomenological, experiential mineness. Drawing on these two core ideas, I will be arguing for a Phenomenological-Enactive Minimal Self. I will be emphasizing the role of the body and the role of affects as the most important components relevant to understanding minimal selfhood. Put more concretely, the set of conditions which constitute the PEMS view are: The minimal self is the experiential subject; the minimal sense of self is present whenever there is awareness. It is the subjectivity of experience, the sense of mineness, or givenness which our experiences contain. The phenomenological part of the PEMS view turns on the idea of a bodily and dynamic integration of sensorimotor coupling and affective experience. It is, ontologically speaking, the lived body in enactive engagement with the environment. It is this embodied subject which anchors and forms the foundation for the later ‘narrative’ self, which emerges from it and which is continually influenced by it. It is the subject enactively engaged with others, dependent on sensorimotor processes and affects. We have an identity, but it emerges from relational and dynamic processes.

Author's Profile

Brett Welch
University of St. Andrews (PhD)


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