The Structure of Selves: The Nature of Selfhood and the Schizophrenic Experience

The Structure of Selves: The Nature of Selfhood and the Schizophrenic Experience

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The primary assumption of this study is that there exists a uniquely human selfhood. Consequently, the subsequent assumption, that there are structural and phenomenological similarities in the selves of all persons, necessarily follows. A model of the self which is able to accurately explain a number of different experiences of selfhood will be the one which is best suited to be accepted as an accurate portrait of human selves in general. Therefore, all modes of experiencing the self must be studied in order to gain a greater perspective and deeper understanding of human selfhood.

Although ideal, out of consideration for brevity, it would be impossible for the present study to account for all known modes of experiencing selfhood. The present study has thus focused on the paragon of psychosis: schizophrenia; and hence, will be inquiring into not only the possible nature and structure of human selfhood, but also that which can be learned about the nature of the human self from the schizophrenic condition. Despite most often being perceived as an anomaly of human nature, the schizophrenic condition has a great deal to teach us about the nature of the human condition in general. Phenomenological studies of the nature of selfhood point to the fact that despite some experiential differences there exists a great structural parity between the modes of selfhood found in ‘normal’ and schizophrenic individuals.

I propose that the self is best explained by what I am calling an “autopoiesistic-narrative emergence” model of selfhood. “autopoiesistic” refers to a biological system’s ability to self-organize, and hence its ability to autonomously create a self. Narrative refers to the ability to tell stories about oneself, both to oneself and to others, which in turn fashions a particular sense of selfhood for that individual. ( The relation between these two notions will be discussed in greater detail throughout the course of this essay, and will be given particular attention in the section entitled: “Selfhood: an Emergence of Narrative and Bio-Social Unity”). The strength of this theoretical explanation is its ability to account for a number of divergent psychological conditions while retaining a single model of the structure of selfhood.

Therefore, in short, the purpose of this essay will be to: 1) examine how the study of schizophrenia can be a useful tool for expanding our knowledge in regards to selfhood in general 2) put forth a model of selfhood 3) demonstrate how the proposed model of selfhood is able to account for both the ‘normal’ and ‘schizophrenic’ self; thus making it the best possible candidate for an acceptable theory of selfhood.

Learning from Schizophrenia

Although differing greatly in methodology and outcome, the purpose of this philosophical inquiry; insofar as it is an inquiry into the nature of human selfhood in general; and that of Minowski’s phenomenological psychiatric work on schizophrenia, may be said to be akin, for, “What Minowski is looking for is not primarily the meaning of schizophrenia, but rather what, in spite of everything, remains human about a human being.” (292 Naudin & Azorin 2002).

It is here being assumed that the nature and structure of the human self is shared across the wide-ranging spectrum of differing human psyches. Therefore, if a particular phenomenal mode of experiencing the self is able to occur in a schizophrenic it must be plausible that a similar phenomenon is able to occur in the mind of a ‘normal’/non-pathological individual as well. Furthermore, both modes of the self, that is the ‘normal’ and the psychotic, must be able to be accounted for by a single theoretical model of the human self.

I have chosen to concentrate primarily on phenomenological accounts of schizophrenia insofar as, in agreement with Bentall (1990), I believe that the traditional means of diagnostic categorization of the schizophrenic condition foster a false distinction between psychopathology and normal psychology. ( Freeman 2004). Like Minowski, I am “concerned not so much with diagnostic categories as with general styles of experience.” ( 292 Naudin & Azorin 2002).

Therefore, in maintaining such a thesis I am aligning myself with others in the phenomenological tradition of psychiatry and philosophy. Subsequently, I find it appropriate to adopt, and personalize, a statement by Louis Sass: “any notion that there is a sharp boundary between [the general structure and nature of the self of] the ‘schizophrenic’ and other human beings is quite foreign to my thesis.” (3 Sass 1987).

Through the various studies of schizophrenia we find that a number of seemingly anomalous phenomena are possible within the human experience of selfhood, and that at times that which is thought of as being symptomatic of schizophrenia holds a resemblance to common everyday statements regarding one’s self. Some of the phenomena that are illuminated through the study of schizophrenia are :

1) Feeling as if the self is lost or diminished.:

> Complaints may range from a seemingly trivial[and ordinary], ‘I don’t feel myself’ or ‘I am not myself,’ to ‘I am losing contact with myself’…(Moller and Husby 2000)…The patient may sense that…subjectivity was somehow disturbed or diminished: for example, …’My I is disappearing for me,’ (Berze 1914, 126-129). (353 Sass & Parnas 2001).

2) An externalization of one’s own body, and or, mental contents as so they are no longer identified as being part of one’s self {Believing/feeling as if one’s thoughts, and or physical features, are not his/her own}:

> Their thoughts [, that is to say those of schizophrenic patients,] may seem to take on object like characteristics… ‘My first personal life is lost and replaced by a third-person perspective,’…(Parnas, Jansson, Sass et al. 1998). (353 Sass & Parnas 2001).

The subject[‘s]…experiences…are gradually transformed and substantialized into object like entities, which are then experienced as alien, intrusive, and independent (Sass 1994, 12, 38, 91,95). (341 Zahavi 2001).

> In the schizoid condition …there is a persistent scission between the self and the body. What the individual regards as his true self is experienced as more or less disembodied, and bodily experience and actions are in turn felt to be a part of the false-self system. (78 Laing 1960).

> Frith provides the following example of a patient who attributes his own movement to an alien agency… ‘The force moved my lips. I began to speak. The words were made for me.’ (Frith, 1992, p.66)…A similar example is given by Mellor… ‘When I reach my hand for the comb it is my hand and arm which move, and my fingers pick up the pen, but I don’t control them.’ (Mellor, 1970, p.17)… ‘I look out my window and I think the garden looks nice and the grass looks cool, but the thoughts of Eamon Andrews come into my mind. There are no thoughts there, only his. He treats my mind like a screen and flashes his thoughts onto it like you flash a picture.’ (Mellor, 1970, p.17)…In all of these cases, there is a lack of a sense of agency for the action or thought… (2 Gallagher 2003).

> The patient describes how ‘the eye’ (not ‘his eye’, emphasizing the exteriority of the eye to his person) earlier used to reach forward and found reality vague, obscured, darkened…And he explains that ‘the eye’ did not wish to see into this depth…Assessing this clinical note, we are struck…by the peculiarity of the description of this ‘eye-as-a-separate-person’…The otherness of ‘the eye’, and his struggle with it… (218 Heinimaa 2003).

What this demonstrates is that one’s subjective identity is able to shrink or expand, and hence, the boundaries of the self must be flexible. Furthermore, this illuminates the human’s capacity to feel as if otherness (other beings/external environment) can invade one’s self, altering it to some extent, and subsequently, leading to an individual’s fear of otherness, resulting in a fear of exposing one’s subjectivity to others. Thus, what this implies is that the self’s boundaries must also be permeable, and that existence ‘otherness’ and the external environment are integral to the formation of a human self. Therefore, these factors must be accounted for by any proposed model of selfhood.

