Selfish Concern: Perspective, Depersonalization, and the Sense of Self

Activity: Talks or PresentationsOther Invited Talks or Presentations


One aspect of selfhood is the sense of self, or a feeling of being a coherent subject. Another aspect of selfhood is a first-person perspective: the egocentric structure of forms of awareness such as vision. A number of thinkers have drawn a connection between these two aspects of selfhood. For example, J. David Velleman claims that our sense of self over time is explained by the egocentric structure of episodic memory. I call views which attempt to explain the sense of self in perspectival terms perspectival views. In this paper I raise a problem for perspectival views and use this problem to motivate an alternative account. I argue that there are pathological experiences-in particular experiences constitutive of the psychiatric condition of depersonalization-in which subjects retain a normal capacity for perspectival experience but lack a sense of self. This shows that perspectival experience is insufficient for a normal sense of self. I go on to provide to an account of this missing component of our sense of self, which I label selfish concern. Selfish concern is a specific type of affectively-laden concern we ordinarily feel when introspecting our own mental and bodily states. I argue that reflection on disorders of the sense of self as well as on the role of our sense of self in grounding our capacity for self-concern together support the idea that our sense of self is partly grounded in this feeling.
Period16 Jan 2023
Held atDepartment of Philosophy