Department of Philosophy



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The Department of Philosophy Colloquium Series and the Brockington Visitorship present

Lorne Maclachlan (Queen's University)

“Myself and My Universe”

THURSDAY, January 26th, 2017

WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.

The problem of myself and my universe is the problem of the connection between the immediate consciousness that I am enjoying here and now and the physical universe in which it is embedded. The special difficulty of this problem stems from the fact that my immediate experience is known as it is in itself, whereas my universe is an object of representation.  I follow Kant in the claim that outer objects are represented in space, but argue that the original representation is egocentric space, and not the geometric space that Descartes believed had been provided by God as an innate idea.  This tweaking of the Kantian view makes transcendental idealism intelligible, since egocentric space does have its seat in the subject.

The self of which I am immediately conscious is not, however, the historical self that persists through time.  I have no more direct access to past and future experiences that to things in an external world.  The past and the future are known only through representation.  This representation also presupposes a pure form of intuition, in this case, time.  Defying Kant, this pure form is again egocentric, with its seat in the present.

It is possible to paper over the gap between the past and the future by imagining a future time at which what is now present will be in the past.  There is, however, a problem about locating the experience immediately enjoyed within the time line that structures historical representation.  This goes back as far as St. Augustine.  If I connect my immediate experience with a segment of the time line, it will have parts that are earlier than others, but if I identify it with a moment in time, I can hardly imagine the rich content of my experience crammed into what is no more than the interface between adjacent segments of time. 

I experience myself as I am:  I can make a map of my universe.  But as Thomas Nagel has shown, it is difficult to find a home for myself within my universe. 


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