Ockham on Awareness of One’s Acts: A Way Out of the Circle
Abstract. In this paper, I proceed from the assumption that Ockham‟s account of self-awareness can be correctly described as a kind of higher-order approach, because just like modern higher-order theorists, Ockham accounts for a mental act being conscious in terms of a higher-orderact that takes the act as its object. I aim to defend Ockham‟s approach against the objection that it fails to provide an explanation of how self-awareness comes about because any such explanation would be circular. Part of the critique, in light of recent findings in Ockham scholarship, is that the ontological identity of the subject does not suffice to explain – in a noncircular way – the psychological identity and unity of the subject of awareness. Here, I argue that Ockham can respond to this objection by highlighting the power of will. Roughly speaking, the idea is that he can account for the limits of the psychological subject in terms of what the subject can want or will with respect to her own acts and these acts alone. It is along these lines that Ockham can account for the asymmetry between first-person and thirdperson perspective in a non-circular way, with reference to the exotic case of angelic mind-reading and the comparatively less exotic case of human memory.
Keywords: Ockham, self-awareness, higher-order accounts, first-person vs. thirdperson perspective, asymmetry of first-person and third-person perspectives, angelic mind-reading, memory