Subjectivity and Selfhood
What is a self? Does it exist in reality or is it a mere social construct—or is it perhaps a neurologically induced illusion? The legitimacy of the concept of the self has been questioned by both neuroscientists and philosophers in recent years. Countering this, in Subjectivity and Selfhood, Dan Zahavi argues that the notion of self is crucial for a proper understanding of consciousness. He investigates the interrelationships of experience, self-awareness, and selfhood, proposing that none of these three notions can be understood in isolation. Any investigation of the self, Zahavi argues, must take the first-person perspective seriously and focus on the experiential givenness of the self. Subjectivity and Selfhood explores a number of phenomenological analyses pertaining to the nature of consciousness, self, and self-experience in light of contemporary discussions in consciousness research.
Philosophical phenomenology—as developed by Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and others—not only addresses crucial issues often absent from current debates over consciousness but also provides a conceptual framework for understanding subjectivity. Zahavi fills the need—given the recent upsurge in theoretical and empirical interest in subjectivity—for an account of the subjective or phenomenal dimension of consciousness that is accessible to researchers and students from a variety of disciplines. His aim is to use phenomenological analyses to clarify issues of central importance to philosophy of mind, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and psychiatry. By engaging in a dialogue with other philosophical and empirical positions, says Zahavi, phenomenology can demonstrate its vitality and contemporary relevance.
About the Author
Dan Zahavi is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen and the author of Self-Awareness and Alterity and Husserl's Phenomenology.
"Subjectivity and Selfhood is a rich and clearly written book which ranges over many topics.", David E. Cooper, Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"Zahavi delivers a critical phenomenological account of the subjectivity of experience that shows how phenomenology is not just a description but an analysis that can contribute to explanations of consciousness, self, and intersubjectivity. Staying deftly on target, Zahavi challenges higher order representational theory and standard theory-of-mind approaches to social cognition. He pushes the phenomenological envelope and engages in an original way with traditional analytic philosophy of mind and more recent lines of thought that are drawn from the cognitive sciences. To the list of classic phenomenologists from whom Zahavi draws we need to add one more: Zahavi himself."
—Shaun Gallagher, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Central Florida
"This work takes a huge step forward in bringing phenomenological philosophy to bear on contemporary issues in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. It is a work of major importance that no one thinking about the philosophy and science of consciousness can afford to neglect."
—Evan Thompson, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto
"This book is a masterful demonstration that in order to understand the nature of selfhood, it is necessary to distinguish various levels of self-awareness as well as to consider how these levels become articulated, starting with the direct, embodied experience of being alive in the world. With great scholarship and clarity, Zahavi brings back the central importance of the first-person perspective."
—Philippe Rochat, Professor of Psychology, Emory University
"Zahavi's book is a valuable contribution to the current interdisciplinary discussion of consciousness. In simple and direct language, he gives us a full phenomenological investigation of subjectivity and selfhood."
—David Carr, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy, Emory University
"In this very timely book, Dan Zahavi offers a wealth of illuminating discussions centered on an integrated investigation of self, self-awareness, and experience that take the first-personal or subjective dimensions of consciousness seriously. Expertly rooted in philosophical phenomenology of both the Austro-German and French traditions, but also engaging in a critical dialogue with contemporary philosophy of mind and developmental psychology and psychiatry, he masterfully develops his case by raising precise questions and painstakingly evaluating argumentative lines to possible answers."
—Eduard Marbach, Professor of Phenomenology and of Philosophy of Mind, University of Bern, Switzerland