Jose Luis Bermudez (1999) The Paradox of Self-consciousness (representation and Mind). Psycoloquy: 10(035) Self Consciousness (1)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 10(035): The Paradox of Self-consciousness (representation and Mind)

[MIT/Bradford, 1998 xiv, 236 pp. ISBN: 0-262-02441-1]
Precis of Bermudez on Self-Consciousness

Jose Luis Bermudez
Department of Philosophy
University of Stirling
Stirling FK9 4LA

CREA Ecole Polytechnique
1 Rue Descartes
75005 Paris France


This book addresses two fundamental questions in the philosophy and psychology of self-consciousness: (1) Can we provide a noncircular account of full-fledged self-conscious thought and language in terms of more fundamental capacities? (2) Can we explain how full-fledged self-conscious thought and language can arise in the normal course of human development? I argue that a paradox (the paradox of self-consciousness) arises from the apparent strict interdependence between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. Responding to the paradox, I draw on recent work in empirical psychology and philosophy to cut the tie between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. The book studies primitive forms of nonconceptual self-consciousness manifested in visual perception, somatic proprioception, spatial reasoning and interpersonal psychological interactions.


cognitive maps; concepts; content; ecological self; navigation; proprioception; self-consciousness; self-reference; visual perception;
    Below is the Precis of "The Paradox of Self-Consciousness" by Jose
    Luis Bermudez (799 lines). This book has been selected for multiple
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    The book offers a novel approach to the study of self-consciousness,
    integrating philosophical argument with detailed study of empirical
    work from a range of disciplines. It provides a framework for
    linking together distinct areas of cognitive science which are
    rarely discussed together and discusses some fundamental problems
    in the foundations of psychology (such as the nature of concepts
    and the possibility of thought without language). I am continuing
    to work on some of the central themes of the book and would greatly
    benefit from feedback from the biobehavioral and cognitive science


1. Philosophy and the neurosciences have an uneasy relationship. Fruitful engagement is rare in either direction. This is partly the inevitable result of the division of academic labours. But there is also a deeper reason. The dominant methodological conception governing work in the cognitive sciences involves a distinction of levels of explanation. Marr's theory of vision has often been held up as a model which the cognitive sciences in general ought to follow mainly, of course, because it is one of the very few worked out and satisfying theoretical treatments of a cognitive capacity that cognitive science has so far produced. As is well-known, Marr's approach to the study of the visual system is top-down (Marr 1982). He starts with an abstract specification of the functional tasks that the visual system has to perform, hypothesises a series of algorithms that could compute these functional tasks and then speculates about the implementation of those algorithms at the neural level. Each of the levels of explanation at which the theory operates is relatively autonomous, although of course the computational level models the realisation of the functions identified at the functional level and the implementational level explains how the functions identified at the computational level are realized. The resulting theory is, of course, a dazzling achievement. But there are hidden implications in taking it as a general paradigm for cognitive science. Taking it as a paradigm makes it natural to think, for example, that the place of philosophy is at the functional level and, correspondingly, that the place of cognitive neuroscience is at the implementational level. The result, of course, is that the two disciplines are effectively insulated from each other by the intervening computational level of explanation.

2. There is an obvious problem, however, with generalizing Marr's approach. The problem is that the distinction of levels of explanation really makes sense only where one can identify a clear functional task or set of tasks that need to be carried out. But it is not clear that this can be done outside the restricted domain of encapsulated modules such as the early visual system, the language-parsing system or the face recognition system. Fodor, the most articulate defender of this methodological approach, has clearly appreciated this, and drawn the drastic conclusion that cognitive science cannot hope to shed any light on the so-called central processes of cognition. A more sensible lesson to draw, I think, is that outside this restricted domain a more interactive conception of the relation between the levels of explanation is appropriate. There must be constraints on theorizing at the functional and computational levels. On the top-down approach these constraints emerge from clearly defined functional tasks. But where there are no such functional tasks explanation cannot be purely top-down. There must be constraints and programmatic suggestions moving in both directions.

3. The difficulty in putting this programme into practice is identifying the points of contact between neuroscientific concerns and, for example, philosophical concerns. In this prcis of my book The Paradox of Self-Consciousness (Bermdez 1998) I identify some of the key areas where neuroscientific and philosophical issues intersect in the study of self-consciousness, a form of cognition about as far as it is possible to get from the encapsulated modules where top-down analyses can be so profitably applied.


4. In thinking about self-consciousness we need to start with the phenomenon of first-person thought. Most, if not all, of the higher forms of self-consciousness presuppose our capacity to think about ourselves. Consider, for example, self-knowledge, the capacity for moral self- evaluation and ability to construct a narrative of our past. Although much of what we think when we think about ourselves involves concepts and descriptions also available to us in our thoughts about other people and other objects, our thoughts about ourselves also involve an ability that we cannot put to work in thinking about other people and things - namely, the ability to apply those concepts and descriptions uniquely to ourselves. I shall follow convention in referring to this as the capacity to entertain 'I'-thoughts.

5. 'I'-thoughts of course involve self-reference, but it is self-reference of a distinctive kind. Consider the following two ways in which I might entertain thoughts that refer to myself:

    (1) JLB thinks: JLB is about to be attacked by a poisonous spider 
    (2)JLB thinks: I am about to be attacked by a poisonous spider

It is clear that these are very different thoughts, even though they are both thoughts about the same person, namely me. Even if I am suffering a temporary attack of amnesia that has led me to forget my own name I can think the first thought with equanimity. Not so the second.

6. This property of I-thoughts is sometimes described as their immunity to error through misidentification, where this means (roughly) that one cannot think an 'I'-thought without knowing that it is in fact about oneself (Shoemaker 1968, Evans 1982). This feature of 'I'-thoughts is closely tied to the well-known linguistic property of the first-person pronoun, namely, that the first-person pronoun I always refers to the person uttering it.

7. Putting these two properties together suggests the following deflationary account of self- consciousness: (A) Once we have an account of what it is to be capable of thinking 'I'-thoughts we will have explained everything that is distinctive about self-consciousness. (B) Once we have an account of what it is to be capable of thinking thoughts that are immune to error through misidentification we will have explained everything that is distinctive about the capacity to think 'I'-thoughts. (C) Once we have explained what it is to master the semantics of the first person pronoun (e.g. via mastery of some version of the token-reflexive rule that a given utterance of I always refers to the person uttering it), we will have explained everything that is distinctive about the capacity to think thoughts that are immune to error through misidentification.

8. The problem with the deflationary view is that first-person self-reference is itself dependent upon 'I'-thoughts in a way that creates two forms of vicious circularity which collectively I term the paradox of self-consciousness The first type of circularity (explanatory circularity), arises because the capacity for self-conscious thought must be presupposed in any satisfactory account of mastery of the first person pronoun. I cannot refer to myself as the producer of a given token of 'I' without, for example, knowing that I intend to refer to myself - which is itself a self-conscious thought of the type that we are trying to explain. The second type of circularity (capacity circularity) arises because this interdependence rules out the possibility of explaining how the capacity either for self-conscious thought or for linguistic mastery of the first person pronoun arises in the normal course of human development. It does not seem possible to meet the following constraint: The Acquisition Constraint If a given psychological capacity is psychologically real then there must be an explanation of how it is possible for an individual in the normal course of human development to acquire that capacity. Neither self-conscious thought nor linguistic mastery of the first person pronoun is innate, and yet each presupposes the other in a way that seems to imply that neither can be acquired unless the other capacity is already in place.


9. The strategy that I employ in the book to escape the paradox of self-consciousness involves making a clear distinction between (a) those forms of full-fledged self-consciousness which presuppose mastery of the first person concept and linguistic mastery of the first person pronoun, and (b) those forms of primitive or nonconceptual self-consciousness which do not require any such linguistic or conceptual mastery. It is these nonconceptual forms of self-consciousness that allow us to escape both the types of circularity Ive just identified. I identified such nonconceptual forms of self-awareness in four domains:

    (1) perceptual experience 
    (2) somatic proprioception (bodily self-awareness) 
    (3) self-world dualism in spatial reasoning 
    (4) psychological interaction

10. The basic result is that the domain of self-consciousness is far wider than it has been held to be by philosophers. Self-consciousness has often been thought to be the highest form of human cognition, and many philosophers, famous and not so famous, have correspondingly thought that a philosophical account of self-consciousness would be the Archimedean point for a satisfactory account of human thought. But the premise is flawed. Self-consciousness is something we share with prelinguistic infants and with many members of the animal kingdom. The highly conceptual forms of self-consciousness emerge from a rich foundation of nonconceptual forms of self- awareness. As I will try to bring out, recognising this builds a bridge between philosophical interests and neuroscientific ones.


