Thinking About Oneself
From Nonconceptual Content to the Concept of a Self
MIT Press 2015
When Descartes famously concluded “I think, therefore I am”, he took for granted his ability to use the first person pronoun to refer to himself. But how do we come to have this capacity for self-conscious thought? We aren’t born with it, and while we may not be the only creatures that can think thoughts about ourselves, this ability does not seem to be very widespread. For starters, to be able to think of oneself, it seems one must first possess a concept of the self of what the “I” refers to. In Thinking About Oneself: From Nonconceptual Content to the Concept of a Self (MIT Press, 2015), Kristina Musholt provides a naturalistic account of how self-conscious thought develops: how we move from possessing implicitly self-referential information to having explicit self-representation. Musholt, who is professor of cognitive anthropology at Leipzig University, argues that this is a multistage process driven by social interaction and the recognition of other beings’ perspectives.