Ultimately, that which is implicitly evident from the cases just presented is that dissociation, in one form or another, either from one’s own thoughts, actions, or body parts, is a major feature of the experience of self-disturbance in schizophrenia. “For Bergson, dissociation is a normal feature of thought.” (291 Naudin & Azorin 2001) . Accordingly, following from the above thesis, ‘normal’, non-psychotic individuals must be capable of achieving similar experiences of the self to those of the schizophrenic mentioned above. “The structures of ordinary self-awareness could be illuminated through a study of their pathological distortions, distortions profound enough to expose aspects of normal existence that are generally taken-for-granted and, therefore, remain unnoticed.” (340 Zahavi 2001). Hence, experiences resembling those of the above reports must be plausible within a ‘normal’/ non-psychotic population as well. For example:

> I…am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another. However intense my experience, I am conscious of the presence and criticism of a part of me, which, as it were, is not a part of me, but spectator, sharing no experience, but taking not of it; and that is no more I than it is you. (35 Thoreau 1854).

Evidence of the experiences of self’s dissociative capacities, permeability, and flexibility, can also be found in many common situations. Individuals often speak of “losing oneself”, which may be said by a great number of people but especially by performers, and musicians. It is not uncommon to hear a musician utter such a phrase as, “I felt as if it wasn’t me playing but as if some force took control of my hands.” Such commonly uttered phrases demonstrate that experiences resembling dissociation, alien-control, though-insertion, externalization of one’s body, and so forth, occur in the ‘normal’, average, non-psychotic, population as well.:

> from a didjeridu player’s point of view is that a deepened level of awareness is required to play traditional music. A loss of self or ego is required and total submersion in the present; what Mickey Hart would call “dancing on the edge” or being “in the moment”. The didjeridu is obviously not the only example of this in the world. It is one of many instruments capable of inducing this state of mind. (2 Spoecker 2005).

> There are times when we are, for a moment, “transported outside ourselves,”…Creative activities can also give us these feelings. Artists, musicians, writers, scientists, and crafts people talk about a point at which there are led by their creation, rather than the other way around.
(Boeree 2003 ).

> To create these conditions, we must present the sounds in such a way that they are transcendently beautiful; we must unfold the sounds so that the open listener can, through focusing his attentive consciousness exclusively on them, have an experience characterized by loss‑of‑self… (Thaker 2005).

These phenomena, insofar as they are experienced by human selves, are purely human phenomena, and hence must result from a specifically human structure of selfhood. Therefore, a theoretical model of the ‘normal’ self must be able to accurately account for these phenomena as well. It is the initial foundations of such a model which the current essay attempts to put forth.

Selfhood: An Emergence of Narrative and Bio-Social Unity

In an earlier paper I had put forth the claim that the identity of a person is the product of a narrative. The Thesis was that: one’s full identity is the synthesis of the objective narrative, pertaining to that individual, and of the subjective narrative of that individual. Selfhood is an emergent manifestation of, and contingent upon, the existence of organic self-organizing self-identifying autopoiesistic sub-systems. One’s self, as distinct from the totality of one’s full identity, is the focal point of one’s subjective narrative, or to use Dennett’s phrase, a “center of narrative gravity”. I shall recap the main arguments of that paper while expounding upon, and amending where necessary, various features of it in lieu of that which has been learned from the study of schizophrenia, and other oppositions pertaining to the nature of the self and of consciousness.

Autopoiesis and Lower Level Selves

Daniel Dennett claims that searching for the self is like looking for the Big Apple in Manhattan, insofar as there is no self mechanism in the brain, nor anywhere else for that matter. According to Dennett selfhood is an abstract product of evolution. As we climb the evolutionary ladder we are able to detect more fully developed selves, yet none of these are actual things; no creatures’ self is able to be located, for it is in no way a localized entity. At the center of all biological processes there exists a primordial form of self, insofar as all biological systems have the ability to distinguish between that which is on the inside of a given closed boundary and that which is external to the boundary (the external world). However, these boundaries are flexible and subject to change they may widen and recede. Both Daniel Dennett and Fransico Varela would agree upon this claim and both use the immune system as an example of a biological system which possesses a means of self-identification, although both have arrived at the notion independently. To elaborate on the point about the flexibility of boundaries: an immune system exists with certain boundaries yet as time passes and the system has been infiltrated by a number of bacteria not all of those bacterium are expelled, but rather, some become incorporated into the system; and hence, the system has extended its boundaries, for those new members have now become incorporated into that which is identified with this primordial self.

According to Varela, a system’s ability to self-organize, and hence, ability to produce a primordial form of selfhood, is called autopoiesis. Humberto Maturana, Varela’s colleague, and co-creator the autopoiesis theory, calls autopoiesis “‘the center of the constitutive dynamics of living systems’” (1 Mariotti). The theory states that living systems exist in an almost paradoxical dichotomous state of autonomy/dependency: they are self-producing systems which are simultaneously dependent upon their environment for the proper resources needed to fuel such an autonomous existence and self-induced emergence. The living system is self-organized yet the exact structure of that organization is dependent upon its surrounding environment, which, in turn, is structurally affected by the presence of the autopoiesistic system itself and vice versa in a continual, gradually evolving, existence of reciprocal exchange. Subsequently, Dennett’s notion of the flexibility of the self’s boundaries appears to be highly compatible with the Maturanian/Varelian notion of autopoiesis. (Maturana )

According to the autopoiesis theory, in order for one to properly categorize a living being it must not be studied in a context in which it is removed from its natural environment. Insofar as Varela postulates that all living systems are mutually self-organizing and interdependent, it necessarily follows that any systems’ selfhood will inextricably be contingent upon the selfhood and existence of other living systems. Like Dennett, Varela holds that the self is an emergent and delocalized property of the system. Thus, both Varela and Dennett would seem to agree that this emergent self is a virtual self, or an abstraction. (Varela web page) I shall maintain that this ‘virtual’/’abstractum’ self is an emergent central point of a living system’s structural organization. This emergent virtual center takes on different forms in different living systems, due to varying types of structural organization, yet comes into existence in the same way in each. As we move up the evolutionary scale we arrive at creatures who possess the property of self-regard, as Dennett describes as the ability to detect and retreat from danger, seek shelter, and strive to renew energy, or obtain nourishment. Thus, a creature such as a lobster is one who lives according to the principle of self-regard and hence, is in possession of a ‘minimal-self’, to use Dennett’s terminology. (6 Dennett).

Dennett states:
So a minimal self is not a thing inside a lobster or lark, and it is not the ‘whole lobster’ or ‘whole lark’ either; it is something abstract which amounts just to the existence of an organization which tends to distinguish, control and preserve portions of the world, an organization that thereby creates and maintains boundaries. (6 Dennett).

