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Hume’s denial that there is an inner perception of the self as the owner of experience is one that is echoed in Kant’s discussion in both the Transcendental Deduction and the Paralogisms, where he writes that there is no intuition of the self “through which it is given as object” (Kant 1781/1787: B408; Brook 1994; Ameriks 2000).
Kant’s account of self-consciousness and its significance is complex, a central element of the Transcendental Deduction being the claim that a form of self-awareness—transcendental apperception—is required to account for the unity of conscious experience over time.
But although he knew this about himself, it is only later in the play that he comes to know that it is was so prophesied.
It is only this latter knowledge that we would call an expression of self-consciousness and that, we may presume, is the object of the Delphic maxim.
Central to the early modern discussion of self-consciousness are Descartes’ assertions, in the second of his 10.10; Pasnau 2002: ch.
11), embodies two elements of self-awareness—awareness that one is thinking and awareness that one exists—that play a foundational role in Descartes’ epistemological project. Of particular concern is the question whether these two propositions are known by inference or non-inferentially, e.g., by intuition, an issue that echoes the medieval debates concerning whether one can be said to perceive oneself. Lichtenberg’s famous remark that one should not say “I think” but rather, “it thinks”, discussed in Zöller 1992 and Burge 1998) Hume’s view that there is no impression, or perception, of oneself is crucial to his case for the understanding of our idea of ourselves as nothing more than a “heap or collection of different perceptions” (1739–40: bk.1, ch.4, §6; Penelhum 2000; G.
The representation of the self in this “I think” is then, according to Kant, purely formal, exhausted by its function in unifying experience.
, Oedipus knows a number of things about himself, for example that he was prophesied to kill Laius.
Although it is occasionally suggested that a concern with self-consciousness is a peculiarly modern phenomenon, originating with Descartes (Brinkmann 2005), it is in fact the topic of lively ancient and medieval debates, many of which prefigure early modern and contemporary concerns (Sorabji 2006).