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    Reading Dan Zahavi’s Self and Others         Tse, Chiu Yui Plato , Department of Philosophy, National Chengchi University

    6. Pure and Poor

    6.1 Privacy and anonymity

    In this section, Zahavi takes Merleau-Ponty as the point of departure for his forthcoming ‘exegetical excavation’ of Husserl’s own position. Merleau-Ponty rejects the classical psychological view that one’s experiential life is directly accessible to one person only and that our access to the psyche of another is only indirect. (Merleau-Ponty’s objections will be treated in Part II.) In other words, he refrains from ascribing to the subject of experiential life any privileged epistemic access. “[O]ur experiential life is above all a relation to the world,” (78) in which oneself – defined as a system of behaviour – encounters the other – considered as other systems of behaviour. Intentions are transferrableand realizable across different bodily schemas. For Merleau-Ponty, this not only makes possible the perception of others, but it is also incompatible with the presupposition that “the ego and the other are in possession of an absolute consciousness of themselves,as if each were absolutely original vis-à-vis the other.” (79) [Tse: But why should they be held incompatible? Is it not logically possible to assert both absolute self-consciousness and intentional transgression as individually necessary conditions for the perception of others?]
    Zahavi suggests that Merleau-Ponty’s view is that “the very distinction between self and other is derived and rooted in a common anonymity.” (80) An initial stage of undifferentiation, as well as a state of pre-communication, is required for understanding the perception of others. This initial stage of anonymous collectivity explains why the child becomes aware of its own separation and of others at a relatively late stage.

    6.2 The personal I, the pure I, and the primal I

    Husserl subscribes to the inseparability of self-consciousness and consciousness of others.
    Some distinctions concerning the I are in place.

    The personal I:
    1.     has only a relative mode of being.
    2.     originates from social life (requires the second person).
    3.     is a result of my “communicative intertwinement” with others (intersubjectively constituted).
    The personal I is a foundedI, it has no priority over the you, the other, or the world.

    The pure I:
    1.     is absolutely individual in itself and is not to be conflated with the personal I.
    2.     belongs to the essence of the lived experience.
    3.     must be distinguished from its experiences but cannot be thought in separation from them – a transcendence in the immanence.

    The personal I is constituted by one’s history, decisions, convictions, and social participation. In comparison, the pure I is pure in the sense of being formal, it is also poor in terms of content: it has “no hidden inner richness”.

    The primal I:
    1.     the ego of my epoché
    2.     rules out multiplication as meaningless, it cannot be an I among many.
    3.     the fundamental first-personal character of consciousness

    6.3 The solipsism of lived experience

    Merleau-Ponty’s view appears to be a departure from Husserl’s view. But Merleau-Ponty acknowledges too the insurmountable solipsism rooted in lived experience. Zahavi indicates that Merleau-Ponty harbours doubt regarding the model of anonymous collectivity and that he is not willing to accept panpsychic consequences.

    7 A Multidimensional Account

    Zahavi defends a minimalist notion of selfhood:

    1.     “Experiences necessarily involve an experiential perspective or point of view.” (88) They are characterized with perspectival ownership: the for-me-ness.
    2.     Phenomenal consciousness involves self-consciousness in the weak sense of pre-reflective acquaintance with one’s own experiential life.

    One line of objection challenges the ubiquity of selfhood in experiential life. Zahavi argues that the objectors either fail to target the minimalist notion of selfhood, as they trade on ambiguities in the notions of subjectivity and self-consciousness, or they fail to distinguish between the experienced object and the intentional act. Neither does pathology present us exceptions to the inseparability between self and consciousness.
    According to another line of objection, subjectivity and selfhood need to be differentiated. Perspectival ownership does not warrant the unity of self, since self-identity requires also “normative commitments and endorsement”, the minimalist approach appears to be “just too minimalist and deflationary”. (89) Zahavi insists on the point that the first-personal features have to be presupposed even if one wants to establish a more complex, inflated approach. The notion of minimal self does involve an abstraction, but it is not abstracted from all experiential reality; instead, it is always actual and contextual.

    Narrative approach: emphasis on the importance of authorship, commitment, and normativity
    Experiential approach: emphasis on ownership, pre-reflective self-consciousness, and phenomenality
    Zahavi acknowledges the merits of the narrative approach (but he does not subscribe to the view that it is necessary to have a “sense of one’s own life as a well-ordered cohesive narrative” in order to count as a proper human self), (90) and recognizes the need for a multidimensional account: it is a false dilemma to choose between either one of them. The metaphysical primacy of the minimal self should not preclude its compatibilitywith other notions.
    (The experiential and narrative notions of self are nevertheless not exhaustive. An instance not covered: Neisser’s interpersonal self. But Zahavi does not go into any details at this point.)

    The multidimensional model preserves the compatibility of different views insofar as they are taken to target different aspects. Mead’s social constructivist account of self claims that the experience of self necessarily involves an experience of another. Yet, he needs not be taken as denying reflective affective experiences from the basis of self. He is more concerned with “the problem of an individual can get experientially outside himself in such a way as to become an object to himself.” (91) Here, Zahavi suggests that the multidimensional model can give an answer and render the initial disagreement into a terminological one.

    The multidimensional model, however, remain in disagreement with “anti-selfers and ego-phobes” as well as some forms of social constructivism. Zahavi mentions Wolfgang Prinz, who argues that “selves are socio-cultural constructs rather than natural givens”. (92) Prinz focuses on the same aspect of selfhood as Zahavi and defines the notion in terms of “me-ness”. The reason Prinz’s account is incompatible with Zahavi’s is that the former “endorses a version of higher-order theory of consciousness”, according to which one acquires subjective experiences in virtue of a socially mediated attribution of mental organization – an absurd implication in Zahavi’s view.

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