To go even one step further, Dennett claims that the selfhood of a human being is quite distinct from that of a lobster. Humans are involved in self-representation, “We…are constantly engaged in presenting ourselves to others, and to ourselves, and hence, representing ourselves.” (7 Dennett). [Even though he makes this distinction Dennett does acknowledge the fact that human beings like lobsters, have these boundaries, and appropriate things which are external to them, such as cars and houses etc… which become incorporated into their self-identification. I shall elaborate on this point about the incorporation of otherness into one’s self-identification at a later point in this essay when the discussion of its implications on one’s personal identity are more relevant.] This ability of self-representation is a mode of self-identification which, according to Dennett, is entirely distinct from the minimal-self of the lesser evolved creatures. “Our fundamental tactic of self-protection, self-control, and self-definition is…telling stories–and more particularly concocting and controlling the story we tell others – and ourselves – about who we are.” (7 Dennett). Therefore, full-blown selfhood, according to Dennett’s scheme, is differentiated from minimal-selfhood in that it takes on the form of a narrative. Although, I do stand in agreement with Dennett’s claim that narrativity is the primary characteristic distinguishing a minimal self from that of a full-blown human self, I do not wish to align myself with his claim that a minimal self is “entirely distinct” from a full-blown self insofar as I wish to maintain that both are self-produced and self-organized, sharing in a interdependence of structural patterning of that organization with their surrounding environments. In addition, both are dependent upon the existence of lower level autopoiesistic sub-systems for their emergence, and hence, are merely two different levels of selfhood on an evolutionary hierarchy of selves.

A human being’s full-blown selfhood, like that of a minimal self, is continually being created; it is an evolving representative identity which takes on the form of a narrative. Hence, fully human selves are essentially the by-products of stream-like narratives, which have their foundational basis in the minimal self of the homo-sapien organism, which in turn has as its foundational basis the existence of a number of primordial selves, all of which emerge autopoiesistically.

In his discussion of human selfhood Dennett rightfully points out that: “These strings, or streams, of narrative issue forth as if from a single source.” (8 Dennett). Thus, how could the self be the stream if the stream itself is emerging from a single point? Would it not be logical to conclude that the single point then is the self? In virtue of Dennett’s theory I would answer this in the affirmative, while simultaneously maintaining that this single point is not the source of the streams’ emergence, but is where the stream is unified as a whole. Just as the stream is a delocalized abstraction so too is the this single point of unification. Therefore, although one’s selfhood is the resultant effect of a delocalized abstract streaming narrative, the self which is experienced in a person’s ordinary day-to-day life is what Dennett calls the “center of narrative gravity”. Just as in physics, when a center of gravity is referred to it is truly an abstract concept that is the point of reference, so too is the self a fictional abstraction, which may indeed be phenomenologically experienced yet does not actually exist as a concrete localized entity. Adopting the ‘center of gravity’ notion not only illuminates our understanding of the ability for a narrative psychological self to exist as a virtual abstractum but may also be applied to the minimal and primordial selves as well, save the narrative aspect.

Subsequently, the selfhood of a human being is in no way a central supervisor, as it is so often thought to be, but is rather the virtual identity which arises from the integrated functioning of a plethora of subsystems of a complex organism, which is then presented to the organism itself, and others, in the form of a narrative by the system’s “center of narrative gravity”, which is created as a result of finding the optimal means of self-organization and identification. Therefore, the position being adopted here is: that the human self, or experience of identifying one’s selfhood, is the fluctuating center, or focal point of a narrative, which is the story of one’s life. There are multiple levels of reality, and hence multiple perspectives from which selfhood may be analyzed: the bio-physical, socio-cultural, cognitive-psychological, and phenomenological; which the current proposal attempts to adequately account for.

As we have seen in this section an explanation of the cognitive-psychological level has been introduced, while the bio-physical level, and the initial foundations of a primitive socio-cultural-environmental level, of selfhood have been explained by autopoiesis. Before proceeding any further I would like to discuss the phenomenological level of selfhood, tying it into, and elaborating upon, the levels just presented.

The Pre-reflective Self

One problem which is encountered is what Parnas and Zahavi, through a phenomenological endeavor into the nature of selfhood, have deemed the pre-reflective/phenomenal self. Similarly, Deikman, in accord with the traditions of both introspective mysticism and existentialism, has come across a phenomenon called ‘simple awareness’ (or as he puts it the “I”, which equals awareness), which may be said to be akin to the pre-reflective self. To explicate that of which I am speaking, Parnas and Zahavi claim that the existence of this phenomenal self does “not…imply that reflective self-awareness and objectifying self-thematization is impossible, but merely that it always presupposes a prior unthematic and pre-reflective self-awareness as its condition of possibility.” (262 Zahavi and Parnas 1999).

Moreover, in response to Dennett’s “Center of Narrative Gravity” theory, which I have previously employed as a prime means of explaining the human self, Deikman states that if the “process of introspective observation is carried to its conclusion, even the background sense of core subjective self disappears into awareness. Thus, if we proceed phenomenologically, we find that the ‘I’ is identical to awareness: ‘I’ = awareness.” (422 Deikman 1999) and hence, it would necessarily follow from this statement that this ‘I’ of awareness must exist prior to the subjective self of which is spawned from reflection.

Neither of these descriptions, which I take to be pointing to the same phenomenon, are accounted for in the narrative model of selfhood put forth by Dennett, nor does it have its proper place within the framework of the self put forth by Varela. Thus, it may be said that the pre-reflective phenomenal self is the pinnacle, or final result, of an individual’s organismic autopoiesis: in other words it is the minimal self. In this way it emerges prior to the reflective narrative aspects of the human self. The minimal self is that which emerges once a fully developed human body is in existence and immersed within the social realm, yet is prior to the formation of a narrative, for narratives ultimately require a certain degree of reflective activity for their creation. Even during the subjective experience of the self; that is to say what Dennett has referred to as a self’s ability to present itself to itself; reflection is involved. This presentation necessarily involves representation: “We…are almost constantly engaged in presenting ourselves to others, and to ourselves, and hence representing ourselves–in language and gesture, external and internal.” (7 Dennett 1989/1991) and if this representing is indeed narrative then it is necessarily a linguistic representation, and hence necessarily entails reflection to some degree. This linguistic representing in narrative cannot occur without there having been some form of reflective activity occurring prior. Hence, when the self when the self is being presented to itself in this subjective manner what is going on is not an immediate felt phenomenal awareness but an act involving a representation, entailing a mode of reflection for its formation. Thus, I propose that what is occurring in the case of one presenting oneself to oneself is what Kimura Bin has called ‘simultaneous reflection’. That is to say that the while the self is presenting itself to itself it is simultaneously reflecting upon its experience as to create the linguistic narrative in order to form such a representation and present it as such. (How though can a reflective act, which requires a looking back, be simultaneously occurring during that which it is there to produce? Well, even if it is only a few milliseconds prior to the creation of the representation the reflection has still occurred prior to it. Although it most likely occurs prior to the presenting it is such a short time before hand I find that to call it anything besides simultaneous reflection would be quite confusing.)

