7: On Perceptions & the Self



Key Terms

Tabula Rasa
Unity of Consciousness

  • Read and analyze a description of philosophical thought
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between modern notions of the self
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between rationalist and empiricist notions of the self
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the Cartesian dualism, Locke’s Tabula Rasa, and Kant’s unity of consciousness.

I. Descartes

  • A. How do we know about the self? 
    • Doubt
    • Cogito ergo sum = I think therefore I am
    • Thought is “what happens in me such that I am immediately conscious of it”
  • B. What is the nature of the self?
    • Dualistic - material body, immaterial soul
    • The mind and the brain/body are two separate things
    • The mind is a non-physical thinking thing
    • The brain/body is a physical non-thinking thing
    • Scientific dissection tells scientists that the brain is a mechanical thing
    • The mind operates the brain and the brain operates the body


But what, then, am I? A thinking thing, it has been said. But what is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses; that imagines also, and perceives.

II. Locke

  • A. How do we know about the self?
    • Perception
    • We gain knowledge through experiences, which are perceived through our senses
  • B. What is the nature of the self?
    • Locke’s concept of the self is tied up with his understanding of personal identity
    • The self is personal identity
    • Requires consciousness, constantly perceiving the self connected by memories
    • Tabula Rasa = blank slate
    • We are born without innate ideas

III. Hume

  • A. How do we know about the self?
    • Extending Perception
    • Skepticism
    • There is no self
  • B. What is the nature of the self?
    • Rather than a "self" we have Impressions and Ideas
    • These give us a stream of sensations, not a constant notion of self that exists as a unified identity
    • If there is no continuous idea of self, but instead changing sensations, there must not be a self
    • Even when actively looking for the self, we only see perceptions
    • This means there is no ongoing self during times when we are not thinking, such as when we are dreaming or at death

IV. Kant

  • A. How do we know about the self?
    • Experiences and Reason
  • B. What is the nature of the self?
    • We construct the self
    • Unity of Consciousness
    • The self transcends the senses and unifies our experiences
    • The self is the transcendental unifying subject, an organizing consciousness that makes intelligible experience possible

Logic Week 7: Texas Sharpshooter and Tautology