Are There Degrees of Self-Consciousness?


It is widely assumed that ordinary conscious experience involves some form of sense of self or consciousness of oneself. Moreover, this claim is often restricted to a ‘thin’ or ‘minimal’ notion of self-consciousness, or even ‘the simplest form of self-consciousness’, as opposed to more sophisticated forms of self-consciousness which are not deemed ubiquitous in ordinary experience. These formulations suggest that self-consciousness comes in degrees, and that individual subjects may differ with respect to the degree of self-consciousness they exhibit at a given time. In this article, I critically examine this assumption. I consider what the claim that self-consciousness comes in degrees may mean, raise some challenges against the different versions of the claim, and conclude that none of them is both coherent and particularly plausible.

Journal of Consciousness Studies, 26(3-4)
Raphaël Millière
Raphaël Millière
Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience