2.12 Self-Consciousness

Category: Philosophy of Mind

Keywords: conscious, selves, self, consciousness, inner, ego, unconscious, stream, awareness, reflexive, oneself, outer, aware, ness, reflective

Number of Articles: 111
Percentage of Total: 0.3%
Rank: 88th

Weighted Number of Articles: 288.9
Percentage of Total: 0.9%
Rank: 51st

Mean Publication Year: 1957.6
Weighted Mean Publication Year: 1953
Median Publication Year: 1967
Modal Publication Year: 1922

Topic with Most Overlap: Idealism (0.05)
Topic this Overlaps Most With: Minds and Machines (0.0319)
Topic with Least Overlap: Radical Translation (0.00017)
Topic this Overlaps Least With: Models (0.00035)

A scatterplot showing which proportion of articles each year are in the self-consciousnesstopic. The x-axis shows the year, the y-axis measures the proportion of articles each year in this topic. There is one dot per year. The highest value is in 1901 when 5.5% of articles were in this topic. The lowest value is in 2006 when 0.3% of articles were in this topic. The full table that provides the data for this graph is available in Table A.12 in Appendix A.

Figure 2.35: Self-consciousness.

A set of twelve scatterplots showing the proportion of articles in each journal in each year that are in the Self-Consciousnesstopic. There is one scatterplot for each of the twelve journals that are the focus of this book. In each scatterplot, the x-axis is the year, and the y-axis is the proportion of articles in that year in that journal in this topic. Here are the average values for each of the twelve scatterplots - these tell you on average how much of the journal is dedicated to this topic. Mind - 1.2%. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society - 1.6%. Ethics - 0.8%. Philosophical Review - 1.6%. Analysis - 0.6%. Philosophy and Public Affairs - 0.5%. Journal of Philosophy - 0.9%. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research - 1.3%. Philosophy of Science - 0.3%. Noûs - 0.5%. The Philosophical Quarterly - 0.7%. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science - 0.3%. The topic reaches its zenith in year 1901 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 5.8% of the articles. And it hits a minimum in year 2006 when it makes up, on average across the journals, 0.3% of the articles.

Figure 2.36: Self-consciousness articles in each journal.

Table 2.31: Characteristic articles of the self-consciousness topic.
Table 2.32: Highly cited articles in the self-consciousness topic.


This is a strange topic. It peaks in the early part of the timeline, and a lot of the articles in it feel very continuous with the other early topics. But unlike idealism and the topics connected to pragmatism, it keeps picking up articles to the present day. I think this is something of a coincidence; the fact that there is more lexical overlap between philosophy of mind circa 1912 and philosophy of mind circa 2012 than there is in, say, ethics or metaphysics across the one hundred years doesn’t show that there is much overlap in content.

The top characteristic article here, G. W. Cunningham’s “Self-Consciousness and Consciousness of Self(1911) is useful for thinking about what goes into this topic. On the one hand, the example Cunningham starts with, of a young boy doing public speaking for the first time, is the kind of thing found in more contemporary work. And the distinction Cunningham draws, between the way the boy feels about himself in contrast to the wider world and the sum total of the boy’s stream of consciousness, also feels contemporary enough. On the other hand, Cunningham explicitly rejects the equation of these contrastive feelings (such as embarrassment at being the center of attention) with self-consciousness. That’s consciousness of self for him. And within a few pages we’re in a discussion of whether the Absolute (capitals very much in original) could have a consciousness of self if there is no Other to contrast with. And this feels like it could just be an idealism paper.

Still, it’s a bit helpful that the model teased out these philosophy of mind papers from the general run of idealism papers. It end up revealing a bit more about what’s going on in these early days.