Fantasies and facts: epistemological and methodological perspectives on rst- and third-person perspectives

Shaun Gallagher


In this paper, I challenge two Cartesian assumptions. The first assumption to be challenged is that there is an independent solitary self (material or immaterial) that is a proper part of a person (i.e., a human being). I challenge this assumption by setting out a materialistic alternative to Descartes – one that, on the one hand, abandons solitariness, yet on the other hand, retains the significance of the first-person perspective so prominent in Descartes’ account. On my view, persons have first-person perspectives essentially, and first-person perspectives provide persistence conditions for persons. However, persons have no inner selves or inner agents; they have no parts that are selves at all. The second assumption that I challenge is one that equates what is real with what is in some strict sense mind-independent. The assumption, so widespread today, is that what has ontological status can exist in a world without mentality. On this assumption, nothing mental or intentional belongs in the basic ontology of the world. I’ll try to show that this assumption is traceable to Descartes’ view of minds and bodies, and that it is wrong.


Descartes; self; first-person perspective; person; metaphysical realism

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