Against the Pathology Argument for Self-Acquaintance


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Are we acquainted with the self in experience? It may seem so. After all, we tend to be confident in our own existence. A natural explanation for this confidence is that the self somehow shows up in experience. Yet philosophers in both the Eastern and Western philosophical traditions have been sceptical of self-acquaintance. Despite centuries of debate, the matter remains controversial. But the persistence of this dispute is puzzling. Why can we not simply settle this question by introspection? Here, many philosophers hold that the self is elusive. Hence, to address this question we need to use a more indirect method. To this end, philosophers have turned to pathologies of self-awareness such as depersonalization and thought insertion to argue for self-acquaintance, a strategy I label the Pathology Argument. In this paper, I criticize the Pathology Argument on the grounds that we can better explain the symptoms of these disorders without appeal to self-acquaintance.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

For helpful feedback and discussion I thank Jesse Hill, Alex Kerr, Daniel Pallies, and the audience at the 2023 meeting of the Australasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology in Canberra, Australia. Special thanks to the two referees for this journal, who provided detailed and thoughtful comments which enabled me to greatly improve the paper. Finally, I want to acknowledge the support of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong for providing funding that enabled the writing of this paper (LU23605322).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • self-acquaintance
  • self-awareness
  • depersonalization
  • thought insertion


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