New York University
Department of Philosophy
Back to Previous Page

Research Seminar on Mind and Language 2006

Consciousness and Self-Consciousness in Modern Philosophy

The Spring 2006 Research Seminar on Mind and Language will be conducted by Béatrice Longuenesse and Don Garrett. The seminar will trace attempts to understand consciousness, self-consciousness, and their relations to central issues about mind and language from Descartes to Hegel. Open meetings with seminar visitors will take place in the Seminar Room of the Philosophy Department on Tuesdays from 4:00 to 7:00 pm; a preparation session, restricted to students enrolled in the course, will meet on Mondays from 5:00 to 6:00 pm. Papers to be discussed at each Tuesday meeting, together with selected primary texts, will be available one week in advance, and will be distributed at the preceding Tuesday meeting. Copies will also be available at the Philosophy Department, Silver Center, Room 503, 100 Washington Square East. In addition, visitors’ papers will be available for downloading from the this website.

Schedule of Visitors Presenting Papers:

January 17: Alison Simmons (Harvard)
Guarding the Body: A Cartesian Phenomenology of Perception
Spatial Perception from a Cartesian Point of View
The main paper for this week is "Guarding the Body: A Cartesian Phenomenology of Perception."
Copies of the primary source material will be available in the department copy room as of Friday, January 6.
Prof. Simmons's recommendations for primary source material are:
Meditation 6
Sixth Set of Replies, Point 9 (AT VII 436-439/CSM II 294-296)
Principles of Philosophy I.66-72 (AT VIII-A 32-37/CSM I 216-220)
Principles of Philosophy IV.189-198 (AT VIII-A 315-323/CSM I 279-285)
Preface to the Search After Truth, xix-xxix in Lennon and Olscamp's translation.
Book I, chapter 5 of Search After Truth, 19-24 in Lennon and Olscamp's translation.

January 24: Don Garrett (NYU)
Representation and Consciousness in Spinoza's Naturalistic Theory of the Imagination
Primary texts: Spinoza, Ethics: Part 2--Definitions, Axioms, and Propositions 1-17 (The Collected Works of Spinoza, Volume I, edited by Edwin Curley, pp. 446-465).

January 31: Wayne Martin (Essex)
Conscience and Consciousness: Rousseau’s Contribution to the Stoic Theory of Oikeiosis
Background materials:
1) Long, A.A. & Sedley, D.N (1987): The Hellenistic Philosophers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 346-354.
2) The Loeb edition of Seneca’s letter on Instinct in Animals (but without the notes or Latin text): (Follow the link to Epistle CXXI.)
3) A somewhat dated public domain translation of Rousseau’s Creed of the Savoyard Vicar can be found here: But this is a long text, and the relevant passages are mostly included in the paper. Please note that my citations to this text are from a different translation.

February 7: Martha Bolton (Rutgers)
Leibniz's Teleological Explanation of Consciousness
PLEASE NOTE: This paper is password-protected. The userid and password will be given out at the seminar; please email John Morrison at with any questions.
Leibniz texts (in order of importance):
*New Essays*, tr. Remnant and Bennett, Preface (selections)--pp. 48-59; I, i (selections)--pp. 109-119; II, i (selections)--pp. 76-88.

February 14: Ken Winkler (Wellesley)
'Marvellous Emptiness': Berkeley on Consciousness and Self-Consciousness
Background Material:
Part I (the main part) of Berkeley's Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, sections 1 through 33 and 135 through 149.

February 21: Galen Strawson (CUNY and Reading)
The evident connexion: Hume on personal identity
Primary text: From Hume's Treatise
Also recommended:
Garrett, Cognition and Commitment in Hume’s Philosophy, Chapter 8
Craig, The Mind of God and the Works of Man, Chapter 2 Section 5
Caston, Mind 2002
Strawson, Hume's Appendix
Tertiary reading: Locke on personal identity

February 28: Gideon Yaffe (USC)
Reid on Consciousness and Attention
Suggested Background Reading

March 7: Gary Hatfield (Penn)
Kant on the perception of space (and time)
Preface to the readings
Primary Source material:
First Critique, Aesthetic (selections: B 33-45 and B 53-73); B Deduction, secs. 20-26 (B 143-165)
Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, Preface, 4:467-471
Further reading:
Introspective Evidence in Psychology
Still further:
Empirical, Rational, and Transcendental Psychology: Psychology as Science and as Philosophy

March 21: Tyler Burge (UCLA)
Kant on Some Aspects of Cogito
PLEASE NOTE: This paper is password-protected, and Prof Burge has requested that participants in the seminar not share the paper with anyone outside the seminar. The userid and password will be given out at the seminar; please email John Morrison at with any questions.

