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  • Cited by 8
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

22 - Self-consciousness: an integrative approach from philosophy, psychopathology and the neurosciences

from Part III - Disturbances of the self: the case of schizophrenia



In this chapter, we want to try and integrate the divergent lines introduced in the other parts of this book. We propose a model of self-consciousness derived from phenomenology, philosophy, the cognitive and neurosciences. We will then give an overview of research data on self-processing from various fields and link it to our model. Some aspects of the disturbances of the self in pathological states such as brain lesions and schizophrenia will be discussed. Finally, the clinically important concept of insight into a disease and its neurocognitive origin will be introduced. We argue that self-consciousness is a valid construct and, as shown in this chapter, it is possible that it can be studied with the instruments of cognitive neuroscience.


The self as an entity distinct from the other has entered western thought through Greek philosophy (see chapter 1, this volume, for details). Throughout history, a myriad of different notions, starting from theology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, to early psychological concepts, psychopathology, the social sciences, and, more recently, cognitive psychology, neurology and the neurosciences have been developed. With the advent of scientific interest in consciousness towards the end of the twentieth century, self-consciousness has also become a topic taken up by the neuroscientific community. As a first phenomenological approximation based on commonly shared experience, we know that we are the same person across time, that we are the author of our thoughts/actions, and that we are distinct from the environment.

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