The Structure of Minimal Self-Representation

16/12/2022 17:30



One of the less discussed puzzles about self-representation concerns its functional structure. A creature may represent its own properties in various ways, and only some of them will count as self-representation. In this paper, I argue that a distinction between egocentric and non-egocentric forms of representation -- known primarily from the literature on spatial cognition -- can help with formulating an account of the structure of minimal self-representation. Using examples drawn from animal cognition and developmental psychology, I show that a similar distinction applies to representations of one's temporal, bodily, and cognitive properties. Self-representation, on such an account, involves representing one's properties in such a way that an explicit differentiation is made between the properties the system actually exemplifies and those exemplified by other objects (or its own merely possible states). The upshot is a view on which different creatures may self-represent (in this minimal sense) more or fewer properties in various domains. More substantive conceptions of self-representation (for instance, as exemplified by neurotypical adult human beings) exist when minimal self-representers represent the right kinds of property (usually involving one's spatial, temporal, and social properties).

Julian Hauser : 
I'm a philosopher of cognitive science and mind. After completing a PhD at the University of Edinburgh (on the constitution of the boundaries of the self), I am now a postdoc at the University of Barcelona. Here, I investigate the emergence of self-representation in early childhood. I'm a digital rights activist and love photography.

We will have a talk next Friday, Dec 16 at JF507 & 5:30pm by Julian Hauser from the University of Barcelona. Please find the details below.