Every year we invite distinguished philosophers from around the world to give minicourses to our students. These minicourses combine lectures and research seminars dedicated to specific experts and topics, and are open to everyone.
There is a tendency to think of self-consciousness as a characteristic theme of specifically modern philosophy – a theme inaugurated by Descartes, subjected to doubt by Hume, transcendentalised by Kant, and set out in social and historical terms by Hegel. This modern tradition persists into recent times, particularly in connection with problems of self-reference and self-identification.
But what about the history of self-consciousness before the modern period? How was self-consciousness understood prior to the seductive Cartesian account which did so much to set the agenda for subsequent discussions? And what is the legacy of these earlier understandings of self-consciousness in the modern and contemporary world?
My hope and working hypothesis is that we might enrich our understanding of the phenomena of self-consciousness by recovering some of the history that has been left out of the standard account, and by investigating the range of problems and concerns that emerged there.
I focus on three episodes that give shape to the story whose outlines I want to bring into view.
Participation is free but seating is limited.