11. One of J. J. Gibsons great insights in the study of visual perception was that the very structure of visual perception contains propriospecific information about the self, as well as exterospecific information about the distal environment (Gibson 1979). Visual perception involves self-perception at the same time as it involves perception of the world. This is the most primitive form of nonconceptual self-awareness, the foundation on which all other forms of self-awareness are built.

12. Gibson stresses certain peculiarities of the phenomenology of the field of vision. Notable among these is the fact that the field of vision is bounded. Vision reveals only a portion of the world to the perceiver at any given time (roughly half in the human case, due to the frontal position of the eyes). The boundedness of the field of vision is part of what is seen, and the field of vision is bounded in a way quite unlike the way in which spaces are bounded within the field of vision. The self appears in perception as the boundary of the visual field a moveable boundary that is responsive to the will.

13. The boundedness of the visual field is not the only way in which the self becomes manifest in visual perception. The field of vision contains other objects that hide, or occlude, the environment. These objects are, of course, various parts of the body. The nose is a particularly obvious example, so distinctively present in just about every visual experience. The cheekbones, and perhaps the eyebrows, occupy a slightly less dominant position in the field of vision. And so too, to a still lesser extent, do the bodily extremities, hands, arms, feet and legs. They protrude into the field of vision from below in a way that occludes the environment, and yet which differs from the way in which one non-bodily physical object in the field of vision might occlude another. They are, as Gibson points out, quite peculiar objects. All objects, bodily and non-bodily, can present a range of solid angles in the field of vision (where by a solid angle is meant an angle with its apex at the eye and its base at some perceived object), and the size of those angles will of course vary according to the distance of the object from the point of observation. The further away the object is, the smaller the angle will be. This gives rise to a clear, and phenomenologically very salient, difference between bodily and non-bodily physical objects. The solid angles subtended by occluding body-parts cannot be reduced below a certain minimum. Perceived body-parts are, according to Gibson, 'subjective objects' in the content of visual perception.

14. But these self-specifying structural invariants provide only a fraction of the self-specifying information available in visual perception.

15. The mass of constantly changing visual information generated by the subjects motion poses an immense challenge to the perceptual systems. How can the visual experiences generated by motion be decoded so that subjects perceive that they are moving through the world? Gibsons notion of visual kinesthesis is his answer to this traditional problem. Whereas many theorists have assumed that motion perception can only be explained by the hypothesis of mechanisms which parse cues in the neutral sensations into information about movement and information about static objects, the crucial idea behind visual kinesthesis is that the patterns of flow in the optic array and the relations between the variant and invariant features make available information about the movement of the perceiver, as well as about the environment.

16. As an example of such a visually kinesthetic invariant, consider that the optical flow in any field of vision starts from a centre, that is itself stationary. This stationary centre specifies the point that is being approached, when the perceiver is moving. The aiming point of locomotion is at the vanishing point of optical flow.

17. Striking experiments have brought out the significance of visual kinesthesis. In the so-called moving-room experiments, subjects are placed on the solid floors of rooms whose walls and ceilings can be made to glide over a solid and immoveable floor (Lishman and Lee 1973). If experimental subjects are prevented from seeing their feet and the floor is hidden, then moving the walls backwards and forwards on the sagittal plane creates in the subjects the illusion that they are moving back and forth. This provides strong support for the thesis that the movement of the perceiver can be detected purely visually, since visual specification of movement seems to be all that is available. An even more striking illustration emerges when young children are placed in the moving room, because they actually sway and lose their balance (Lee and Aronson 1975).

18. The theory of ecological optics identifies a third form of self-specifying information existing in the field of vision. This is due to the direct perception of a class of higher-order invariants which Gibson terms affordances. It is in the theory of affordances that we find the most sustained development of the ecological view that the fundamentals of perceptual experience are dictated by the organism's need to navigate and act in its environment. The uncontroversial premise from which the theory of affordances starts is that objects and surfaces in the environment have properties relevant to the abilities of particular animals, in virtue of which they allow different animals to act and react in different ways.

