When Self-Consciousness Breaks: Alien Voices and Inserted Thoughts (Philosophical Psychopathology)
G. Lynn Stephens
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In this book, G. Lynn Stephens and George Graham examine verbal hallucinations and thought insertion as examples of what they call "alienated self-consciousness." In such cases, a subject is directly or introspectively aware of an episode in her mental life but experiences it as alien, as somehow attributable to another person.
Stephens and Graham explore two sorts of questions about verbal hallucinations and thought insertion. The first is their phenomenology -- what the experience is like for the subject. The second concerns the implications of alien episodes for our general understanding of self-consciousness. Psychopathologists look at alien episodes for what they reveal about the underlying pathology of mental illness. As philosophers, the authors ask what they reveal about the underlying psychological structure and processes of human self-consciousness.
The authors suggest that alien episodes are caused by a disturbed sense of agency, a condition in which the subject no longer has the sense of being the agent who thinks or carries out the thought. Distinguishing the sense of subjectivity from that of agency, they make the case that the sense of agency is a key element in self-consciousness.
thoughts that have become audible.” Later we shall offer our own explanation of the “nonsensory” (nonphenomenal, nonauditory) character of some voices. Voice Lessons 27 For the nonce, let us briefly consider the following possibility: Suppose that a person finds himself with the “information” that someone is trying to kill him. He has no initial sense of how he acquired this information, but he is surprised to have it. He doesn’t recall thinking of it previously or having been engaged in
Andrews’s only in the sense that they are thoughts that he wants her to think or for which he is causally responsible for her thinking. We sometimes say that others have put ideas into our head or that others have done our thinking for us. The use of these familiar idioms does not mean that we believe that some episode in our psychological history is, literally, another person’s thought. Indeed, it is not clear that it makes any logical sense to say that an episode in one person’s psychological
ourselves” (p. 59). It is in this connection that we shall discuss his view. We should make clear at the outset that Frankfurt does not have in mind by “experiences of externality” experiences of alienation. He also does not have in mind such phenomena as thought insertion or voices. He develops his account without reference to psychopathology. We will be applying his ideas to problems he does not consider, and perhaps extending them in ways he would not approve. Nevertheless, we believe that
difference between the subject’s experience of her thoughts in the two cases lies in how she represents the other as causing the relevant thoughts to occur in her mind. The merely influenced subject believes that the other has caused her to think the thought—i.e., that the other agent has caused her to have the underlying intentional states that cause her to think the thought.The other exerts his influence through her agency— he manipulates her agency. In thought insertion, by contrast, the
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