- The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness, and the First-Person Stance by Jonardon Ganeri
In thinking about the self there is a tension between the affirmation of ourselves as owners of mental occurrences and the reduction of those mental occurrences to neurophysiological events. Are we independent entities, or are we just brains? Or is there a middle way by which we can have it both ways, that is, to render the self as something over and above its psychophysical properties in spite of being rooted in the physical? Jonardon Ganeri in his The Self: Naturalism, Consciousness, and the First-Person Stance develops a liberal naturalist conception of the self, the middle position between hard naturalism and supernaturalism. 1 The book considers three versions of Indian liberal naturalism: Cārvāka, Buddhism (mainly Yogācāra), and Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, richly elaborated by incorporating recent discussions in phenomenology and philosophy of mind as well as Greek and Islamic philosophy. Ganeri defends a Nyāya Ownership View, according to which the self is a unity of immersed self, participant self, and underself where, unlike in the Platonic ‘combat’ model, the tripartite self attains a constitutional inner unity:
My thesis is that in a full account of human subjectivity three distinct dimensions in the concept of self are in play, corresponding to three elements in the notion of ownership, each having a naturalistically legitimate role in any viable conception of self. There is an immersed self, the aspect of first-person presentation in the content of consciousness, ‘ownership’ here referring to a phenomenologically given sense of mineness. There is a participant self, the inhabitation of a first-person stance, ‘ownership’ involving the relations of involvement, participation, and endorsement that sustain autonomy. Finally, there is an underself, the procedural monitoring of all the states, autonomous or alienated, that one embodies, ‘ownership’ now implying a relation of unconscious access to one’s states of mind and their contents.(p. 14)
Fully first-personal subjective consciousness is at once grounded (in ‘friction’ with the world and subject to its constraints), lived (in experiential openness and presence to the world), and engaged (with the pulls and demands of emotion and attention on the world). Therefore, a self is a unity of coordination, immersion, and participation.(p. 329) [End Page 1077]
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1, “Historical Prelude: Varieties of Naturalism,” introduces Ganeri’s new taxonomy and rejects the One-Dimensional Views of Cartesianism, Materialism, and Reductionism. Materialism and Cartesianism are rejected on the grounds that they are prone to attenuation and false analogies with natural phenomena, which Ganeri calls ‘Payāsi’s Trap.’ Part 2, “Mind and Body,” argues that the Cārvāka theory of mental occurrence called ‘transformation (pariṇāma) emergence’ is immune to the problems of exclusion and downward causation that are posed against the idea of emergence in contemporary philosophy of mind. Part 3, “Immersion and Subjectivity,” discusses the minimal-ownership view of immersion in juxtaposition with Buddhist error theory. Ganeri scrupulously shows that there is a real explanatory gap between self-awareness and the affirmation of a real self. Part 4, “Participation and the First-Person Stance,” develops Nyāya First Person Realism. Through a discussion of Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika philosophy combined with insights gained from earlier discussions, Ganeri establishes the conception of self as a unity of immersion, participation, and coordination.
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One of the most important distinctions Ganeri draws in articulating liberal naturalism is between the place (ādhāra) and base (āśraya) of experience (p. 36). If there were no demarcation between the two, the rootedness of experience in physical phenomena would straightforwardly yield hard naturalism, and denial of the rootedness would entail supernaturalism. Reductionism might be put forth as a middle position, but that is still a far cry from offering a robust conception of self. With place and base distinguished, Ganeri is able to draw a rich taxonomy of various views about the self...