Primary Source Reading:
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A341-8/B399-406, B406-7, B409 (the short paragraph), B416-429 (begin on B416 with the text; the note can be skipped). The main text that I will be discussing is B422-3, the note.
Also important, especially for framing the issues I discuss: A381-4, A396-405, B157-9.
I will not be discussing any of the specific paralogisms, so I have left out passages from the Paralogisms sections in the A and B editions that bear on specific rationalist claims about properties of the self.

Secondary Source Background Reading:
Strawson, The Bounds of Sense, Part Three, Section II, Soul (in my edition pp. 162-174).
Longuenesse, Kant and the Capacity to Judge, "The Kantian Cogito", pp. 64-68
(This passage from Longuenesse will be especially difficult for anyone without a background in Kant. It discusses an aspect of Kant's reflection on cogito that I will not be focusing on, but it might still be useful for framing purposes. For someone who has not read a lot in Kant, the Strawson passage would be less difficult -- and more useful as a *generalized* background for the issues I will discuss.)

March 28: Quassim Cassam (University College, London)
The following chapters are from a forthcoming book of mine called The Possibility of Knowledge. I would like the seminar to focus on the first 31 pages of chapter 2, on transcendental arguments. I am sending chapter 1 ('The Possibility of Knowledge') because chapter 2 isn't entirely self-standing. I suggest that people read the first 10 pages of chapter 1 before reading chapter 2.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Primary Reading:
Prolegomena, preamble, especially sections 4 and 5.
First Critique, introduction, section VI ('The General Problem of Pure Reason').
First Critique, opening section of the Transcendental Deduction ('The Principles of any Transcendental Deduction') (par. 13 of the Tr. Ded.: A84/B116-A94/B129.)

April 4: Robert Brandom (Pittsburgh)
Sketch of a Program for a Critical Reading of Hegel
Background reading: The two Hegel chapters (that is, Chapters Six and Seven) of my Tales of the Mighty Dead.

April 11: Wayne Waxman (NYU)
Apperception and the Individuality of Space and Time
Recommended reading: Critique of Pure Reason A22-5/B37-40, A30-2/B46-8, A103-8, B129-140, and B159-61.

April 18: Michael Forster (Chicago)
The Pyrrhonist's Revenge
This is chapter 12 of Prof. Forster's new book (in preparation). The title of the book is Kant and Skepticism. This chapter largely deals with Kant vs. Hegel on the question of whether the contents of consciousness are immune to skeptical attack.
Background reading: Kant and Skepticism
The primary readings in Hegel are excerpts from Hegel's "Skepticism and Philosophy", which will be available in the copy room.

April 25: Béatrice Longuenesse (NYU)
Primary paper: Kant's 'I think' versus Descartes' 'I am a thing that thinks'
Secondary paper: Self-Consciousness and Consciousness of one's onw body. Variations on a Kantian Theme
The secondary paper is a discussion of Kant's view of self-consciousness in relation to parts of Cassam's book "Self and World." Part 5 of this second paper, where I lay out the various aspects of self-consciousness for Kant, might be an especially useful addition to the main paper.
The background primary material for the main paper is:
Descartes, Second Meditation.
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason:
- the Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, par. 16-17 (B132-139)
- the Paralogisms of Pure Reason, A341-348/B399-406 (transl. Guyer/Wood p.411-415); B406-413 (Guyer/Wood p.444-448); B416-422 (p.450-453); the fourth Paralogism in A: A367-380 (p.425-431); the Refutation of Idealism: B274-279.