On Our Self-Consciousness and Its Evolution

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Title: On Our Self-Consciousness and Its Evolution
Author: Mundell, Katherine
Advisor: Macbeth, Danielle; Wright, Kathleen
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Philosophy
Type: Thesis
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: Our self‐consciousness is one of the most interesting and debated subjects in the area of philosophy of mind, and debated not only by philosophers, but also by scientists, social scientists, anthropologists, and other intellectuals. Inspired by the work of Wilfrid Sellars, I am joining the debate with the work that follows. I am interested in how we came to be self‐conscious, and I will look at arguments posed by biologists and social scientists to explain why we are self‐conscious (while I am interested in ‘how’, their arguments include a ‘how’ to get to ‘why’). I will also explain Sellars’ argument on the Myth of the Given, as it pertains to and bolsters my argument. Using anthropologist Michael Tomasello’s work studying the links between primates’ communication and ours, in the search for the origination of human communication, I will draw on empirical evidence of how language evolved from primate gestures and the significant differences: our ability to imitate, shared intentionality, and natural helpfulness. Using another one of Sellars’ arguments on the importance of learning how to self‐report and the importance of external reaffirmation, I explain why it is necessary to have others with common sensations to reaffirm one’s own sensations as valid, which can only be done through the utilization of a common language. Ultimately, I will answer that how we come to be self‐conscious is through our acculturation into a society with language, and that there is no answer to why we are self‐conscious because our self‐consciousness does not exist to serve a specific function.
Subject: Self-consciousness (Awareness)
Subject: Self-consciousness (Awareness) -- History
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Mundell, Katherine. "On Our Self-Consciousness and Its Evolution". 2012. Available electronically from

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