The self

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

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Course Description: 

Theories of the Self have played a prominent role in modern philosophical inquiry at least since Descartes. In this course, we are going to discuss four interrelated philosophical problems about the Self: (1) the metaphysical question concerning the nature and continued existence of the Self (2) the semantic problem of how someone can identify oneself as oneself (3) the epistemic question about how conscious beings can have knowledge about their own actions and their own mind (4) and finally, the question about whether, and if yes how, we can self-determine our own actions and beliefs. One of the central aims of the course shall be to uncover the connection between these problems and the theories of rational and free agency.

Learning Outcomes: 

Students attending this course are expected to familiarize themselves with the most important issues concerning philosophical problems involving the concept of the Self, such as the question about the persistence of the self; the logic of self-reference; the peculiarities of self-knowledge and self-interpretation; and the extent to which conscious agents can self-determine their own actions and beliefs. By following this course students can significantly broaden their knowledge in metaphysics, philosophical semantics as well as in certain areas of epistemology. They are expected to learn how to reconstruct and analyze philosophical positions about the issue of the Self, how to understand the validity and soundness of arguments about it and how to identify background principles in different theories of the Self. Finally, they are also expected to improve their oral communication skills such as the ability to formulate arguments concisely and accessibly in words and to give short critical comments


Students’ performance shall be evaluated on the following grounds. First, students are required to attend classes regularly and to participate actively in seminar discussions. Second, students are required to give one or two short presentations of some chosen topic(s). The choice of topic is optional, but overlap should be avoided. Thirdly, students are required to submit a 4 000-word long term-paper. The chosen topic should be approved by the instructor and presented in the last class of the course. The main component of evaluation is the quality of the term paper, but the overall result can be improved by good presentations and by active participation in discussions.  



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