Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 December 2011
In our everyday activities, the self is ever-present in the back of our minds. We remember what we did the moment before and we think about what we want to do next; we feel happy and energetic, or bored and tired; we have a sense of our goals when we act; we think about what we would like to eat for dinner and we know what our favorite TV show is. In our interactions with others, we think about how they see us, whether they like us or are impressed by us. We have certain emotions related to this keen awareness of ourselves: we feel embarrassed, remorseful, ashamed, proud, or confident because of things we have done or did not do. We see ourselves as continuous in time: what happened to us in the past affects who we are and what we believe now; we make plans for the future because we believe that the future self will be us and will be affected by our current plan and behavior. Even though we do not have an internal mirror to see ourselves, our every thought seems to revolve around the sense of a self. But what is the self? How is our sense of the self established in the first place?
The title of this book is Consciousness and the Self. The main focus of the collected essays is not to establish a metaphysical claim about the existence or the nature of the self, but to investigate the connection between our conscious life and our sense of the self; in other words, the phenomenological routes to the self. Whether or not we can establish the existence of a self, we undeniably have a sense of our self in our daily conscious life, in our reflections, sensations, discourses, memories, and our life plans. Phenomenally, I know what it is like to be me, and no one else can have my phenomenal awareness of my self. My self and my awareness of myself seem essentially intertwined.