That which is being proposed here is that this pre-reflective aspect of the self is the pinnacle/final result of an individual’s autopoiesistic emergence of a global minimal self. This pre-reflective minimal self is that which emerges once a fully developed organic homo-sapien system has come into existence and is immersed within the social realm. It is the prerequisite for the emergence of the narrative mode of self-identification (which necessarily entails reflection) and hence emerges prior to, and is the foundational basis of, the reflective narrative self-identifying cognitive system. The pre-reflective self, which I am claiming is the minimal autopoiesistic self, is the prerequisite for the emergence of the narrative self-identification process, which as we shall see latter on is itself comprised of both subjective and objective aspects, for, in line with Dennett I hold that it is the initiator of self-regard and thus provides the means for an immediately felt quality of experience. There is a subjective self and an objective self found in human beings and both are distinguishable from the minimal self, (which is also to be found in lower level creatures and is only capable of pure awareness). Henceforth the minimal autopoiesistic self appears to be the perfect candidate to fulfill the role of the pre-reflective-phenomenal self of pure awareness, of which the above critics of narrative theory have brought to our attention.

Yet, is not the subjective self the aspect of an individual which endures the felt quality of experiences? I move to answer in the negative. It is the minimal self, the selfhood possessed by other beings besides humans (which are also assumed to have a felt quality to their experiences) which is the feeler of the qualitative aspects of immediate experience.

Thus the minimal self is that from which the subjective self begets its felt quality of experience and hence is able to reflect upon it, during what Kimura has deemed simultaneous reflection. Although it is said to be simultaneously reflective activity it is still reflective, which entails a looking back to a certain degree even if it is only a few milliseconds etc… Hence, insofar as it is reflective it cannot be that which is presented with the immediacy of experience of which Sartre, Parnas, and Deikman speak. In order to account for the phenomenon they so rightfully point out I have proposed that it is indeed the minimal self which is the awareness of immediate felt experience.

Although the minimal self is itself pre-reflective this does not necessarily preclude it from being reflected upon. Therefore, it is claimed that the subjective self is not only capable of reflecting upon the contents of its own narrative and those of the objective self’s narrative but also upon the experiences of the minimal/phenomenal self as well.

We are still left with the problem of accounting for both the split between the minimal/phenomenal aspect of the self and the narrative aspects of the self and the split between the two narratives. In response to this dilemma it is being postulated that the phenomenal self works as a cohesive of the two narrative selves (that is the objective and subjective selves). Hence, if the reflective/narrative aspects of the self begin to dissociate from the phenomenal aspect of the self then it follows that the two narrative selves themselves will begin to dissociate from one another as well.

The Reality of a Fictive Virtuality

At this point I would like to discuss Owen Flanagan’s take on Dennett’s notion of a “center of narrative gravity”, demonstrating how this notion of a delocalized self, which both Dennett and Varela take to imply the self’s illusory and fictional status, is compatible with the notion that the self is real.

I will begin with a brief discussion of Owen Flanagan’s interpretation and treatment of William James’ notion of the “stream of consciousness”, for it is highly relevant to both Flanagan’s theory and the topic at hand. I shall then proceed to give a precis of Flanagan’s theory, showing where it overlaps with the ideas put forth by both Dennett and Varela, suggesting amendments where they would be most constructive in producing a congruence amongst the various theoretical positions put forth.

Like Dennett, Flanagan holds that the mind’s “I”, or what Dennett commonly refers to as the “proper self” of traditional metaphysics, is a fictive illusion. The problem lies within the fact that as James so thoughtfully points out: “The only states of consciousness that we naturally deal with are found in personal consciousness, minds, selves, concrete particular I’s and you’s…Each though is owned.” (James 1892, 20). In an attempt to resolve this paradox Flanagan allies himself with the Jamesian claim that “‘the thoughts themselves are the thinkers’(James 1892, 83)” (178 Flanagan). According to Flanagan, each new conscious moment produces a new sense of “I”, “Each conscious thought is suffused by a ‘psychic overtone’, which carries the resonances of various aspects of the streams own past.(James 1890, 258). Minimally each new thought or thinking episode appropriates the sense that it occurs in this stream.” (181 Flanagan). The stream which Flanagan speaks of holds much similarity to the narrative stream spoken of by Dennett, for both point to the ebbing and flowing nature of consciousness and deny the existence of a localizable concrete ‘ego’, or ‘self’. Thus, as the narrative stream ebbs and flows so to does the human self, for it is not a fixed entity, but evolves overtime as the narrative itself is being created. Another point of convergence between Dennett and Flanagan is that both claim that a human being does not start off with a self, and hence, each human being gradually accrues a self overtime. (As it will be made clear later on, this notion of a gradually evolving self is also compatible with the theories of Marcel and Ricoeur).

Although denying to some extent Dennett’s claim that the self is an unreal fiction, Flanagan does indeed adopt Dennett’s notion of the self as being “the center of narrative gravity (Dennett 1989).” (Flanagan 189). Hence, the common ground here is that for both the self is a delocalized central point on the narrative stream of consciousness, which although is utterly mutable and non-local, is an important and causally efficacious phenomenon. Thus, whether or not this “center of narrative gravity” is a virtual fiction, as Varela and Dennett would claim, or is real, as Flanagan proposes, essentially we are discussing the same phenomenon.

So, how is one to conceive of this self as actual and real if Flanagan’s argument appears to be so akin to Dennett’s, and if Dennett’s claim that the self is a virtual fictional abstraction is not only cogent but seems to play a central role in his argument? Mind you, this is where Flanagan’s argument does at first glance seem to be a bit paradoxical, for he seems to accept Dennett’s claim that selves are fictions while simultaneously trying to maintain that “The idea that the self is a fiction is compatible with its being real.” (205 Flanagan). His argument proceeds as follows:

Insofar as it is a developmental construction which slowly emerges over time, and insofar as this self’s identity is constantly being altered, in part by the constant and continual revision of the narrative from which it has spawned, the self may be construed as an ever-changing and mutable fiction. Furthermore, the open-ended story which gives rise to this sense of self is contingent upon culturally relative pieces of information (or as Flanagan calls them: narrative hooks). Lastly, the self is expressive of idealized goals of what one wishes to become yet has not yet become. Thus, these are the four reasons Flanagan provides in defense of conceptualizing the self as a fictional entity. Yet, it is at this point that Flanagan defends his more radical and bold claim that: fictive selves are real. This is true insofar as fictive selves of real human beings are contingent upon the facts of reality. In actual fiction, such as literary fiction, the author is totally free in creating the identity and narrative of the character, whereas the self of the real human being is constrained by the things he/she has actually done, past experiences, and the dispositions actually revealed in one’s social life. Hence, if the narrative one presents to others does not match the way one is actually living one’s life, others will take notice; consequently, making the narrative self, or “center of narrative gravity”, answerable to the factsabout its own embodied existence. Moreover, this delocalized self actually plays a functional role in one’s mental life. After all, even Dennett acknowledges that fact that the “center of narrative gravity” is causally efficacious in that it imparts organization upon the system, harmonizing the various subsystems, and imbues the life of the individual with a distinct and unique meaning.

