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Experiential Self-Consciousness: Rationalism about the Value and Content of Experience.

de Bruijn, David (2017) Experiential Self-Consciousness: Rationalism about the Value and Content of Experience. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In having a visual experience, we can come to know facts of at least two kinds: facts about our environment (“there is a red cup before me”), and facts about ourselves (“I am having an experience as of a red cup”). How do these types of knowledge—perceptual knowledge and perceptual self-knowledge—relate?

For a certain type of rationalist a visual experience is identical with a form of self-awareness of the relevant visual experience. For you to be aware of having an experience E is nothing over and above you having E. Specifically, the rationalist holds that this fact is grounded in the way a capacity for thought expresses itself in experience as what I call experiential self-consciousness.

I argue that this form of rationalism provides a novel way of approaching critical debates about visual experience, including the structure of perceptual representation and the grounds for perceptual knowledge. In experience things can self-consciously look to the subject to be specifically thinkable ways: the way experience makes things look to the rational subject can, in part, be expressed through the sort of contents experience makes it available for the subject to think. Moreover, in experience the objects of perceptual knowledge can be self-consciously present to the subject. I argue this type of perceptual presence supports a novel, non-evidentialist internalism about perceptual knowledge and justification. Moreover, I suggest rationalism illuminates an association between experience bearing representational content and a type of self-conscious experiential unity.

I also spend significant time placing rationalism in its historical context, specifically a broadly Leibnizian theme running through Kant’s views on experience. I argue that placing a type of rationalism central to a reading of Kant allows us to (i) appreciate the way Kantian intuitions (Anschauungen) are conceptual and yet non-judgmental representations; (ii) see the way sensations (Empfindungen) figure in Kant’s thinking merely as abstractions from self-conscious states; and (iii) read the Paralogisms chapter of the Critique of Pure Reason as consistent with Kant holding a substantial conception of the thinking and perceiving subject.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
de Bruijn, Daviddmd55@pitt.edudmd550000-0002-6565-0341
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.edujmcdowel
Committee CoChairEngstrom, Stephenengstrom@pitt.eduengstrom
Committee MemberGupta, Anilagupta@pitt.eduagupta
Committee MemberWu,
Date: 8 October 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 July 2017
Approval Date: 8 October 2017
Submission Date: 11 August 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 264
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Perceptual Experience, Representationalism, Self-Consciousness, Kant, Rationalism, Leibniz,
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2017 00:57
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2017 00:57


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