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Cudworth on Self-Consciousness and the I Myself

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In the last two decades, Ralph Cudworth (1617-88) has been acknowledged as one of the paramount figures in the history of theories of consciousness. This paper discusses the interpretation defended by Udo Thiel (1991) and Vili Lähteenmäki (2010). Both contend that, for Cudworth, the reflexivity defining consciousness does not constitute self-consciousness, which, they say, requires self-determination for practical ends. On the contrary, I argue that for Cudworth any degree of consciousness implies a species of self-perception that must be considered a degree of self-consciousness. To do justice to Cudworth’s full position, I claim, we must take into account a kind of consciousness that I call ‘to-oneself ’ consciousness. Furthermore, I argue, the problem of the ethical self-formation of every human soul as one personality (which Cudworth calls “I myself in every man”) should be seen as going beyond the mere consideration of practical rationality.

Affiliations: 1: CNRS-CRAL


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