Thus, the center of narrative gravity, insofar as it is an emergent property of the cognitive system, is able to alter the structural organization of this system by altering its abstracted position and through alterations which may occur in various narratives. If narrative stream x is altered it will actually alter the way in which the cognitive system is structured in that emotions, memories, desires, etc… relating to x will undergo a change as well. This ability to actually alter the organizational structure of a living system is missing from a purely fictional, literary or otherwise, narrative. Furthermore, if the structure of the cognitive system is altered it will necessarily entail an alteration in the minimal self, for it is that which initially emerges from this system, and hence, will impact upon the purely phenomenal and pre-reflective mode of consciousness of the organism as well. Hence, although fictive to an extent, the self as an abstractum plays an imperative role in one’s physical and social realities.

In further support of Flanagan’s claim that a fictive self is real, I would like to add that a real self’s narrative identity differs from that of a fictional character’s insofar as the actual human being’s narrative is affected by and affects the narratives of other individuals. In a piece of fiction there is a limit to the amount of narratives the author is able to account for, and hence, can in no way replicate the interaction and interdependency of narrativity which occurs in the real world. The real person’s narrative is affected by a plethora of narratives, and to an extent is comprised of the narratives of others as well. This point is made apparent by Paul Ricoeur when he writes:

whereas every novel unfolds a textual world of its own, preventing us most often from relating to one another the incommensurable plots of different works…in our experience the life history of each of us in caught up in the histories of others. Whole sections of my life are part of the life history of others…It is precisely by reason of this entanglement…that life histories differ from literary ones… (161 Ricouer).

Furthermore, although Varela holds that this delocalized emergent self is virtual and illusory, I am claiming, in line with the argument put forth by Flanagan, that the self’s virtuality does not occlude its realness. To demonstrate how this is possible I shall revisit the claim that the narrative identity of a human life is constrained by the facts of objective reality, whereas the narrative identity of a literary character are not. Moreover, the narratives of real person’s are highly interrelated, and interdependent, which is an imperative fact which succeeds in differentiating a fictional narrative from a real non-fictive narrative. Thus, if entanglement distinguishes ‘fact from fiction’, so to speak, then although Varela speaks of virtual selves, these selves are truly real selves, despite their virtuality, for they are emergent from a the structural organization of a living organic system, which, (as is held by the autopoiesis theory) is in itself dependent upon its external environment for its specific structural mode of existence. Hence, although they are abstracta, the minimal and center of narrative gravity selves are hold existence within reality.

As Varela demonstrates, the essence of the self-identity of each living system is generatively dependent upon that of other systems. “It’s clear that the molecules interact in very specific ways giving rise to a unity that is the initiation of the self.” (2 Varela). Hence, akin to Ricouer’s point that each life history in entangled with that of another, this entanglement of systems is precisely that which is missing from a work of fiction. This entanglement is precisely, a distinctive feature of lived existence which is totally absent from pure works of fiction, yet which pervades life from the lowest forms to the highest. Thus, it is the presence of an entanglement of interrelated and co-determined self-organizing/self-identifying systems which imbues a ‘center of narrative gravity’, and a minimal self, with its ‘realness’, for the presence of otherness is a necessary condition for the emergence of both a minimal and a narrative self, and consequently for the existence of an actual full identity.

In order for a “center of narrative gravity” to be had, the person needs first to be an organism, as so a minimal self may be had, and prior to that needs first to be a living system in order for a primordial self to be had. “The nature of the identity of the cognitive self…is like that of the basic cellular self [primordial self], one of emergence through a distributed process. [Yet, the narratively inclined cognitive self, existing on] the global level cannot exist without the network level [,or primordial and minimal levels] since it comes forth through it.” (10-14 Varela 1991). Literary characters, who are most definitely considered fiction, lack this bottom up organic construction and composition, from which the identities of a selves first begin to emerge. Thus, even though, literary characters and humans both possess a narrative identity, they are distinguishable, and hence, it does not follow why the identity of the latter should be given the same status as that of the prior.

Now, this is not to claim that a real life is in no way comparable to a narrative story, for indeed a human’s mode of presenting him/herself to him/herself and to others takes the form of a narrative. Rather, this is only to draw a distinction between these two types of narratives, demonstrating how that of a lived life and that of a literary novel are quite distinct modes of narration.

Actual Full Identity

One question which may arise is: if Dennett’s notion of self is fictional, how can it be said to exert real effects? How can it be causally efficacious in reality if it is itself unreal? To amend this dilemma, Flanagan draws a distinction between the realism/non-realism debate and the fiction/non-fiction debate in regards to selfhood. { I shall view Dennett’s notion of ‘center of narrative gravity’ and Flanagan’s notion of ‘self-represented identity’ as akin and thus, use them interchangeably. }

Flanagan proposes that each human being has an “actual full identity” and a “self-represented identity”. The “actual full identity” is not like the “proper self” of the traditional realist, however, for he does not hold that it is a real thing. Rather, it is:

{1}a construct that draws on the best theories available to describe what a person actually does, as well as the dynamic system of traits, dispostitions, identifications, including self-representations, that constitute character and help drive the system…[and] {2}Unlike the proper self, actual full identity is not the sort of thing that can be known, grasped, or otherwise apprehended in some simple act of self-consciousness… [Furthermore,]{3} actual full identity is not a place…[rather] {4} Actual full identity is the self as described by the most enlightened version of the story of the self that emerges as science advances and first-person opacities and distortions are removed. It is described in abstract terms. But the actions, relations, and patterns depicted are real, not fictional. (209 Flanagan).

One thing that I find problematic with Flanagan’s distinct notions of “actual full identity” and “self-represented identity” is that on the one hand the “actual full identity” he describes is in part made up of one’s “self-represented identity” yet on the other hand is what is had once “first person opacities and distortions are removed”. This seems a bit paradoxical, for how can one remove the first person perspective, when the first person perspective is partly that which constitutes the overall make-up of the “actual full identity”? To bring clarity to this issue I wish to introduce Gabriel Marcel’s notion of personal identity, employing it as a means of properly adjusting and amending Flanagan’s theory as to eliminate this logical paradox. Secondly, I shall be re-introducing the notion of a phenomenal self, demonstrating in greater depth how it is related the various aspects of one’s narrative identity.

Similar to Flanagan’s distinction between “actual full identity” and “self-represented identity”, is Gabriel Marcel’s claim that one’s personal identity is comprised of both an ‘objective identity’ and a ‘felt quality of identity’. The main difference, however, that which I hope to employ as a saving grace to Flanagan’s distinction, is that ‘objective identity’ in no way is comprised of the ‘felt quality of identity’. The latter is entirely subjective, as is Flanagan’s “self-represented identity”. Thus, if we are to conceive of the distinction between what Marcel calls an ‘objective identity’ and a “self-represented identity”, then the latter half of Flanagan’s definition of “actual full identity” remains cogent, for what I have done is to postulate the “actual full identity” as a synthesis of both the “objective identity” and the “self-represented identity”, as Flanagan has done at the onset of his definition, yet claim that the latter portion of his definition is not to be applied to “actual full identity” but instead to one’s “objective identity”. Thus, we may conceive of “objective identity” as the totality of one’s identity as it exists in the realm of third-person perspectives being perceived by others. Therefore, I find it more conducive to the argument to conceive of that which Flanagan refers to as “actual full identity”as a synthesis of “objective identity” and “self-represented-felt identity”, rather than something that is to be conceived of as residing on a pole opposite to that of “self-represented identity”. However, what has become of the phenomenal, pre-reflective self? I postulate that the minimal self, or the pre-reflective phenomenal self be incorporated into one’s actual full identity as well, not as a narrative but as that which is responsible for the felt quality of experience Marcel speaks of. If we hold that the minimal self itself is that which is responsible for the qualitative immediacy of experience then it may be said that the self-represented-identity begets its felt quality of experience from is reflection upon the experiences of the minimal pre-reflective phenomenal self, which underlies and precedes the emergence of the narratives of one’s self-represented-identity.

