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Suárez on Consciousness

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It seems quite natural that we have cognitive access not only to things around us, but also to our own acts of perceiving and thinking. How is this access possible? How is it related to the access we have to external things? And how certain is it? This paper discusses these questions by focusing on Francisco Suárez’s (1548-1617) theory, which gives an account of various forms of access to oneself and thereby presents an elaborate theory of consciousness. It argues that Suárez clearly distinguishes between first-order sensory consciousness (we have immediate access to our acts of perceiving because there is a special experience built into these acts) and second-order intellectual consciousness (we have access to our acts of thinking because we can produce reflexive acts directed at them). Moreover, Suárez attempts to explain the unity of consciousness by referring to a single soul with hierarchically ordered faculties that is responsible both for first-order and for second-order consciousness.

Affiliations: 1: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


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