Is it possible be ‘no one’, philosophers ask 

by | Jun 17, 2024 | Consciousness, Consciousness Theories, Philosophy, Psychology, Story Ideas | 0 comments

June 2024

The entire June 2024 issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies is dedicated to one intricate question: Is subjectless consciousness possible? Ten philosophers offer their respective take.

All experience needs an experiencer, notes Galen Strawson, but that doesn’t entail that a separation between the experiencer and the experience itself is a given.

Matthew MacKenzie claims that it is possible to have consciousness without a sense of self, “but that consciousness would still be minimally subjective”.

“Can there be something it is like to be no one?” asks Christian Coseru in an article that defends the persistence of a subjective dimension of experience also in non-ordinary and pathological states of consciousness such as non-dual awareness and drug-induced ego dissolution. A crucial question is where mental content is ‘located’.

Jonardon Ganeri similarly discusses whether it is imaginable to be conscious without having a sense of self, i.e. being ‘no one’.

Anna Ciaunica looks into the commonly reported feeling of ‘losing’ one’s sense of self in deep meditation. Ciaunica proposes that the core mechanism is an attenuation of bodily signals. “The proposal is that the explicit feeling of selfless minds may be tacitly accompanied by the implicit feeling of an unlimited body, as two sides of the same coin.”

Joel Krueger develops an existing model describing the self as ‘betweenness’. Confinement and dementia provide powerful examples of what happens when the support and regulative grounding of this lifeworld is restricted or taken away, Krueger points out.

The nature of the sense of “I” — and what it means to lose it — from a Buddhist perspective is examined by Manuela Kirberg and Monima Chadha. “We propose that the sense of self is not a static entity … but fluctuates between various senses of self (and no-self) depending on circumstances”, they write.

Contemporary theories of consciousness are in the grip of a distorted perspective on the nature of their subject, argues Itay Shani, as Dan Zahavi criticises neuroscientist Anil Seth’s and Jay Garfield’s description of the ‘you’ in relation to the self.

Anders Bolling

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