Consequently, in lieu of that which has been learned from the phenomenological studies of schizophrenia, an important point must be made in regards to the functioning of a system of selfhood. The self-represented-identity is able to take on two distinct modes of representation simultaneously. Although Dennett is correct in claiming that we present ourselves to ourselves and to other in two varying modes of representation, he has failed to account for the fact that presenting oneself to others (which is accounted for in the notion of ‘objective identity’) entails an ability to present oneself to oneself as an object of the perceptions of others. Hence, this points to a dichotomy of one’s self-represented-identity. Not only is there a purely subjective experience of one’s own identity but there is also a subjective experience of one’s objective identity; one subjectively experiences him/herself not only as a subject but as an object of the experiences of others. Thus, there is both a subjective and almost objective-like mode of self-representation. All this may be likened to that which the existentialist tradition calls being-in-the-world, which is comprised of being-for-oneself and being-for-others. The notion of being-for-others rightly accounts for that which I am speaking of here, however, does not account for the notion of ‘objective identity’ discussed previously, for there is not only one’s perception of how others perceive him/her (being-for-others) but the way in which others actually perceive him/her.

Therefore, to summarize and clarify, there exists both an ‘objective identity’ and a ‘self-represented identity’. One’s ‘objective identity’ is the way in which other’s perceive this individual as a ‘self’, as opposed to the way in which on perceives oneself as a ‘self’. Conversely, a ‘self-represented identity’ is the way in which one perceives oneself as a ‘self’. However, self-representing functions in two distinct modes. First, there is the way in which one autonomously perceives oneself independent of any third person perceptions. Secondly, there is the way in which one perceives oneself as a ‘self’ being observed by others; basically one’s notion of his/her ‘self’ as seen through the eyes of other individuals.

As to avoid confusion and accurately account for both of one’s modes of self-representing one’s identity I would like to adopt Kimura Bin’s terms ‘noetic self’ and ‘noematic self’, slightly altering their definitions as to fit the current narrative context. The noetic self is that portion of one’s self-represented-identity which is purely subjective in that it does not take into account the way one presents oneself to others. This is the story of one’s life that one tells oneself that is entirely free of one’s interrelations with others and is hence, a purely internal and subjective narrative. Conversely, the noematic self is that aspect of one’s self-represented identity which does indeed concern itself with one’s interactions and relations with others, and hence, is a story of one’s being an acting agent in the world. Simply put, the noematic self is the way in which we self-represent our own objective identity. In the average person the noetic and noematic narratives are highly integrated, and hence their distinct nature is not commonly self-evident, and hence often overlooked. Due to the extreme dissociation between the two modes of self-representing one’s identity in the schizophrenic individual, the distinct nature of the noetic and noematic self-narrative become apparent. After analysis, we come to realize that this distinction is present within all human selves as well, even if it is not initially evident.


Autopoiesistic Entanglement

As we saw earlier Varela’s notion of “autopoiesis” entails not only a scientific method of categorization, but a conceptual scheme within the philosophy of science. His theory claims that all organic living systems are mutually self organizing and interdependent. When it comes to the identification and characterization of a particular system, it must be studied and analyzed within the context of its natural environment , and hence, in the context of its natural interrelatedness with other systems. (Varela 1991) Furthermore, as is implied by both Varela’s and Dennett’s arguments, otherness in necessary for the emergence of self-identification, and may even at times be incorporated into a self-identification. As Dennett makes clear in “The Origins of Selves”, minimal selves have permeable and flexible boundaries and similarly the boundaries of a human being’s non-minimal narrative self also exhibits these traits of permeability and flexibility. “So sometimes we enlarge our boundaries; at other times, in response to perceived challenges real or imaginary, we let our boundaries shrink.” (7 Dennett 1989/1991).

In a similar vein, Kimura Bin, in his works on selfhood and schizophrenia, has suggested that the self, insofar as it is reliant upon the external environment for its manifestation and existence, exits somewhere in between the individual organism (in this case the human) and its environment. Kimura “draws the self into the world, highlighting a unique view of the subject that is neither “in” the organism nor “outside” it. ‘Its place of being is between the organism and the environment, therefore in a certain sense outside the organism.’…Kimura Bin describes this ‘in between’ space of the subject with the Japanese word aida [which is used to account for] the ‘between’ of interpersonal relations.” (344 Phillips 2001). Relating Kimura’s notion to that of Dennett it may be said that it is this aida, or “in between-ness” of a self which is precisely the trait that allows it to maintain such a permeability and flexibility in regards to its boundaries.

Moreover, giving further support to the above claim: as was demonstrated by Ricoeur, even narrative identities partake in a similar kind of interrelatedness, which he has called “entanglement”, and concludes that otherness is an imperative and integral aspect of human selfhood and hence is a constituent of a self’s entire ontology. “…otherness is not added on to selfhood from outside…but that it belongs instead to the tenor of meaning and to the ontological constitution of selfhood …” (317 Ricoeur). Therefore, a “center of narrative gravity”, like a minimal or primordial self, is dependent upon its entanglement and interactions with other systems (in this case narrative systems) for its emergence and for its unique identity.

In addition to Dennett’s claim, Ricoeur’s study, and Varela’s methodology, and taking into account the objective/subjective self dichotomy; of which is put forth by both Marcel and Flanagan and argued for in the next section of this essay; if we hold that the noematic self is the aspect of the self which deals with externality and otherness, then it is possible to fully make sense of Kimura’s claim and understand exactly how this aida is achieved, for the noetic aspect of one’s self-represented identity is that which is thought to be within the individual organism, while the noematic aspect of one’s self-represented identity is that which is outside. Insofar as both are merely aspects of a singular self in its totality, it may hence be concluded that the self as a whole truly does exist some where in this aida space in between the organism and its environment. As we shall see later on the notions of permeability and flexibility of a self’s boundaries, otherness as integral to the development and existence of a self, and aida, or the in between-ness, of the self play an extremely important and helpful role in explaining the anomalous experiences of selfhood had by schizophrenics.

In addition, Kimura speaks of not only an individual subjectivity but of a collective subjectivity as well. I interpret this collective subjectivity to be referring to the way in which one identifies with others in regards to race, ethnicity, mutual interests, geographical location, etc… and hence begets a portion of his/her own self-represented-identity from being a member of a group. It is the noematic self which is the representation of this ‘collective subjectivity’, or group identity, whereas the noetic self is the representation of one’s ‘individual subjectivity’, or individual identity.

