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Chapter 3 - Thinking about the self

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

JeeLoo Liu
Affiliation:
California State University, Fullerton
John Perry
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

Introduction

Suppose that when Bill Clinton moved to the White House he was unaware that the Secret Service used the acronym “POTUS” to refer to the president. In his morning briefing summary he sees the sentence “POTUS meets with the Queen of England at noon.” This upsets him. Who is POTUS? Why is this person meeting with the Queen, instead of Clinton? He says to Hillary, “POTUS is meeting with the Queen; who in the world is POTUS, and why is he meeting with the Queen instead of me?” It seems that the person Clinton is asking about is Clinton himself; the right answer for Hillary to give is, “You are POTUS.” Clinton said something about himself, without realizing it. And, indeed, it seems that Clinton believed something about himself, without realizing it. I will say that Clinton had a belief that was merely about the person he happened to be. This is a self-belief, in that the truth-conditions of the belief impose conditions on the believer. But it is not what we would normally call having a belief about oneself.

It seems then, that we can make a distinction between saying something about yourself in the sense in which that merely said something about the person you happen to be, and saying something about yourself in the sense of making what we might call a “self-assertion,” which implies not only that the person you referred to was you, but also that you knew this and intended to convey it. Use of the word ‘I’ indicates that one is self-asserting. And an analogous distinction may be made at the level of belief. We have the phrase “self-knowledge”; I will supplement it with the phrase “self-belief.” Clinton had a belief about the person he happened to be, but it was not a self-belief.

Type
Chapter
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Consciousness and the Self
New Essays
, pp. 76 - 100
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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References

Goodman, EllenPresidential race ’96: The country as child, candidates as ultimate care-giverBoston Globe 20 1996Google Scholar
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  • Thinking about the self
  • Edited by JeeLoo Liu, California State University, Fullerton, John Perry, Stanford University, California
  • Book: Consciousness and the Self
  • Online publication: 05 December 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511732355.004
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  • Thinking about the self
  • Edited by JeeLoo Liu, California State University, Fullerton, John Perry, Stanford University, California
  • Book: Consciousness and the Self
  • Online publication: 05 December 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511732355.004
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Thinking about the self
  • Edited by JeeLoo Liu, California State University, Fullerton, John Perry, Stanford University, California
  • Book: Consciousness and the Self
  • Online publication: 05 December 2011
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511732355.004
Available formats
×