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Department of Cognitive Science

Cogntive Science Alumni

Stephane Savanah

Stephane Savanah

Thesis Details

The threshold of self-consciousness.

Significant research effort in cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy is applied to the study of self-consciousness in animals and human infants. There is much variety in approaches to self-consciousness research, however, and little agreement as to how self-consciousness ought to be defined. Some researchers believe mirror self-recognition (MSR) is the gold standard for self-consciousness, others rely more on evidence of Theory of Mind (ToM) in various guises, and other approaches include the study of episodic memory, evaluative emotions and metacognition. In this thesis, therefore, I ask are all the research paradigms purporting to investigate self-consciousness actually studying the same phenomemon, or are they studying different things altogether? Related to this question are issues such as whether or not self-consciousness is unitary, and if there are different types and/or levels of self-consciousness. I propose the Concept Possession Hypothesis of Self-Consciousness, an account that could describe the causal role of self-consciousness and the defining abilities of self-conscious organisms. I use this to appraise the main empirical self-consciousness research paradigms, and apply it back to philosophical debates.

  • Type: PhD
  • Scholarship : Other
  • Supervisors : Professor John Sutton, Dr Mitch Parsell (Macquarie University), Professor Peter Menzies and Dr Glenn Carruthers

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