‘Self-Consciousness and Self-Division’
In moral psychology, the human capacity for self-consciousness is often seen as central to critical reflection and with that, to the difference between being moved to act and acting on reasons. In many representations of this capacity, however, from Adam Smith to Christine Korsgaard, self-consciousness is described as a form of self-division or self-multiplication. As Smith puts it, when I judge my own conduct “I divide myself, as it were, into two persons; and that I, the examiner and judge, represents a different character from that other I, the person whose conduct is examined into and judged of.” In Korsgaard’s picture, self-consciousness is the capacity to “distance oneself” from the part of oneself one is self-conscious of, and it is this space opened up that makes it possible to act on reasons affirmed by the agent as such. In this talk I raise some questions about the conception of self-consciousness as form of separation or self-division that is shared by both Korsgaard and some of her critics, and argue that we can abandon this picture, while still retaining what is important in the first-person perspective of the practical agent.
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