19. According to Gibson, information specifying affordances is available in the structure of light to be picked up by the creature as it moves around the world. The possibilities which the environment affords are not learnt through experience, and nor are they inferred. They are directly perceived as higher-order invariants. And of course, the perception of affordances is a form of self-perception - or, at least, a way in which self-specifying information is perceived. The whole notion of an affordance is that of environmental information about ones own possibilities for action and reaction.

20. Recognising the existence of the ecological self, as it has come to be known (Neisser 1988), is the first step in resolving the paradox of self-consciousness. It removes the need to explain how infants can bootstrap themselves into the first-person perspective. The evidence is overwhelming that nonconceptual first person contents are available more or less from the beginning of life. Illustrations are to be found in:

    (1) neonatal distress crying (Martin and Clark 1982) 
    (2) neonatal imitation (Meltzoff and Moore 1977) 
    (3) infant reaching behaviour (Field 1976, Von Hofsten 1982) 
    (4) visual kinesthesis (Lee and Aronson 1984, Butterworth and 
        Hicks 1977, Pope 1984)

Let me turn now to some more bottom-level concerns.

21. When we move to considering the neural underpinnings of this form of self-specifying information in visual perception we move into an area that has been fairly closely studied by neuroscientists and experimental psychologists. Particularly relevant here is the proposal, currently under much discussion, that there are two distinct cortical pathways in the human visual system, each carrying distinct types of information (Ungerleider and Mishkin 1982, Goodale and Milner 1992). The distinction between the information carried by the dorsal (infero-temporal) and the ventral (occipito-temporal) pathways respectively has been conceptualized in different ways. Mishkin and Ungerleider see it as a distinction between information about the spatial relations in which an object might stand to the perceiver and information that allows the recognition of objects. Goodale and Milner, in contrast, take the distinction to be between recognitional information about the intrinsic properties of objects (eg their colour, shape and so on) and visuo-motor information about the extrinsic properties of objects (eg their spatial position, orientation, height and so forth).

22. It has been suggested that the action-based self-specifying information that Gibson discusses at the phenomenological level in terms of affordances and invariants in optical flow seems to be carried in the ventral stream (McCarthy 1993). It is far from clear to me, however, that Gibsons insights into the blend of propriospecific and exterospecific information in visual perception fits at all neatly into the proposed distinction of pathways, whether as construed by Mishkin and Ungerleider or by Goodale and Milner at least, if we assume that those processing distinctions are supposed to mark a distinction at the level of conscious phenomenology. The basic concept of an affordance seems to straddle the distinction between where and what, or between recognition and pragmatic. Interestingly, this scepticism about the phenomenological significance of the two cortical pathways is supported by recent work which suggests that the two visual pathways actually collaborate in the control of action (Jeannerod 1997).


23. Gibson's insights into the structure of visual perception were partly vitiated by his insistence on downplaying the importance of somatically derived information about the self. Visual kinesthesis and the perceptual invariants stressed by Gibson are adequate for distinguishing self-movement from movement of the environment, but they are unable to distinguish passive self-movement from active self-movement. They can inform the subject of his movement relative to the environment, but (crudely speaking) they do not tell him whether or not he is moving under his own steam. A different form of self-awareness is required at this point the bodily self-awareness of proprioception.

24. One particularly vivid illustration of the importance of these forms of proprioceptive information comes from the documented cases of complete deafferentation patients who have effectively lost all bodily sensation, either from below the neck in the case of Jonathan Coles patient IW or from below the jaw in Jacques Paillards patient GL (Cole and Paillard 1995). Although IW, unlike GL, can walk, everything he does has to be performed under visual control. Without visual feedback he is incapable of orienting himself and acting. So much so that he sleeps with the light on - if he woke up in the dark he would have no idea where his body was and would never be able to find the light switch. It is interesting, furthermore, to watch a video of him walking. His head is bent forward and pointing downwards so that he can keep his legs and feet in sight constantly.