From what has just been put forth it may be concluded that the totality of a human self, or any self for that matter (including minimal and primordial selves), exists not within the individual physical organism but somewhere in between this physical being and its surrounding environment. Thus bolstering the claim that otherness is truly an integral part of each individual selfhood. While it is a very bold and exciting claim which would impact tremendously on our notions of selfhood I shall refrain from delving any further and discuss this point in greater depth at a later point in the essay.

Synopsis of Selves

Before proceeding to our discussion of the selfhood of schizophrenics, I wish to give a brief precis of the present model of selfhood. Initially, there is a primordial self, which refers to the self-organizing and interactive qualities of lower level biological systems. A cell or immune system are examples of primordial selves. Built upon, and comprised of such primordial selves, we move to the level of a minimal self, which refers to lower level cognitive systems. Minimal selves are pre-reflective selves, in that they only deal directly with the purely felt quality of experience. Although reflective analysis is absent at this level of selfhood, a necessary requirement is the trait of self-regard. Continuing up the evolutionary ladder, we arrive at a narrative self, which refers to higher level cognitive functioning, namely, one’s ability to create , and continually alter and re-create, one’s conception of one’s ‘self’ by means of story-telling (both to oneself and to others).

Through further analysis it is discovered that a narrative self may be broken down into various sub-divisions. Immersed within the framework of the narrative self we find two senses of self-identity. The first is the objective identity, which is one’s identity as it is perceived by others in the third person. Secondly, there is one’s self-represented identity, which is one’s identity as it is perceived by that individual; this is the way in which an individual presents a conception of his ‘self’ to himself. Moving on, the self-represented identity may be broken down further into two distinct subjective senses of self; they are the noematic and noetic selves. The noematic self is the way in which one presents one’s ‘self’ to him/herself in lieu of how he/she believes others perceive him/herself. Hence, it is one’s self-representation of how he/she is presenting his/her ‘self’ to others. Conversely, the noetic self is a purely subjective self-representation. It is the way in which one presents one’s ‘self’ to oneself without consideration for third person perspectives.

While distinguishable, all of the various levels and senses of selfhood are indeed interrelated, holding the ability to affect one another. It is at this synoptic level that we presented with one’s actual full identity.

The Schizophrenic Self

When taking into account the knowledge learned from phenomenological studies of the schizophrenic experience of self the prior distinction between a “noetic self” and a “noematic self” becomes imperative in the structural explanation of the schizophrenic self. This distinction is highly evident in schizophrenic individuals, yet may also be found to be part of the ‘normal’ individual’s experience of selfhood as has been demonstrated previously.

Having put forth Kimura Bin’s postulation of the existence of both a ‘noetic’ and ‘noematic’ self as an integral part of human nature, which is a result of his studies of the schizophrenic condition, I will be defending this position as both a tangible phenomenological explanation of self-disturbance in schizophrenics, and thus, as an common aspect of selfhood shared by all human individuals. Adopting Kimura’s position I would like to claim that what lies at the heart of the pathological nature of the schizophrenic condition is a split between these two distinct aspects of the self. “The two must be integrated, and it is a failure of this integration that is at the basis of the schizophrenic’s ego disturbance.” (1 Phillips 2001). Where I part ways with Kimura is in my adoption of Dennett’s narrative theory of identity, claiming that the noetic and noematic selves are truly two different sets of narrative streams.

If there is a dissociation between the two the noetic self will fail to incorporate the actions of the noematic self into its narrative identity, and hence the resultant effect is the phenomenon of the feeling of a loss of self or of ‘not being oneself’, which is highly prevalent in individuals afflicted by schizophrenia. The only aspect of being which the schizoid identifies with is being-for-oneself, and fails to identify with his/her mode of being-for-others. His/her sense of self identification becomes restricted to a single narrative mode of being rather than incorporating the full spectrum of which his/her narrative is comprised.

As one’s mode of narrative identification changes one’s center of narrative gravity begins to shift. However, this does not imply that a new center of narrative gravity has now emerged. If I may, I would like to look at the center of gravity analogy for a moment. When the noematic narratives cease to be incorporated into one’s identification process it is not as if a leg of a chair were cut off, which would necessarily entail that the leg itself now had its own center of gravity having been removed from the body of the chair. Rather, it is as if a particular leg of this chair no longer contributed to the existence of the chair’s center of gravity, while still being part and parcel of the chair’ constitution as a whole. Thus, drawing on the works of Dennett, Kimura, and Sass, it is postulated that due to an overt amount of self-reflection the noematic narrative streams have been occluded from contributing to the virtual position of the center of narrative gravity.

In Schizophrenia one’s actual full identity ( the composite of one’s phenomenal self, noetic and noematic self-represented identities and objective identity) undergoes a sort of psychological mitosis to the point where that which is most often (and used to be in the schizoid ) considered the internal/the subjective, begins to become identified with that which is external, taking on a sense of extreme otherness. Although it is truly still part of one’s narrative it ceases to be identified with and incorporated into the self-represented identity.

The noetic and noematic narratives continue to run on parallel planes, however, they cease to exist as a unified whole. Yet, it is not that either is a full narrative with its own center of narrative gravity. These two stories are running along parallel and even connected tracks, yet where they used to be individuated but fully connected to one another they are now separate, and hence their narrative and phenomenal connected ness has become disjointed to a certain extent. Since each is one side of a single story they both share a single center of narrative gravity. It appears that the two identities (the noetic and noematic selves) are still logically and narratively experienced as one in the initial prodromal stages of schizophrenia, being only phenomenally divorced. As the condition worsens, however, the awkwardness of this felt qualitative experience is logically made sense of though the positing of abnormal and eccentric theories. Ultimately, delusional beliefs are implemented by the patient him/herself as a means of explaining the phenomenal divorce of the schizophrenic’s narrative identity.

Moving on I would like to turn our attention to the overtly intense form of analytic thinking and self-reflective behavior which is plausible within the human mind, and which is highly prevalent amongst schizophrenics. “What occurs in this illness [schizophrenia] is often a kind of hyperconsciousness combined with alienation from one’s own body, emotions, and thoughts as well as from the social and practical world…(323 Sass 1999). The cause of this dissociation between the ‘internal’ and the ‘external’, and the externalization of portions of one’s self-represented-identity, is an overt amount of self reflection, which is accompanied by and may result in a fear/resistance to otherness, which has been accounted for by that which Sass has deemed ‘hyperreflexivity’. “[T]he features that I consider to be most central to schizophrenia–namely, phenomena of intense self-consciousness and alienation, the turning inward and way from social life and practical activity and from emotion that I shall call ‘hyperreflexivity’… hyperreflexivity [is] (a condition that often involves, but is not restricted to, hyperrationality).” (322 – 323 Sass 1999).

Adopting this notion, it is with the ‘hyperrational’ aspect of “hyperreflexivity’ that I would like to focus my attention on, demonstrating how it is akin to what Gabriel Marcel has deemed ‘primary reflection’ (that which, in a previous essay, I have referred to as ‘analytic reflection’) and to the dissociating feature of though and intellect of which Bergson speaks.

