Saturday, December 26, 2009

Being Galen Strawson

Strawson holds that our selves are much more short-lived than we normally take them to be, and that the subjective experience of the self does not require that it persist beyond the lived present, which lasts for less than a second. That may be good enough for sea-snails, one might think, but what about us? Here Strawson offers his most startling observation: he himself does not have the sense of subjective persistence that, I assume, most people have. It does not seem to him that the self which is the subject of his present experience existed in the past, or will exist in the future. When he remembers something from the inside, it does not come with the sense that it is he who was the subject of the remembered experience. He claims that this is true even when he feels embarrassed at the memory. ‘The episode of consciousness is certainly apprehended from the inside, and so I take it for granted that it is mine, if I care to reflect: I take it for granted that it is an episode of consciousness of the human being that I am. But there is no sense, affective or otherwise, that it was consciousness on my* part.’ (The asterisk indicates the use of ‘my’ to refer to the subject of present consciousness.) ‘My past is mine* in the sense that it belongs to me*, but I don’t feel that I* was there in the past.’
Adventures in the specious present, from the LRB.

1 comment:

Grace Dalley said...

"How can I tell that the past isn't a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind?" least Douglas Adams knew how to write comedy that was funny. And there was a cat in his story, which made it much better. :-)