Self-Involving Representationalism: In favor of a Weak Interpretation of Hume’s Thesis

Self-Involving Representationalism: In favor of a Weak Interpretation of Hume’s Thesis

One of the most famous Hume’s quotes regards the relation between perception and oneself:
“I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never
can observe any thing but the perception.” Hume (1739, p.252)

In the 6th chapter of his most recent book Prinz (2012a) (see also Prinz (2012b)) Jesse Prinz distinguishes several interpretations of this Humean thesis: metaphysical and phenomenal, strong and weak. Prinz is not interested in the metaphysical questions (What kind of entities are selves? Do they endure?) but rather on a phenomenological question: among the various phenomenal qualities that make up an experience, is there any that can be characterized as an experience of the self? This phenomenological question admits two possible interpretations: a weak and a stronger one.
According to the weaker reading, there are qualities that correspond to oneself but are nothing above and beyond the qualities of perception, sensation, and emotion. (ibid. 144). The stronger thesis, on the other hand, holds that there are no I-qualia, whether reducible or not. This stronger thesis is endorsed and defended by Prinz. My aim in this paper is to defend, pace Prinz, a weaker version of Hume’s thesis.
This paper is organized in two sections. In the rst one I argue in favor of a weak reading of Hume’s thesis. The force of Prinz arguments against some of his opponents, and in favor of a stronger reading, rests on the failure of his opponents to provide a reductive understanding of what he calls I-qualia. For this purpose I will offer a such a reductive account in the second section.

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