[From a Marcellian point of view] Primary reflection …is an analytic mode of reflection, which dissects and categorizes, detaching the object of reflection form one’s own sense of self. This is the mode of reflection usually employed by the schizophrenic patient. Primary reflection, which I would like to refer to as analytic reflexivity, externalizes the object of reflection removing it from any contact with the inner subjective realm… (10 Durante 2005).

In accord with a Bergsonian stance, it may be said that the schizophrenic not only undergoes an exacerbated form of self-reflection but does so in a highly analytic manner.

The work of intellect is then seen as (literally) that of ‘analysis’, of breaking up this undivided continuity [of the relationship between the subjective and objective] into discrete objects…A furhter important distinction introduced by the intellect is that between inner and outer, subject and object, thus generating the idea of an ‘objective world’, existing in complete independence of the experiencing subject. (120 Matthews 1999).

Whereas Marcel and Bergson have not focused their attention schizophrenia, but rather speak of such dissociative reflecting in regards to ‘normal’ thinking processes of a human self, Sass applies this notion to the schizophrenic condition, while simultaneously maintaining that the phenomenon of ‘hyperreflexivity’ does indeed occur in ‘normal’ individuals as well. “…I am not claiming that characteristics involving hyperreflexivity are found only is such[schizophrenic] patients. Like virtually any aspect of mental processes, the forms of reflexivity and alienation that I emphasize are not unique to any diagnostic group or personality type, but only more prominent or less prominent in them.” (324 Sass 1999). Hence, what we are left with is a normal feature of the human psyche which becomes exacerbated in the schizophrenic condition resulting in a pathological state of mind. Thus, all individuals are privy to self-fragmentation and dissociation due to the human self’s aptitude for a hyperreflexive state of mind.

Furthermore, in line with the phenomenological psychiatric literature on the experience of selfhood in the schizophrenic condition, Dennett has claimed that a self’s boundaries have the ability to expand or shrink depending on the individual’s perception of the external world. Although it appears that he has not intended this claim to be explanatory of schizophrenia, I find it highly pertinent and very applicable to the current topic of discussion. Dennett’s example and statement are as follows:

I didn’t do that! That wasn’t really me talking. Yes, the words came out of my mouth, but I refuse to recognize them as my own.’…This shrinking tactic has important moral implication. If you make yourself really small, you can externalize virtually everything. (7 Dennett 1989/91).

What we discover about the nature of selfhood from the phenomenological studies on schizophrenia is precisely what Dennett has stated; namely, that the schizophrenic reduces the boundaries of his/her self-represented identity so much so that virtually everything (including the noematic aspect of his own self,, and possibly even parts his/her own physical person) has become utterly externalized, and hence the self is qualitatively experienced as being lost or diminished.

That which is ultimately occurring in the schizophrenic condition is a reduction of the range of the boundaries of one’s self-represented identity as a result of the lack of a felt sense of oneness with the noematic self. This divorce, which has occurred both in part by the shrunken boundaries of the self-represented identity, and the lack of phenomenal unity with the noematic aspect of the self; which, as we have seen, is the consequence of a hyperreflexive state of self-reflection; precludes the narrative entanglement of the noetic self with its otherness. “[The noetic] self, in maintaining its isolation and detachment does not commit itself to a creative relationship with the other…[and hence,] cannot be directly observable by or directly expressed to others…” (84 Laing 1969).

Moreover, in speaking about the felt experience of a normal individual the above quote by Dennett points to the fact that we can draw parallels between the experiences of the self of normal individuals and those of schizophrenics, for this statement could have very well been made by a schizophrenic patient who was in the midst of experiencing the clinical phenomenon of thought insertion . Therefore, insofar as the normal individual and the schizophrenic are capable of having shared phenomenal experiences in regards to selfhood this implies that the two should share a common structure of the self as well.

To briefly summarize, the structure of the human self consists of multiple levels and senses of selfhood. Firstly, each individual is comprised of a plethora of primordial selves, which are living systems possessing a primitive means of self-identification and ability to recognize ‘otherness’; an example of a primordial self is the immune system. Comprised of, but not limited to the composite of, primordial selves is the minimal self, which is a creature’s ability for self-regard. A minimal self is a lower level conscious cognitive self which creates and maintains boundaries that distinguish ‘self’ from ‘other’ in a manner more complex than that of a primordial self. Although complex, a minimal self exists prior to the emergence of rational reflective cognitive capacities. Hence, a minimal self is a pre-reflective self; it has the ability of conscious self-regard and awareness yet is unable to achieve higher cognitive functioning such as linguistic and reflective capabilities. Insofar as it lacks the ability for reflection, the minimal pre-reflective self is able to achieve a state of pure awareness. Finally, we come to the narrative self, or the self of higher cognitive functions, namely linguistic and reflective capacities. An individual creates stories in regards to one’s identity as a human self, and it is this conglomerate web of stories which comprise a narrative self. It is this narrativity which defines one as a uniquely human self.

Moreover, the narrative self may be broken into subsequent senses of self: Objective-identity and Self-represented-identity. One’s objective-identity is the set of stories regarding one’s identity as a self as purported and perceived by others from a third person perspective. One’s self-represented-identity is an individual’s mental representation of one’s own self, whose formation is the result of various narratives told to oneself by him/herself. Subsequently, the self-represented-identity is comprised of two distinct modes of self-representation: the noetic and noematic selves. The noetic self is the set of narratives which correlate to one’s purely subjective sense of self. These narratives are formed through one’s reflection upon one’s self, not as a member of a collective group or environment but as an independent and autonomous singular entity. Conversely, the noematic self correlates to one’s sense of being a self in relation to the world and others. The noematic self is the way in which one self-represents his/her own objective-identity, which in this context becomes an integral part of how one perceives one’s selfhood. Taken together as a whole, one’s minimal self, which necessarily consists of primordial selves, and one’s narrative self, consisting of the various senses of self that it is comprised of, form one’s actual full identity as a uniquely human self.

Although I have pointed to the comparability of schizophrenic and ‘normal’ selves, I must admit to there differences. However, these are not to be construed as differences in kind, but rather as differences in degree. As it has been made apparent, the schizophrenic condition entails an elevation in one’s ability to perform analytic-reasoning combined with an excessive degree of self-reflection, which, as a normal feature of human cognition, results in the occlusion of otherness and externality from being incorporated into one’s self-represented-identity, and of an externalization of aspects commonly integrated into one’s self-represented-identity.

Drawing on various theoretical works and academic studies, the present essay has put forth a model of the self which has attempted to account for the cognitive, biological, phenomenological, and social aspects of selfhood. Having been incorporated into the present model of selfhood, a great deal regarding the nature of human selves has been learned from the study of schizophrenia, and in turn, has enabled the model to account for various phenomena associated with the schizophrenic condition. Insofar as findings begotten from studies of other divergent modes of self-experience may indeed warrant an alteration of certain aspects of the current theory, the model being presented is open to revision.


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