25. There is a popular sense of self-conscious on which IW seems to be more self-conscious than we are, for the simple reason that everything he does requires his full attention. But this is not the sense of self-consciousness in which I am interested. What is striking about deafferented subjects is how the subjective sense of the body as a bounded spatial entity responsive to the will collapses in the absence of somatic proprioception and can only be partially reestablished with great artificiality and great difficulty. IW and GL are self-conscious in the popular sense precisely because they fail to be self-conscious in a more primitive and fundamental sense.

26. What is this more primitive and fundamental form of self-consciousness that we derive from somatic proprioception? It seems to me to have a tripartite structure. In exploring this it will be useful to start with a list of the principal types of proprioceptive information and their physiological sources. The following is taken from the general introduction to Bermdez, Marcel and Eilan 1995:

    Information about pressure, temperature and friction from receptors
    on the skin and beneath its surface.

    Information about the state of joints from receptors in the joints,
    some sensitive to static position, some to dynamic information.

    Information about balance and posture from the vestibular system in
    the inner ear; the head/trunk dispositional system; and information
    from pressure on any parts of the body that might be in contact
    with a gravity-resisting surface.

    Information about bodily disposition and volume obtained from
    skin-stretch. Information about nutritional and other homeostatic
    states from receptors in the internal organs.

    Information about muscular fatigue from receptors in the muscles.

    Information about general fatigue from cerebral systems sensitive
    to blood composition.

    Information about bodily disturbances derived from nociceptors.

27. At the simplest level, somatic proprioception is a form of self-consciousness simply in virtue of providing information about the embodied self. This is not particularly interesting, although it is worth noting that proprioception gives information about the embodied self that is immune to error through misidentification in the sense discussed earlier. It cannot be the case that one receives proprioceptive information without being aware that the information concerns ones own body.

28. More importantly, somatic proprioceptive information provides a way, perhaps the most primitive way, of registering the boundary between self and non-self. To appreciate this we need to note that there is an important variation among these somatic information systems vary along several dimensions. Some provide information solely about the body (eg. the systems providing information about general fatigue and nutrition). The vestibular system, in contrast, is concerned with bodily balance and hence with the relation between the body and the environment. Other systems can be deployed to yield information either about the body or about the environment. Receptors in the hand sensitive to skin stretch, for example, can provide information about the hand's shape and disposition at a time, or about the shape of small objects. Similarly, receptors in joints and muscles can yield information about how the relevant limbs are distributed in space, or, through haptic exploration, about the contours and shape of large objects.

29. These latter information systems, underpinning the sense of touch, yield a direct sense of the limits of the body and hence of the limits of the self. This is one step further in the development of what might be termed self-world dualism than comes with the self-specifying information in visual perception. The self of visual perception, the ecological self, is schematic and geometrical. Its properties are purely spatial, defined by patterns in the optical flow. It is only in virtue of the sense of touch that the body is experienced as a solid and bounded entity in the world.

30. It is known that a somatotopic map of the surface of the body exists in the somatosensory cortex, and it is natural to think that this plays a key role in subserving the registration of the boundary between self and non-self. Some confirmation confirmation for this will be found in the fascinating work that has been done by V. S. Ramachandran (1994) on somatosensory remapping to explain the well-documented phenomenon of referred sensations in amputees experiencing phantom limbs. The felt boundaries of the body can change as the area in the Penfield homunculus that formerly received input from the amputated limb is invaded by sensory input from nearby areas.

31. The final feature of proprioceptive self-awareness extends this sense of the body as an object. Through feedback from kinesthesia, joint-position sense and the vestibular system we become aware of the body as an object responsive to the will. Proprioception gives us a sense, not just of the embodied self as spatially extended and bounded, but also as a potentiality for action.

32. In this context it might be helpful to point to the role of proprioceptively derived information in the construction of the cross-modal egocentric space within which action takes place. It is well- known that lesions to the posterior parietal cortex produce spatial deficits in primates, human and non-human, and the inference frequently drawn is that the posterior parietal cortex is the brain area where the representation of space is computed. Recent neurophysiological work based on recordings from single neurons has suggested that the distinctive contribution of the posterior parietal cortex is the integration of information from various modalities to generate coordinate systems. Information about visual stimuli is initially transmitted in retinal coordinates. Calibrating this with information about eye position yields head-centred coordinates and further calibration with proprioceptively-derived information yields a body-centred frame of reference. The distal targets of reaching movements are encoded on this modality-free frame of reference, as are motor commands.


