The Subject of Consciousness
© C.O. Evans

Preface[table of contents]  [previous]  [next]

In this book I develop a philosophical theory of the self the purpose of which is to explain how it is that our experience of being selves is an experience of being continuous subjects of experience. That is to say, the theory is offered as an explanation of self-awareness.

On many current theories of the self put forward by philosophers working in the empiricist tradition self-awareness is reduced to awareness of the states which at the time the self is in. This is not what I understand self-awareness to be. I believe that self-awareness is the awareness of the self as the conscious subject of the states of the self. This book is both an attempt to show how this is possible and an attempt to show what awareness of the conscious subject consists in. Essentially, in my dispute with the reductive view I attempt to show what self-awareness is not, by showing what it is.

It would be fitting to describe the work as an exercise in constructive philosophy. It develops a conceptual apparatus specifically for the purpose of presenting a philosophical theory. On this account the book needs to be read consecutively to be understood. The concepts fashioned in the early chapters are applied systematically as the theory is unfolded in the later chapters. Because the theory has some of the characteristics of a system it has ramifications that go beyond the problems of the self and reach into the foundations of the Philosophy of Mind.

Although the book is not written from a phenomenological point of view, many of its conclusions are relevant to phenomenology. If some have already been anticipated by phenomenologists this would add to my confidence in them, and I would add that phenomenologists might nevertheless derive some interest from seeing how someone working, broadly speaking, within the analytic tradition had reached them.

To think of those who have had a hand in the coming into being of this book is to think of some of the happiest associations of my life.

I would not have had the opportunity to write the book had it not been for the help of Professor W. H. Walsh and Mr Philip Grove. I am most grateful to both of them.

-page 12-

I wish to record my thanks to the University of Edinburgh for awarding me a research fellowship which freed me from teaching and gave me the time for the research out of which this book has grown.

The greatest philosophical influence on its content has come from three friends: my teacher, Dr Frederick Broadie; a former colleague, Professor D. C. S. Oosthuizen; and a former student of mine, Mr John Schumacher. I am deeply indebted to each of them for the unstinting way they have given me the benefit of their impressive philosophical resources.

I would like to make particular mention of Daantjie Oosthuizen whose sudden death at the age of 43 made the completion of this book a sad task. He more than anyone was looking forward to its appearance, and only he would have been able to appreciate how much it has gained from his suggestions and criticisms. His death is a loss to me, a loss to philosophy, and a loss to his country.

I am privileged to be able to thank Professor H. H. Price for his encouragement and for his constructive comments on a draft of the manuscript. I am sure he will not mind my saying that he was particularly pleased to see the views of the French psychologist TH. Ribot getting detailed consideration, since he believes that the neglect of Ribot has been our loss.

It is a similar privilege and pleasure to thank Professor H. D. Lewis for his close reading of the manuscript and for his valuable suggestions.

I wish to record my thanks to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for the typing of the manuscript.

Finally, I owe everything to my wife for all the deprivations she has put up with on account of this book.

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