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Space and Self-Awareness

  • Author(s): Schwenkler, John Louis
  • Advisor(s): Noë, Alva
  • et al.
Abstract

How should we think about the role of visual spatial awareness in perception and perceptual knowledge? A common view, which finds a characteristic expression in Kant but has an intellectual heritage reaching back farther than that, is that an account of spatial awareness is fundamental to a theory of experience because spatiality is the defining characteristic of "outer sense", of our perceptual awareness of how things are in the parts of the world that surround us. A natural counterpart to this idea is to treat self-consciousness as residing in a kind of sense that is fundamentally "inner", such as introspection or whatever else gives one privileged access to his own mental states as well as the proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness of bodily position. This division is compatible, of course, with the idea that inner sense provides an awareness of a distinctive kind of "body space", but it treats that as importantly different from the awareness of the worldly space around one.

In contrast to such a picture, this dissertation proposes an account of visual spatial awareness according to which it is no less a source of self-consciousness than of the awareness of the objects around us, and an account of self-awareness in which visual experience is essentially implicated. I begin by arguing that we should think of visual spatial awareness not as necessary for the individuation of visual sensations but rather as an essential element in the awareness of an experientially objective world. In the subsequent chapters, I argue that in being visually aware of the egocentric positions of the worldly objects around us we are often aware also of our own spatial locations with respect to them, and that the visual experience of the world around one and one`s own situation in it is often an essential component in the knowledge that a human agent will have of his own intentional actions.

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