33. The nonconceptual first person contents implicated in somatic proprioception and the pick-up of self-specifying information in visual perception provide very primitive forms of nonconceptual self-consciousness, albeit ones that can plausibly be viewed as in place from birth or shortly afterwards. A solution to the paradox of self-consciousness, however, requires showing how we can get from these primitive forms of self-consciousness to the fully-fledged self-consciousness that comes with linguistic mastery of the first person pronoun. This progression will have to be both logical (in a way that will solve the problem of explanatory circularity) and ontogenetic (in a way that will solve the problem of capacity circularity). Clearly, this requires that there be forms of self- consciousness which, while still counting as nonconceptual, are nonetheless more developed than those yielded by somatic proprioception and the structure of exteroceptive perception and, moreover, that it be comprehensible how these more developed forms of nonconceptual self- consciousness should have 'emerged' out of basic nonconceptual self-consciousness.

34. The dimension along which forms of self-consciousness must be compared is the richness of the conception of the self which they provide. Nonetheless, a crucial element in any form of self- consciousness is the way in which it makes possible for the self-conscious subject to distinguish between self and environment what many developmental psychologists term self-world dualism. In this sense self-consciousness is essentially a contrastive notion. One implication of this is that a proper understanding of the richness of the conception of the self which a given form of self- consciousness provides requires taking into account the richness of the conception of the environment with which it is contrasted. In the case both of somatic proprioception and of the pick- up of self-specifying information in exteroceptive perception, there is a relatively impoverished conception of the self associated with a comparably impoverished conception of the environment. One prominent limitation is that both are synchronic rather than diachronic. The distinction between self and environment that they offer is a distinction that is effective at a time but not over time. The contrast between propriospecific and exterospecific invariants in visual perception, for example, provides a way in which a creature can distinguish between itself and the world at any given moment, but this is not the same as a conception of oneself as an enduring thing distinguishable over time from an environment which also endures over time.

35. To capture this diachronic form of self-world dualism I introduced the notion of a nonconceptual point of view. Having a nonconceptual point of view on the world involves taking a particular route through the environment in such a way that one's perception of the world is informed by an awareness that one is taking such a route. This diachronic awareness that one is taking a particular route through the environment turned out to involve two principal components a non-solipsistic component and a spatial awareness component.

36. The non-solipsistic component is a subject's capacity to draw a distinction between his experiences and what those experiences are experiences of, and hence his ability to grasp that an object exists at times other than those at which it is experienced. This requires the exercise of recognitional abilities involving conscious memory and can be most primitively manifested in the feature-based recognition of places. This is the beginning of an understanding of the world as an articulated, structured entity.

37. The spatial awareness component of a nonconceptual point of view can be glossed in terms of possession of an integrated representation of the environment over time an understanding not just of how the articulated components of the external world fit together spatial, but also of the perceivers own spatial location in the world as a moving perceiver and agent.

38. That a creature possesses such an integrated representation of the environment is manifested in three central cognitive/navigational capacities:

    The capacity to think about different routes to the same place

    The capacity to keep track of changes in spatial relations between
    objects caused by its own movements relative to those objects

    The capacity to think about places independently of the objects or
    features located at those places.

Powerful evidence from both ethology and developmental psychology indicates that these central cognitive/navigational capacities are present in both nonlinguistic and prelinguistic creatures.

39. This conception of a nonconceptual point of view provides a counterbalance to some important recent work on animal representations of space and their neurophysiological coding. Chapters 5 and 6 of Gallistels The Organization of Learning defend the thesis that all animals from insects upwards deploy cognitive maps with the same formal characteristics in navigating around the environment. Gallistel argues that the cognitive maps that control movement in animals all preserve the same set of geometric relations within a system of earth-centred (geocentric) coordinates. These relations are metric relations. The distinctive feature of a metric geometry is that it preserves all the geometric relations between the points in the coordinate system. Gallistel's thesis is that, although the cognitive maps of lower animals have far fewer places on them, they record the same geometrical relations between those points as humans and other higher animals. Moreover, he offers a uniform acount of how such metric cognitive maps are constructed in the animal kingdom. Dead reckoning (the process of keeping track of changes in velocity over time) yields an earth-centred representation of vantage points and angles of view which combines with current perceptual experience of the environment to yield an earth-centred cognitive map.

