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Post Kantian Philosophy


Module Code: PI8004

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Lecturer: Prof. Lilian Alweiss
  • Contact Hours: 22
  • Module Outline
    When we speak or think we cannot avoid making use of the personal pronoun. We say 'I think', 'I am in pain', 'I am hungry' or 'I was born in the last century'. In all these instances reference to a bearer of thought seems inevitable. Yet there are many who wish to convince us that what seems inevitable in everyday speech, is nothing other than a linguistic convention.The words ‘I’ and ‘my’ are mere adornments of speech. There is a ‘necessity of syntax’, which compels us to speak of a positional self, however as soon as we have a closer look we come to realise that the pronoun ‘I’ is not a place-holder for anything in particular. Indeed, without much trouble we can replace  ‘I was thinking’ with ‘there was thinking going on’, and ‘I am in pain’ with ‘there is pain’ since there is no self separable from the thought or the sensation of pain. Proof of this is that we cannot perceive such a self but only objects of thoughts, feelings, sensations or impressions. Versions of such a no-ownership theory of consciousness are presented by (Hume, Anscombe, Wittgenstein, the early Husserl and the early Sartre). Against this view this course wishes to show why we need to hold fast to the claim that there is something distinctive about the use of the first person pronoun. No description, not even one containing indexicals (other than the first person pronouns themselves) can be substituted for 'I'.  We shall do this by focusing, in particular, on the writings of Descartes, Kant and Husserl.
    Learning Outcomes
    At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • To encourage students to reflect upon the problem of the self
  • To familiarise students with the problem of self-consciousness, self-reference and the unity of consciousness.
  • To learn how these problems have been addressed by Hume, Descartes, Kant, Anscombe, Wittgenstein, Evans and Husserl
  • To show how these problems are still relevant today.

PhD students will be required to write one substantial essay (3,000-4,000 words). Students should confirm the essay title with their lecturer.