In this book José Luis Bermúdez addresses two fundamental problems in the philosophy and psychology of self-consciousness: (1) Can we provide a noncircular account of full-fledged self-conscious thought and language in terms of more fundamental capacities? (2) Can we explain how full-fledged self-conscious thought and language can arise in the normal course of human development? Bermúdez argues that a paradox (the paradox of self-consciousness) arises from the apparent strict interdependence between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. The paradox renders circular all theories that define self-consciousness in terms of linguistic mastery of the first-person pronoun. It seems to follow from the paradox of self-consciousness that no account or explanation of self-consciousness can be given.
Responding to the paradox, the author draws on recent work in empirical psychology and philosophy to cut the tie between self-conscious thought and linguistic self-reference. He argues that any explanation of full-fledged self-consciousness that answers these two questions requires attention to prelinguistic and preconceptual forms of self-consciousness.
"Interdisciplinary yet philosophically rigorous. . . . mark[s] the beginning of a new era in the study of human consciousness."
—H. Storl, Choice