40. Without, of course, wishing to challenge Gallistels central thesis that all animal cognitive maps from insects up preserve geometric relations, it nonetheless seems wrong to draw the conclusion that all animals represent space in the same way. Just as important as how animals represent spatial relations between objects is how they represent their own position within the object-space thus defined. And it is here, in what we should think of as not just their awareness of space but also their awareness of themselves as spatially located entities, that we see the major variations and the scale of gradations that the theorists whom Gallistel is criticising have previously located at the level of the cognitive map.


41. Possession of a nonconceptual point of view manifests an awareness of the self as a spatial element moving within, acting upon and being acted upon by the spatial environment. This is far richer than anything available through either somatic proprioception or the self-specifying information available in exteroceptive perception. Nonetheless, like these very primitive forms of self-consciousness, a nonconceptual point of view is largely awareness of the material self as a bearer of physical properties. This limitation raises the question of whether there can be a similarly nonconceptual awareness of the material self as a bearer of psychological properties.

42. There appear to be three central psychological properties defining the core of the concept of a psychological subject the property of being a perceiver, the property of being an agent, and the property of being a bearer of reactive attitudes. Research on the social cognition of infants shows that there are compelling grounds for attributing to prelinguistic infants in the final quarter of the first year awareness of themselves as bearers of all three of these properties.

43. Psychological self-awareness as a perceiver is manifested in the phenomenon of joint selective visual attention, where infants (a) attend to objects as a function of where they perceive the attention of others to be directed (Scaife and Bruner 1975, Bruner 1975), and (b) direct another individuals gaze to an object in which they are interested (Leung and Reinhold 1981, Stern 1985). In (b), for example, the infant tries to make the mother recognise that he, as a perceiver, is looking at a particular object, with the eventual aim that her recognition that this is what he is trying to do will cause the mother to look in the same direction.

44. Psychological self-awareness as an agent is manifested in the collaborative activities that infants engage in with their care-givers (coordinated joint engagement). Longitudinal studies (e.g. Trevarthen and Hubley 1978) show infants not just taking pleasure in their own agency (in the way that many infants show pleasure in the simple ability to bring about changes in the world, like moving a mobile), but also taking pleasure in successfully carrying out an intention - a form of pleasure possible only for creatures aware of themselves as agents. When, as it frequently is, the intention successfully carried out is a joint intention, the pleasure shared with the other participants reflects an awareness that they too are agents.

45. Psychological self-awareness as a bearer of reactive attitudes is apparent in what developmental psychologists call social referencing (Klinnert et al. 1983). This occurs when infants regulate their own behaviour by investigating and being guided by the emotional reactions of others to a particular situation. The infants willingness to tailor his own emotional reactions to those of his mother presuppose an awareness that both he and she are bearers of reactive attitudes.


46. The four types of primitive or nonconceptual self-awareness provide the materials for resolving the paradox of self-consciousness. On the one hand, the problem of capacity circularity can be blunted by showing how it is conceivable that the capacity for full-fledged, conceptual self- consciousness could emerge from the basis of the primitive forms of self-consciousness discussed. On the other, the problem of explanatory circularity can be solved by giving an account of what it is to have mastery of the first-person pronoun that shows how the first-person thoughts involved can be understood at the nonconceptual level.

47. Instead of going into the details of how either of these goals can be achieved, I would like to return to the methodological reflections with which I began. I sketched out what I take to be a dominant approach to the methodology of cognitive science the top-down approach that clearly distinguishes the functional, computational and implementational levels of explanation. As I suggested, this approach really seems applicable only where there are clearly defined identifiable, functional tasks, and consequently is only going to work for peripheral rather than central cognitive processes. The corollary, as Fodor has clearly seen, is that we can expect little illumination of central processes from the cognitive sciences. What Ive tried to sketch out is an alternative approach, one where the distinction of levels of explanation does not correspond to a division of explanatory labour. Ive explored how attending to a particular philosophical puzzle about self- consciousness, perhaps the paradigm central cognitive process, brings out the importance of forms of self-consciousness that look as if they can only be understood by a more interactive collaboration between disciplines whose spheres of competence are so clearly separated on the conventional view.


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