On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects

On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects

Caspar John Hare
With an Introduction by Mark Johnston
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 144
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    On Myself, and Other, Less Important Subjects
    Book Description:

    Caspar Hare makes an original and compelling case for "egocentric presentism," a view about the nature of first-person experience, about what happens when we see things from our own particular point of view. A natural thought about our first-person experience is that "all and only the things of which I am aware are present to me." Hare, however, goes one step further and claims, counterintuitively, that the thought should instead be that "all and only the things of which I am aware are present." There is, in other words, something unique about me and the things of which I am aware.

    On Myself and Other, Less Important Subjectsrepresents a new take on an old view, known as solipsism, which maintains that people's experiences give them grounds for believing that they have a special, distinguished place in the world--for example, believing that only they exist or that other people do not have conscious minds like their own. Few contemporary thinkers have taken solipsism seriously. But Hare maintains that the version of solipsism he argues for is in indeed defensible, and that it is uniquely capable of resolving some seemingly intractable philosophical problems--both in metaphysics and ethics--concerning personal identity over time, as well as the tension between self-interest and the greater good.

    This formidable and tightly argued defense of a seemingly absurd view is certain to provoke debate.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3090-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)
    Mark Johnston

    The short work you have before you is quite remarkable. Not just for the penetrating clarity of its philosophical prose, and not just for its uncompromising determination to follow the argument wherever it leads.

    The work announces that there is someone among us who is absolutely special, who has no peers, or “no neighbors” as Ludwig Wittgenstein once put it, by way of describing solipsism. The character of this person’s mental life is graced by a feature—“presence”—found in the mental life of no other.

    As it turns out, we readers are particularly fortunate in that the author, Caspar...

  5. 1 Self-Interest and Self-Importance
    (pp. 1-8)

    It is common to have a mildly exaggerated sense of the significance of your own joys and miseries, butgrandself-importance is rare. Louis XIV was grandly self-important. He believed that, when he consumed too much foie gras,Francesuffered gastric pain. When he took satisfaction from the construction of a new fountain on the grounds of Versailles, that feeling would settle over his natural kingdom—from the docks of Brest to the poxridden slums of Marseilles. For Louis, self-indulgence was anational mission.

    When we have the state in mind, we are working for ourselves. The welfare of the...

  6. 2 Time-Bias and the Metaphysics of Time
    (pp. 9-18)

    Some people care not only aboutwhatthings happen, but also aboutwhenthings happen. One way to care about the when as well as the what is to care about how events are ordered over the course of history—a history across which good and bad things are evenly sprinkled, for example, might seem preferable to one with good things clumped at one end, bad things clumped at the other.¹ Another way is to care more about what happens at some times than others—what happens on the first day of the year 2000, for example, might seem to...

  7. 3 Egocentrism and Egocentric Metaphysics
    (pp. 19-40)

    We can make peace between considerations of the greater good and time-biased considerations by adopting an appropriate metaphysical picture. Can we perform an analogous trick for egocentric considerations? What sort of picture would allow us to say that, whenever we favor scenarios in which we are better off, we favor simply better maximal states of affairs? Well, at a minimum the picture would have to imply that, in the “after the train crash” case, where I have a preference that I not suffer, the two possibilities that seem open to me represent different maximal states of affairs, different fully specified...

  8. 4 Clarifications
    (pp. 41-56)

    By adopting egocentric presentism you can harmonize your otherwise discordant impulses to make the world better and to make the world a more pleasant place for you to live in. Well and good. But you can often rid yourself of psychological conflict by adopting a suitably contrived worldview. If you believe in a paradisiacal afterlife, then you will go peaceably to your death. If you believe that meat is a kind of root vegetable, then you will not feel too bad about eating it. Unless egocentric presentism is an independently plausible theory, the moral of the previous chapters is strictly...

  9. 5 A Problem about Personal Identity over Time
    (pp. 57-72)

    Egocentric presentism is not absurd, like the views with which it is easily confused, but its denial is not absurd either. If you are to be persuaded to accept it, then you will need some positive reason for doing so.

    Now I take it that I have already given you a positive reason. Egocentric presentism gives us resources to explain why we should, in a robust sense of the word, pay special attention to our own comfort. Egocentric presentists can attend to their comfort by day and enjoy the gentle, untroubled sleep of the righteous by night.

    But you may...

  10. 6 The Solution
    (pp. 73-90)

    Before we get to the right way to make sense of our judgments from the outside and inside, let us consider one more explanation, due to Dilip Ninan.¹ I think that Ninan’s explanation does not quite work, but it gets one important thing right, and the way in which it does not quite work is instructive.

    First suppose a generous material ontology. Suppose in particular that there are three overlapping things in Adam’s vicinity before the operation. These three things are physically just the same before the operation. They have all the same boundaries, all the same parts (a heart,...

  11. 7 Skepticism and Humility
    (pp. 91-98)

    I will close on the defensive, by addressing two clusters of worries that tend to arise when people take egocentric presentism seriously. The first worries have to do with the epistemology of presence. Broadly: How do we know what is present? The second worries have to with humility. Broadly: Is it not distasteful to think yourself special?

    Here is one skeptical worry. You might wonder about whether egocentric presentists are entitled to believe their own experiences are present. You might urge me to ask myself some questions: “What grounds do I have for believing that there are monadically present things?...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 99-106)
  13. References
    (pp. 107-110)
  14. Index
    (pp. 111-114)