The Subject of Consciousness
© C.O. Evans

Chapter 5

The Experiential Self - 5.1.1
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I. The Self as Unprojected Consciousness

[1] The task of examining consciousness in order to determine its structure has now been completed. I argued that this was a necessary preliminary to determining whether Hamilton was justified in affirming the 'Duality of Consciousness', or whether James was right to deny it. The question of the relationship between consciousness and the self was deliberately left in abeyance until this prior question was settled. We are now in a position to see that Hamilton was right in thinking that consciousness displayed a duality, but wrong in thinking that the duality was a duality between one element lying outside consciousness, and another element lying within consciousness. Both elements in the duality, it has been found, lie within consciousness. The results of the analysis of consciousness show, similarly, that James was right in thinking that there was no duality between an element lying outside consciousness and another lying within it, but wrong in thinking that there was no duality within consciousness itself. James denied that consciousness had an 'inner duplicity'. We may concede that while no evidence has been found of its 'duplicity", much evidence has been assembled pointing to its polarization into opposite spheres.

On the basis of this conclusion I now wish to take up the question of the self, and advance a theory that attempts to do justice to the findings of the preceding enquiry. My theory is the startling one that the self is identical with unprojected consciousness. If this theory can be sustained, it will follow that Hamilton was right to interpret the 'Duality of Consciousness' as a duality between self and not-self (subject and object), although wrong to identify the self with an entity external to consciousness. Furthermore, it will follow that James too was right when he maintained that the self must lie within consciousness. To put the position more generally, the theory I am proposing overcomes the difficulties that we saw to lie in the way of both the Pure Ego Theory and the Serial

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Theory. 110 Unlike those two theories, mine is based on an analysis of experience itself, and is not inferred from an analysis of entities that are not selves. That is to say, the analysis has abided strictly by the caveat that we look for the solution exclusively from the standpoint of what we experience ourselves as being.

I cannot prove the theory I am advocating, just as I cannot disprove the theory that the subject of consciousness is a Pure Ego. The identification of self and unprojected consciousness is a deliberate philosophical postulate. My defence of the theory, therefore, must consist in my showing its philosophical superiority over rival theories of the self, and in my showing that the failure to make the identification of the self with unprojected consciousness itself explains the generation of the Pure Ego Theory and the Serial Theory. In short, the theory I put forward has the merit of explaining why the other theories are mistaken. Lastly, my theory accords with our native knowledge of ourselves in that it does not lead to a self which is unknowable and does not lead to a self which is a mere construct. In that sense it is not counter-intuitive as are the two classical theories. A word of caution is necessary here: the theory I am proposing should not be thought to be a theory of the 'empirical' self in the Kantian sense. I am not attempting to identify the self as object (the 'me' as opposed to the 'I' as James puts it). My identification of the self is an identification of the subject of consciousness. The position is that the self is experiential, but is not on that account an object of experience. It does not follow therefore that the experiential self is the same as the empirical self.

This can be more clearly grasped once it is realized that what we individuate as an experience is always an object of attention: indeed the individuating of an experience by a subject (where there is no question of the subject identifying the experience to another) just is to make of it an object of attention. Bearing this in mind it is evident that an experience of the self is an experience qua object of attention and as such we are dealing with the self as object (the empirical self). But, as will soon become apparent in the course of the exposition, the self qua subject - the experiential self - cannot as a matter of logical necessity become the object of attention; cannot therefore become an object. The major implication of the position is that from the fact that the self is not an object of experience it does not follow that it is non-experiential.

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I shall now attempt to draw out some of the features that philosophers have maintained are features of the self, and show that these are also features of unprojected consciousness. The conclusion I shall draw from this parallelism is that the philosophers who discerned these features of the self were indeed describing real features: their claims on behalf of the self were true. However, I shall maintain that they misunderstood the nature of their results. They believed not only that they had discovered one of the ultimate facts of experience - namely that each experience had an experiencer - but also that the experiencer must be inaccessible to experience. Instead they had stumbled upon one of the factors essential to the existence of an experience as an object of attention, and because this factor - the existence of unprojected consciousness -could not be 'objectified' in experience they concluded that it was a self that lay beyond experience. My view is that they were right in believing that they had discerned the features of the self (although they could not explain why the self possessed the features they found), but that they were wrong in thinking that only a non-experiential self could possess such features. Conversely, those philosophers who could not accept the idea of a non-experiential self were right to reject the notion, but were wrong in thinking that to do so they had to go so far as to deny the features of the self on which the notion was based. These pronouncements of mine will become intelligible as the theme is developed.

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Footnotes

110. See above, pp. 29-30.
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