Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced): From attention to self

Abstract: A popular view of the self is that it exists inside the head. Movies sometimes present the self as a tiny person living inside of our skulls, seeing the world through our eyes. However, this concept of a 'homunculus,' or little human, is not popular in contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science. It has a serious problem: it is used to explain how it is that we see, hear, and engage with the world by introducing a new being that sees, hears, and engages with the world. If this worked then we would need homunculi "all the way down" to account for the seeing, hearing, and engagement of each. Philosophers and cognitive scientists seem to fear that any brain-based account of the self will have this problem. Within these fields, you will find discussions of the narrative self, the illusory self, the constructed self, the imaginary self, the self concept, and self as center of narrative gravity. These are not really theories of self, but of self image. In this talk, I aim to provide a brain-based account of the self while avoiding the 'homunculus fallacy.' As I will argue, the existence of an emergent self with its own causal powers is the best explanation of the phenomenon of top-down control in attention. I will contrast this account with that of Jonardon Ganeri in his new book, Attention, Not Self (OUP, 2017). 

Date & time

Thu 18 Apr 2019, 3:30pm to 5:30pm


Coombs Ext Rm 1.04


Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced)

Event series


School of Philosophy


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