The Functional and Embodied Nature of Pre-reflective Self-consciousness

  • Klaus Gärtner Departamento de História e Filosofia das Ciências, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
Keywords: Pre-reflective Self-consciousness, Higher-Order Theories, Same-Order Theories, Self-Aquaintance, Functionalism, Embodiment


Being conscious or experiencing the world with all its vivid qualities is something humans intimately cherish. The fact that consciousness provides us with a lively phenomenology is what makes life worth living. Yet, when it comes to understanding how consciousness fits into the natural world, we feel deeply puzzled. In this context, one important claim about consciousness consists in the idea that our awareness is not only about the world but also reveals an intimate subjectivity. This aspect of phenomenal consciousness is often referred to as pre-reflective self-consciousness. It is often held that this type of self-awareness is intrinsic and essential to any form of conscious experience, i.e. there is no conscious experience without also being implicitly self-conscious. Being of such importance to the nature of consciousness, the recent literature mainly discusses two ways of accounting for pre-reflective self-consciousness, its role for conscious experience and how it fits into the natural world. On the one hand, there are relational views; on the other hand, there are non-relational accounts. This paper will argue that both approaches are not sustainable as they stand, since either important aspects are lost or not sufficiently embedded in the natural world. Consequently, I will argue for an alternative that allows for both a functional and an embodied nature of pre-reflective self-consciousness.

How to Cite
Gärtner, K. (2023). The Functional and Embodied Nature of Pre-reflective Self-consciousness. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 16(43), 89-124. Retrieved from